Mean Kids – by Trula Howe

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Mean Kids, the Mean 1 MMA & Fitness children’s MMA class, for children age 5-13, has been around as long as the gym itself.  Opened over a year ago, as collaboration between Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine, and Jackson’s coaches Mike Winkeljohn and Chris Luttrell, and retired policeman Greg Richardson.  The idea behind the gym was to open MMA up to everyone, whether for self-defense, well-rounded fitness, or for those interested in MMA to become a part of it.
Scott and Robin Marlowe are the original managers of the Rio Rancho Mean 1, and as of the beginning of this year, they are the new owners of the Rio Rancho Mean 1 franchise.  Scott is a Navy veteran, with nearly 20 years of kickboxing and karate experience, and the 1st black belt and fighter to come out of Mike Winkeljohn’s AKKA, winning Southwest and Southeast US Kickboxing Amateur titles.  He’s been training fighters since 1988, and some of his current fighters now compete in Strikeforce, Bellator and various other MMA promotions. Mean 1 has an amateur kickboxing team, and has several participants and winners of grappling tournaments. Robin has been a competitive athlete throughout high school and college, a personal trainer for the last 20 years, as well as a gym manager.  She started taking Kenpo karate 16 years ago, and has been involved in fighter training ever since.  They created the Mean Kids program from the very beginning, in keeping with the vision of Mean 1: to open MMA and fitness to everyone, including kids.

Mean Kids has its own MMA belt system, with organized teaching and advancement criteria.  The class is available every Monday through Friday, from 5:00 – 6:00 pm., and the main instructors are Scott himself, who handles the standup instruction (Mondays & Wednesdays), and Josh Peiper – 12-year Army Veteran and Director of Operations for Creative Therapy Services- who teaches grappling and strength & conditioning (Tuesdays and Thursdays).  Fridays are a mixed basket, usually filled with whatever instruction Marlowe feels should be emphasized.  “We try to teach kids self-defense and self-confidence, building self-esteem while getting physically fit,” said Marlowe.  Both Marlowe and Peiper have children of their own in the program, and both admit to being partial to the kids; “I like working with the kids; it’s way better than teaching adults. So much fun!” laughed Peiper.

Many of the parents of Mean Kids are also members of the gym, participating in the various classes offered by Mean 1, including Conditioning, Kickbox-Cross-Training, MMA Grappling, and Kickboxing. One of those parents, Tracy McNeil, has three kids in class, her oldest son (14), and his brother and sister, 13 and 9.  Her son was a little nervous about starting high school and wanted something to help build his self-confidence, and he heard about Mean 1 from a friend. He convinced his mother to enroll him in Mean Kids, and he had such good results in fitness and confidence, she decided to enroll her other 2 kids; to help her daughter learn how to defend and take care of herself and to help her son to get fit and confident. “I think the coaches are great, very hands-on. They have a way of teaching the kids respect,” said McNeil.  She herself takes part in the conditioning classes at Mean 1.

Another parent, Paul Hill, has one son Isaiah (12), who been in the program about 8 months. He had always liked MMA, seeing some of his favorite athletes on TV, and told dad he wanted to get into it. They Hills live nearby and had seen the gym, but it was after they spoke to Rocky Ramirez -professionalcagefighter, boxer and owner of Westside Power Gym, who trains at Mean1 – and he recommended Mean1 for Hill’s son. “I love the class; it keeps him busy andbuilds motivation. The coaches are great, they show one-on-one individual attention; even when class is full, they make time to talk to each kid.”  Hill’s wife takes part in the kickboxing class, which also helps her relate to her son.
Gabriel Atencio’s son,Gabriel (12) has been in class about 6 months. Atencio heard about class through his friend and coworker, Paul Ray, another fighter who trains out of Mean1. Atencio’s son had told him he wanted to get into wrestling and MMA,”I think it’san excellent opportunity for him, even after only 6 months, he’s in great shape. I think every kid should try it, learn something.”

Mean Kids have participated in every Grapplefest – Combat Sports Club’s grappling tournament, which happens 2-3 time per year and includes participants from all over the Southwest – since their inception over a year ago.  They plan to take part in the upcoming SW Grapplefest VI, scheduled for April 28, 2012, at Rio Rancho High School, with as many kids as want to compete.  The Mean Kids classes are well attended and growing; “we plan to move to a bigger facility when our lease is up,” said Marlowe, “So we can accommodate even more children, as well as adults.”

For more information on Mean Kids or Mean 1 MMA & Fitness, you can find them on Facebook, “Mean1-RR”, or just stop by the gym, located at 3301 Southern Blvd SE, Rio Rancho, NM, or call at 505-891-2600.  Mention this article and get a free one-week trial.