2014 Teacher Interview
Gina Sahagun is a Martial Artist /
Kickboxing Teacher and Fight Promoter at South Coast Martial Arts.
Gina Sahagun began coaching way back in Junior High when she was asked to lead her P.E. classes during their warm-ups. Whether it was gymnastics, volleyball, track and field, baseball or basketball, Gina was there competing and fine tuning her athleticism. It wasn’t until 1985 that she was able to begin her martial arts training on a consistent basis starting with Kenpo Karate. Six months in, she was recruited for fighting by her now husband Joaquin Sahagun. She spent several years working on sparring and breaking it down so that she could teach others in detail the how to’s. Kenpo evolved into Kickboxing and Gina’s extensive background in physical fitness coaching led her to develop some of the most diversified and unique training classes in the business. In 1993, the Sahagun’s opened South Coast Martial Arts and she’s been teaching ever since. Unfortunately, two bouts of breast cancer has kept her out of the competition ring herself.
Gina has trained many female and male competitors in kickboxing and became one of the first female Amateur Kickboxing Promoters in 2008. In 2010, once again she broke the mold when she started up the Old Dog Boxing League to promote Master Boxers, ages 35 and over, and provide six amateur boxing shows a year for adults to compete in. The ODB League has attracted competitors, not only from local cities, but from the entire state of California, throughout the US, Canada and England.
Actively involved in Martial Arts for over 25 years
Co - Founded South Coast Martial Arts in 1993
Cross trained in Boxing, Kickboxing, and Kenpo Karate
1. How did you first start practicing Kickboxing?
Martial Arts/Kung Fu had always appealed to me in my youth; I’d watch the old Chinese movies and try to copy the moves. In my early teens, I had the opportunity to train just briefly here and there and was heartbroken when my father would not permit me to take classes (not for young ladies). So as a young adult on my own I first started training in Kenpo Karate in 1983/84. I was already taking cardio classes, lifting weights, running but I was missing out on learning an art and was eager to study and obtain a black belt. Sparring was empowering, knowing that I could actually defend myself was thrilling, getting bruised and beaten….not so fun! Eventually my Kenpo training shifted over towards kickboxing and more full contact fighting.
2. How/when did you decide that you wanted to create and run a gym?
My husband, Joaquin and I discussed opening a gym early on in our marriage but it took us a while to develop the financial solvency needed to move forward. We began our search in the early 1990’s to find the right location. Having grown up in gang-infested South Central LA, Joaquin was eager to create a non-profit training center that would provide youth outreach to the surrounding community, combining the Arts of Kenpo Karate, Boxing and Kickboxing under one roof. We tried for two years to open a gym in Santa Ana but battled city politics and zoning ordinances. Finally, we landed on a building in Costa Mesa in late 1992. Just months before we opened, I was diagnosed with Stage III Breast Cancer. Big question was do we give up the plan of our gym and just focus on my health or do we move forward as planned. Well I guess you know the answer to that.
3. What kind of students do you teach?
I’ve taught all ages, young and old and both women and men. Teaching someone and taking pride in their progress, their accomplishments and watching them as they gain confidence in their abilities is very fulfilling. I especially like training women, who like myself at some point in their lives, were never given permission to be aggressive or to nurture their own personal power. The physicality of punching and kicking a target is a great outlet for stress, anxiety, and creates both a mental and internal strength.
4. What is old dog boxing about?
I created the Old Dog Boxing league in order to provide an elite venue for the Mature Boxer to compete in on a regular basis. The events are sanctioned by USA Boxing and we are currently hosting six shows per year. The main emphasis of our shows are the “Old Dogs” physically fit, 35 to 75 years in age who are very excited about competing in well organized, amateur Boxing events specifically geared towards their age group. Our “Young Dogs” are the 18 to 34 year olds that compete on our under-card. They too have found benefit for being able to find matches to test their skills.
5. What challenges have you come across and how have you overcome them?
I am a two time survivor of breast cancer. Dec 1992 I felt pain while jogging with my dog under my left armpit...I just thought it was from him tugging on the leash and thought nothing of it. Weeks later, in the shower as the water fell on my chest I cringed from the pain and felt a lump that definitely had not been there before. Many doctor's visits, a world wind of exams and testing and they were talking the C word. Surgery was scheduled for early February, lumpectomy with lymph node removal. After surgery the doctor kept saying you had 10 lymph nodes infected, 10 out of 21 removed. In my mind, it was good, not all of them were infected. Little did I know that 10 is almost a death sentence. I had two young children ages 2-1/2 and 5-1/2 and a husband who was not ready to raise them alone. So on to chemotherapy for 14 sessions followed by daily radiation treatments for a couple of months. After almost a year long battle....Yeah, I'm cured!
Every cancer survivor has that magic number 5 in their heads. Survive five years and you get a free pass, your cancer is not coming back. But in reality you're always looking over your shoulder, always a bit cautious, just wondering. Well 20 years later in December 2012 a routine mammogram discovers a small lump on the other breast. My worst nightmare faced.....Cancer again. They tell me this is a "new" case, not a recurrence. This past February I head back to surgery and fortunately this time the Cancer is contained. I still did 32 days straight of radiation treatments (6 weeks with weekends off). I'm currently trying to find normal once again and find a positive way to stay healthy.
6. What inspires you?
I am inspired by the people around me…my close knit family, friends, and my students.
7. What are your future aspirations?
A future goal would be to create a Martial Arts Village with Workout facility, Professional Stage/Arena, Restaurant and other health beneficial businesses where we can live, work and have performances all in one location.
8. Do you have a role model or belief/ code that you live by?
My belief or code system would be – work hard, be honest, treat people with respect, be giving of both your time and knowledge, love, and balance it all by taking time to enjoy life.
9. If you had a superpower what would it be? Or what's your spirit animal?
The superpower I would most want is the gift of healing. My animal spirit is a lion.
10. What is your favorite move or style?
My favorite move would have to be a flying elbow because there is a tremendous amount of power, speed and grace involved and the anticipation of flight and impact…..like a lion springing in for and pouncing onto its prey.
11. Anything else you would like to add or that you think people should know?
That I’m actually very shy and I’ve had to work very hard on opening up and meeting people. I’m not naturally one of those people who can just walk up and introduce themselves. It’s taken me a long time to learn to be comfortable with that.