There are many reasons to study the Martial arts, such as improving physical fitness, increasing coordination and improving self-confidence. But it is the benefit of being able to defend oneself in times of need that appeals to the safety-conscious people of the Santa Clarita Valley.

As crime rates in L.A. County have reached near-historic levels, with the County Sheriff’s Office stating a 94% increase in homicides over the last two years, the increase in violent crime has left many residents nervous and concerned about protecting themselves. 

The fighting arts like boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts, known as MMA, are used in sporting events. They can also teach techniques to defend against violent attacks and how to anticipate or avoid dangerous situations.

“You just have a better awareness of anticipating a potential problem and being caught off a guard and being stuck in a physical confrontation,” said Selena Madden, a longtime martial arts student and valley resident that believes the best offense is a good defense.

At Dream MMA, a martial arts gym in Newhall, instructor and owner Jeff Martin, a Jean Jacques Machado ju-jitsu black belt, sees the study of the fighting sciences as an essential part of personal protection.

“Martial arts is more than self-defense, but self-defense is the most important part,” said Martin. “You’ve got to defend yourself and not only yourself but your friends, your family and anyone else in your circle.”

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While there are many different martial arts styles to learn and gyms in the valley to attend in hopes of defending your circle, Dream MMA believes they have one form of combat and one coach the others do not.

Called “Kali,” it is the ancient Filipino martial art that developed over 2,000 years ago to help the people of the Philippines defend themselves against foreign invaders.

The art is unique in that a person will train with a weapon from the very start. Whether using sticks, sometimes called a Rattan, knives, swords, or hand-to-hand techniques, every movement is taught to attack or defend against any foe or danger.

Coach Ron Neal teaching a student how to perform a proper choke with a stick at Dream MMA April 16 2022. Photo by Jeff Lowzik/Canyons News

Taught by Coach Ron Neal a master of Valencia Lameco Eskrima focuses on the three ranges of combat long, middle and close, as the word Lameco is a combination of words these three words.

“You should be able to defend yourself in any situation against anything, anyone anything, thing, any item and that’s what Filipino martial arts are all about,” said Neal.

“We want to be able to say have we have one move in many different applications, it doesn’t matter if we are swinging a knife swinging a stick disarming a knife disarming a stick it is all the same set of circumstances,” he said.

The classes, held mainly on the weekends and last about an hour, are open to students of all ages, sizes, and experience levels. Neal believes the ability to protect oneself is essential to living a free life.

“For me, the idea of freedom is so important, exploration is so important, self-development is so important and I want to be able to defend my rights to be able to explore,” said Neal.

“If you want to be the kind of person that can speak up for yourself, then you need to be able to defend yourself,” he said.

Coach Ron’s demonstrating a stick choke on a student in his weapons training class at Dream MMA April 16 2022. Photo by Jeff Lowzik/Canyons News

With all the befits and feelings of freedom that comes with martial arts training, the instructors also touch on the reality of standing up for yourself in dangerous situations and stress that being involved in a violent incident is not like the movies.

“We preach if someone has a weapon, you basically have to listen to them. You’re not superman,” said Martin. “If you believe in your training, it is up to you to make that decision.”

One of the Dream MMA students did make that decision and his training paid off.

“Someone tried to rob one of my students recently and their decision was to defend themselves and they did a great job with a one-punch knockout,” said Martin.

Through positive experiences like this, Martin wishes to reach out to the community, demonstrating the importance of putting aside fear and getting out on the mat to learn the fighting sciences.

“Self-defense is very scary, but if you have the right training partners and you do it in a safe way, it can be very fun,” said Martin.

A North America Grappling Association championship belt on a table next to a sign at Dream MMA. April 16, 2022. Photo by Jeff Lowzik/Canyons News.

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