Martial arts and manicures: This ninja does nails
EUGENE, Ore. - Jason Ortega is soft spoken, modest - and deadly.
"I'm currently an 8th degree black belt in Sebukan Jujutsu. In Ninjitsu, I'm a second degree black belt. In Batto Jitsu I'm a 4th degree black belt, and then I have experience in several other martial arts that I currently haven't ranked at with black belt yet."
Just a subtle flick of a pressure point or a twist of his body can quickly turn anybody into a helpless ball of pain.
But what kind of guy does Jason Ortega think he is?
"I'm a teddy bear," he said.
This teddy bear's passion for martial arts started at the age of 8 thanks to his father, who was a fanatic of the sport.
"He got me into a kung fu school in San Jose, California, and I studied kung fu there," he said. "Then it just moved on from Kung fu, to karate, to Tae Kwon Do and eventually my father scored me an apprenticeship with the grandmaster of Seibukan Jujutsu."
That grandmaster is Julio Toribio, the founder of Seibukan Jujutsu, which is a practical martial art designed for self protection and personal development.
While most teens are excited for summer break and freedom from school, Ortega did the complete opposite. A week after graduating from high school, "I started studying four different martial arts with him all at the same time."
Nevermind the awesome trip to Hawaii that his parents saved up for as a graduation present.
"Instead I bought myself a sword," he said. "It was honestly an easy decision for me to make. I figured I needed a sword now, but I could always go to Hawaii."
That kind of dedication to the craft carried into his career as an adult as a polished master and owner of his own studio.
"I started real small," he said. "I opened up the school in my mom's garage."
His classes started to spill out of that garage and eventually "it was time: we had to get a commercial space."
The studio moved twice before ending up in a large studio on the west side of Eugene. The space accomodates 135 students. Ortega teaches classes for ages 5 and up.
But this real-life ninja has another hidden talent.
In the studio, it's the art of kicking butt. In the salon, it's the art of beauty and nails.
That's right: he's also a cosmetologist.
"I do hair and nails, and I'm an esthetician and barber," he said.
How did that happen?
During his apprenticeship in the martial arts, he found himself with a crisis - and opportunity.
"I injured myself," Ortega said. "I pivoted and tore all the ligaments in my knee."
That injury put his training in the martial arts on hold. He decided to join his mother in the salon, where he stumbled on a new passion.
Do giving manicures and sword fighting have anything in common?
"Definitely a steady hand," Ortega said. "In martial arts, you go into this place where nothing around you can effect you and you're so into what you're doing that the only thing that exist is what you're doing in that present moment."