New Mexico martial arts school set to compete in international tournament

BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s the trip of a lifetime. Students from a New Mexico martial arts school are set to compete help represent the United States in an international tournament, but this school isn’t just about competition.

Estella Dimaggio has been a student at the Belen Academy of Martial Arts for almost five years now.

“I just love what I do here,” said Dimaggio.

She gained interest in the sport when one of her sons picked it up. Now, it’s become a family affair.

“All three of my kids are doing it, I’m doing it and it’s helped me lose 55 pounds, so I can’t complain,” Dimaggio said.

Head Instructor Loretta Hallmark says they take a unique approach at the Belen Academy of Martial Arts.

“We teach our kids reality life skills and martial arts, making sure they can defend themselves if they get into a real life situation,” explained Hallmark.

That means instead of pulling away from an attacker, students are taught how to manipulate them in order to get away.

Next month, Dimaggio and about seven other students will put skills like these to the test.

“We compete a lot here in the United States- New Mexico, Arizona, all over the place so this is a chance to be able to compete against other people from other countries so we’re excited. I’m excited,” Dimaggio explained.

Students ranging from five to 47 are headed to an international tournament called the Freedom Games in Cancun, Mexico.

Yet, before they can make the trek, they have to come up with cash.

“We’ve been going to Wal-Mart and asking for donations there,” said student Bodan Sullenger.

“I’m doing whatever I can to get there,” agreed Dimaggio.

So far, students say people have been pretty receptive.

They’re set to go up against teams from 14 other countries around the world. The competition is set for mid-November. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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