FIT Kidz – by Trula Howe

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Fit Kidz is FIT NHB’s MMA program for children, ages 5-12.  It was developed more than 5 years ago, by gym owner, TomVaughn, and teaches children mixed martial arts fundamentals: boxing, Thai boxing, wrestling and submission grappling.  The objective of the program is “to teach teamwork, technique, coordination, good work ethics, strength and conditioning, flexibility, self-confidence, self-defense and discipline, while having fun!”
Program coordinator, Gerald Lovato, is one of FIT NHB’s professional fighters and a KOTC veteran, who originally volunteered for the program when it started, and enrolled his now-teenaged daughter, as “a way for the two of us to bond.”  About a year later, he took over the management of the program, even though his daughter no longer participates. “She’s a teenager now, so she’s too cool for this.  Now I just do it because I love it.”
Parents enroll their kids in the program for different reasons.  For instance, Jennifer Latimer and Rolando Flores recently enrolled their two kids, 12-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, in FitKidz about a month ago.  Invited by their friends Donald Sanchez and Gerald Lovato, they wanted both children to join for different reasons.  “We enrolled our daughter to help her get in shape and give her self-confidence, while our son wants to train because he looks up to the fighters he’s known all his life.”  Both parents are happy with the results, even after only one month.  “We even invited our friends, who brought their kids and they like it too.”

Sergio Gutierrez, an amateur fighter at FIT NHB, has had two kids in the program for the last 2 years, and not only do he and his sons train, his wife, Annalicia, also works out at the gym, for the main purpose of staying in shape, but also for family togetherness.  “It keeps us together.  Sometimes we’ll be having a bad day with each other, but training helps work all that out; the gym keep us together as a family, like another kind of church.”  The Gutierrez family is an incredible example of the family orientation of the program.  The elder son, Hondo, who has been in several kickboxing matches, sustained a terrible injury about a year ago, when he was accidentally shot in the abdomen with a 45 caliber handgun.  (Editor’s note: Hondo was the cover fighter for this month’s issue.)  Although the injury was serious – the boy spent two weeks in the hospital – he was back at the gym 4 months later, with drainage tubes still in, to begin wrestling again; at 8 months, he had his first kickboxing match since the incident, which he won.  He won his next match as well, and he is slated to box again on February 3, 2012, at Battlegrounds, FIT NHB’s monthly smoker.  “I just want to thank UNM Hospital, as well as all of the coaches and the team at FIT, who helped my son get right back into it, so nothing would change for him.”  Not only will Hondo be having his 3rd match since the accident, but his little brother, Sergio Jr, will be having his first real kickboxing match at the smoker.

Several Fit Kidz want to participate in the monthly amateur contests, and the coaches at FIT do their best to get an appropriate match for their age, weight and skill level, with the participation of other gyms in town.  “What separates our program is that we’ve always trained mixed martial arts,” said Coach Lovato; as opposed to places which only teach grappling, or kickboxing, or boxing. “I feel like our program not only builds a foundation in sport, but also in life.”

FITNHB now offers Fit Kidz classes 5 days a week: Monday and Wednesday at 4:30-5:30pm, Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30-7:30pm, and Saturday at 11:00am-12pm.  For more information on Fit Kidz or FIT NHB, see their website