Trinity Martial Arts inspires students via MMA

12/14/2016 08:15 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen David Nieto demonstrates a fight stance during a Dec. 1 class at Trinity Martial Arts, which he co-owns, in Pryor, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Chickasaw Nation citizen Michael Hayes Jr., far left, instructs a children’s Muay Thai Kickboxing class on Dec. 1 at Trinity Martial Arts in Pryor, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Shannon Littledave, front left, spars with a partner during a Muay Thai Kickboxing class on Dec. 1 at Trinity Martial Arts in Pryor, Oklahoma. Littledave has been training in Muay Thai since February. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
PRYOR, Okla. – With a passion for mixed martial arts, Cherokee Nation citizen David Nieto and two friends realized their idea of starting a MMA business when they opened Trinity Martial Arts.

Nieto taught and competed in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for four years before he, Chickasaw Nation citizen Michael Hayes Jr. and Jeremy Vargas decided to start their own gym. Each of them trained at different gyms, including Pryor Creek Recreational Center, before creating their business.

“We wanted a place to train. There wasn’t one here. We started out at the (Pryor Creek) rec center. We wanted to get something going there, but that kind of fell through,” Nieto said. “Our love for the sport, our love for martial arts, our love for fitness, it all got us together so we just decided to find a place to train. We didn’t know that it would kind of blow up to where everybody loved it just as much as we did.”

Trinity Martial Arts opened its doors in October 2015 and is at its third and biggest location now.

It offers kids and adult classes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing, as well as a high intensity fitness class called Tri-Fit focusing on interval and biometric training.

Nieto is the lead grappling instructor for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, while Hayes leads Muay Thai. They said they encourage all, no matter their age, to try the classes.

“In jiu jitsu class we have 55-year-olds grappling and they just started,” Nieto said.

CN citizen Shannon Littledave started Muay Thai training in February and recently participated in her first competition.

“I’m 38 years old and I’ll be 39 in December. So I’m pushing 40…I started this sport late in my age, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love it. I plan on doing for as long as I can,” she said.

She added that Nieto and Hayes inspire her to keep going.

“Those two are the most inspiring people that I know. They…build you up. They build your self-esteem up. They encourage you. It’s just being here at Trinity is just a great encouragement for an all-round…athletic purpose and self-motivation,” Littledave said. “Muay Thai has brought me a sense of…self-reliability. I…am more aware of my surroundings. I feel I can more protect myself.”

Like Littledave, Trinity Martial Arts sees a lot of Cherokee clientele.

“Cherokees are fighters. There’s no doubt about that. We have some kids in here that are just on fire. We want to make sure that we give them every opportunity here to excel and show themselves that they can have confidence no matter where they come from because their Cherokee, because of what’s blood in them. We want to make sure they’re proud of that,” Nieto said.

Outside of teaching, Nieto is a competitor with 15 MMA fights under his belt as an amateur and Hayes is his coach.

“He’ll shoot you straight. If you’re doing something wrong he’s not going to sugarcoat it. If you ain’t doing something right he’s not going to sugarcoat it. He wants to make sure that you can defend yourself and that you can show what Trinity Martial Arts does whenever you’re in the ring,” Nieto said.

Hayes said the only way Trinity Martial Arts has grown like it has is because it is family oriented. “We’re a family gym before we are a fight gym.”

Unlimited classes are $50 per month. The gym is located at 204 S. Mill. For more information call 918-372-2095 or visit
About the Author • 918-772-4223
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing in journalism. She started working for the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016. Working for the Cherokee Phoenix, Lindsey hopes to ...


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