SANTO DOMINGO, N.M. (KRQE) – It was a tragedy that hit a New Mexico community hard.
It was just a little more than one month ago when little 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike was abducted and murdered outside of Shiprock.
The tragedy hit the entire Navajo Nation hard and as many continue to grieve the loss of Ashlynne, some are using this as an opportunity to teach children how to defend themselves.
Now, members of a well-known MMA gym in the Duke City are on a mission to empower New Mexico kids by giving them the tools to defend themselves.
“The whole point is to not just show up and teach something and expect them to remember. [It’s] to drill it into them so that it’s instinct and muscle memory to really know how to truly defend themselves and protect themselves against the dangers out there,” said Dustin Garcia, Active Lifestyle Director of the Santo Domingo Pueblo.
That is where trainers at Jackson’s Martial Arts and Fitness Academy come in. Instructors who have trained alongside some well-known MMA fighters including Jackson Wink alum, Holly Holm, traveled to Santo Domingo Pueblo for the class.
“We are out here three days a week. We are teaching self-defense two of the days. Then we are doing the actual MMA training out here,” said Isaac Vallie-Flagg, owner and operator of Jackson’s Martial Arts and Fitness Academy.
Vallie-Flagg and the rest of the team at Jackson’s are giving these kids a serious lesson in self-defense, or what the kids like to call “stranger danger.”
“If someone tries to take us, we will do things they taught us about stranger danger so someone won’t get the best of us,” said Diondria Chavez.
“When there’s a stranger trying to take you, defend yourself,” Terrance Crespin.
The group does everything they can to prepare these kids from learning how to be aware of dangerous situations, to learning a “safe word,” to breaking free from a stranger’s arms if they’re ever grabbed.
“There’s obviously some stuff that will be hard for them to get away no matter what due to size differences but giving them information that will help them escape a bad situation is absolutely necessary for any kid,” said Vallie-Flagg.
This self-defense program is also being taught to adults and elderly on the pueblo. It’s included in their initiative to get everyone healthy.
Organizers are hoping to take this program to every pueblo in New Mexico. Vallie-Flagg said he’s also interested teaching similar classes at schools in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties.
If you are interested in learning more about the self-defense program, contact Isaac Vallie-Flagg directly at 505-603-1086.