Martial arts ministry aims to help people in the Walton County community

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 10:44 PM CDT
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DeFuniak Springs, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Life can pack a punch, but a Downtown DeFuniak Springs boxing coach is helping his community fight the good fight.

“We all have things in our past that we’re not proud of. Troubled youth have some issues that they’re dealing with,” said Head Boxing Coach at Fighter’s Chance Ministries, Rick Harris.

He says it helps to have someone in your corner to set a good example.

“When you compare boxing and life, you get hit, you get hit hard, but you’ve got to get back up, just as our Lord and Savior did,” Rick added.

He says the organization serves more than a dozen people from age seven to 40.

That includes 15-year-old Braiden Johnson from Ponce de Leon.

“Teaches me to you know, protect myself, and what we do here teaches me more about the Lord sometimes.”

Coach Harris says some kids in the program were struggling in school, but have changed for the better.

“I think it has to do with the mentorship that’s going on here and the fact that we always stop, and we pray before we do anything in here,” Ryan said.

Ludus Magnus MMA is connected to the ministry.

Head Coach Jeremy Angel says with the cost of after-school care being so expensive, using their children’s program could save you money, and help your child if they’re being bullied.

“One of the biggest reasons kids get bullied is lack of confidence. If you build that confidence, the bullies are going to quit messing with them,” Jeremy explains.

Coach Angel says the bus drops the kids off at the gym each day for their 4 p.m. martial arts class that goes beyond fists and feet.

“We teach bully classes on how to deal with bullies in a non-violent way to keep the kids out of trouble and to keep them safe,” he added.

The fighting isn’t just for the boys.

“Oh the first time I saw my daughter spar, I about cried,” Fighter’s Chance Assistant Boxing Coach, Reid Zorn says knowing martial arts is important.

“It’s a very good life lesson for someone to actually get hands on you and you know, get that feeling and to learn how to protect yourself,” Reid added.

That’s something Ludus Magnus student, Ruby Kearce says means a lot, especially after she survived domestic violence.

“I think it’s good for someone who’s experienced something like that to learn how to defend themselves because a lot of times you are in that situation because you don’t know how to defend yourself,” Ruby said.

She says if you are a victim, put a community around yourself, let someone know what’s going on and don’t be afraid to walk into a martial arts class.

“It’s about fun, bonding, just learning self-defense. It’s nothing to be intimidated by,” said Women’s Jiu Jitsu Coach Jennifer Angel.

As a bonus, she says you might have fun beating up on the boys.

“It’s kind of fun when you can go against them and hold your own,” she added.

Her student, Sabrina Stout says Jiu Jitsu has been great for her mind and body.

“I really like that challenge, that stress reliever. It’s a great way to kind of like build your fitness as well, bond with other people and overcome some of your personal confidence issues,” Sabrina explains.

Another student, Katlyn Dorriety says Jiu Jitsu has helped her heal after a divorce and is something she can’t get enough of.

“It’s a great feeling. After I’m done, I’m like, ‘Alright! This was awesome and let’s do it again,” Katlyn said smiling.

It’s allowed her to influence other women in a positive way.

Ludus Magnus is offering a free self-defense seminar for women on October 21st at 10 a.m.

They’re located at 448 E. Nelson Avenue in DeFuniak Springs.

Call 850-635-5730 for more information.

Fighter’s Chance will host its first annual invitational on November 4th.