Native Sun News: Fighting keeps Native kids off the streets

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

To get more students off the street and in to the gym Dog Soldier MMA provides tuition stipends for students who achieve a certain GPA level and attend 80% of their classes.

Matching martial arts to the culture
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

MINNEAPOLIS — Multiple strategies have been employed by neighborhood organizers throughout the years to empower communities.

For Vaughn Buffalo Bull Lodge, who lives and works the south side of Minneapolis, Mixed Martial Arts is the chosen tool used to keep kids off the streets and protect Native women from the sex trade.

“There were a number of reasons why we got started, but the biggest was that there was an outcry from the community about the abuse of our women in the city and the high rates of prostitution. It wasn’t necessarily a threat from within the Native Community, but from outside cultures moving in and literally kidnapping women,” said Vaughn. “I had to ask myself, well what can I do as a warrior to step up and make a difference? So with my background in Martial Arts I thought that a MMA gym could be a great place where community members especially our women could learn basic self-defense,” he added

The gym that Vaughn runs flies under the banner of Dog Soldier MMA and is located at 2929 4th Ave S, Suite 104 in Minneapolis. In addition to self-defense for Native women the gym now provides multiple programs for all members of the community.

‘We began in a small community gym located in the projects where it is a predominately Native population. We are identifying the need for our young men and women to step up as Warriors, not to become part of the problem, and to protect those in our community who cannot defend themselves. In turn we also provide self-defense to youth and adults who would otherwise not have the opportunity,” Vaughn said on Dog Soldier MMA’s Facebook page.

For many years the sport of Mixed Martial Arts had a reputation of being something that promoted violence, however with the emergence of the sport in mainstream America and the rule changes brought about by Dana White, president of the America’s largest MMA promotion the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it has become more acceptable to everyday people.

Nonetheless Vaughn is still confronted with questions from those who attach the old stereotypes to the sport he teaches. “There are still people who wonder why we are teaching our kids to fight and they think it will make them more violent but that isn’t true. Statistically people who are involved in martial arts are more disciplined, have higher GPAs and are at a decreased health risk,” said Vaughn.

To get more students off the street and in to the gym, Dog Soldier MMA provides tuition stipends for students who achieve a certain GPA level and attend 80% of their classes.

“It is really expensive to train at most MMA gyms. So it is difficult for me to figure out how much I can give away and still stay afloat but it is important,” said Vaughn. “Some of these kids only have a couple of choices either they come to the gym or end up with a gang.”

In addition to providing training in the martial arts Vaughn also works to bring Native culture in to the gym. It is not uncommon for a Pow-Wow drum to be in the gym.

“As far as I know we are the only gym in the country doing these things. When you are on the reservations it is a lot easier for people to get to a sweat lodge or other ceremonies. When you are in the city it is different. So with the gym we really try and bring the culture back to those who don’t always have it so that we can build them up as warriors for their community.” said Vaughn.

“I hope the one day we can take this same approach to reservations across the country and create startups that will benefit the youth,” he said.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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