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