I drove 4 1/2 hours to attended Premium Kickboxing Federation IV on March 18th in Dubuque, IA. I was there to corner a first time amateur fighter and left the event with several impressions. A sold out crowd of over 600 watched a night of amateur kickboxing in what was a smoothly run event. I was told it was the first kickboxing event in over 30 years in the city of Dubuque. Had more of a family atmosphere to it than other events I’ve been to with kids competing on the card. It was noted by some that his event was largely ignored by the local press and media. What a mistake! I walked around the warm up areas and watched all the athletes, officials, and coaches. You could tell that a lot of back stories existed and would have been a gold mine for any journalist. I find it curious these combat sports events are largely uncovered by regional journalists in this and other areas. If events are covered sometimes you get win or loss stats, but rarely the story behind the stats. Is it ignorance, bias, disinterest, or stereo types?
Can you imagine some of the stories that were missed? People would have loved to know more of the background of what it took to get an event to Dubuque after that long of an absence. What kinds of things were driving the fighters to compete? I’d like to know more about the families of the kids who competed, the people who came from out of state, the Dubuque Martial Arts Group, Luke Lessei, the promoters, and more. There’s a lot of great narratives flowing out of events like this and it’s a misstep to let them go unnoticed.
Personal stories connect with people. Athlete I was cornering has been open about her mental health struggles and her journey to recovery. Has anxiety but choose something stressful like fighting on purpose. A lot of people can’t relate to celebrities or millionaire athletes. But they can relate to struggle, sacrifice, discouragement, fear, anxiety, insecurities, and challenges in life. Many of those type of human interest stories I’m sure were walking around that night sadly untold or unnoticed.
One of the valuable reasons these stories should be told is because they help others and communities at large. To read something and know your not alone in that struggle. To be inspired by what someone else accomplished despite significant obstacles. Stories are meant to be told. People are meant to connect-even if at the end of each other’s fists. Somehow that connection might result in a deeper understanding of each other. The value of the stories that have gone untold could possibly bridge gaps, create understandings, strengthen communities, education, motivate, encourage, and inspire. There is a lot out there and more people should write about it!
Hopefully journalists will start to bring to light these stories on the regional combat sports scene. If not then the combat sports people themselves should start writing. As future events take place or time passes feel free to contact me if you have a lead on a story or a feature on an Iowa athlete that should be told!
A unique “kickboxing” class as locals refer to it is held multiple times a week in the rural community of Leon, IA. Volunteers teach the various classes each week of that consist of boxing, grappling, kickboxing, or more depending on who is teaching. The classes have existed for over a year and have gone without a true home or even a name during that time. Despite the lack of a steady location, name, or resources at times over 40 people come through classes in a week. The attendees are diverse and not typically what you would find at a combat sports gym. Local health care professionals often refer people to the classes to improve their physical or mental health. Referrals are often those who are overweight, diabetic, victims of assault or domestic violence, or struggle with depression/anxiety. A wide mix of people attend and the classes serves as a community resource in an area with limited resources.
Over a year ago a group of women some of which were victims of domestic violence requested that I set up a self defense class. Tigers Den MMA instructors taught those initial classes. As funds or instructors come and go the classes persist because of the value to the community. Currently there are classes for kids, women, youth boxing, and those with chronic health conditions. One of the unique personalities and stand out students attending class is 24 year old Teyonni Walling. She attends or assists at almost every single class session each week. As newcomers nervously walk in for the first time Teyonni is a reassuring and accepting presence. She has been especially impactful in the classes with those who struggle with chronic health or mental health conditions. The nervous faces are frequently young girls, women, or those not in ideal health. Attending class is often intimidating for most the first time. Her presence has often helped ease those nerves and made people feel more comfortable. Teyonni’s experience as a peer support in the mental health field has served her well with the diverse population attending these “kickboxing classes”.
Teyonni will become the first one in this unique group to compete in combat sports on March 18th in an amateur kickboxing bout in Dubuque, IA. She recognizes the opportunity this presents for the entire group. She is “one of us” to a group made up of individuals that may not fit in at every gym or training group. Most competitors come from gyms full of experienced athletes and coaches. When you come from a place where the path has already been trodden down-it’s hard to understand what it’s like to not have that advantage. It’s difficult to be the first to step into the unknown. Teyonni will be far from home on March 18th, but representing a larger group-many of whom are facing their own personal challenges. She is prepared mentally and physically to compete, but this is a win-win for the “kickboxing class” back in Leon. Teyonni hopes to inspire and embolden those in the group to take on bigger challenges themselves and see what they are truly capable of.
Teyonni will be competing on the Premium Kickboxing Federation card for her debut. You can learn more at