Martial arts a hit with local women |

Martial arts a hit with local women

Back row (from left to right): Rebecca Quesada, Mariana Beard, Maegan MacAleese, Diane Billiet. Front row (from left to right): Shannan Stensvad, Nicole Munro, Karla Whitacre, Alma Bravo, Julie Moseley, Jennette Newkirk, Karen Munro.
Byron Hetzler/ | Sky-Hi News

A hot, steamy gym filled with the sounds of people kicking and punching stout leather bags is not the place you would typically imagine finding a large gathering of women.

But ask the ladies training at the Mountain Beast Gym in Granby, and they will tell you it is exactly where they want to be.

They are an eclectic mix of women covering a wide range of ages and backgrounds. EMS technicians and firefighters spar with local high school students, mothers, small business owners and wives.

There is a strong sense of camaraderie among the women.

“The people here stick out in my mind. We are all family and it is great motivation. That is what really counts,” said Jessica Patino, who credits her martial arts training with helping reduce her shyness.

Rebecca Quesada echoed her sentiments.

“It is like a family.” Rebecca said.

Rebecca started training last November and is working on her fighting skills.

“I never would have thought I would be taking fighting classes. And if someone would have told me I would be training to compete, I would have laughed,” she said.

Rebecca is looking to start fighting in competitive kickboxing tournaments soon.

When she does, she will likely have some local company.

Grand County EMS technician Karla Whitacre is also looking to compete in kickboxing tournaments. Whitacre lives in Hot Sulphur Springs and got into fight training “just to try something new,” she said.

She quickly took a liking to Muay Thai kickboxing and, like Quesada, hopes to begin competing by next summer.

Muay Thai is a favorite of the women at the Mountain Beast. Julie Moseley, who also takes belly dancing and salsa classes at the gym, said, “I was surprised to find out how much I love kick boxing. This is the first time in my life I look forward to coming to a gym because of Karen and Rob.”

A deep appreciation and respect for Mountain Beast owners Rob and Karen Munro was a recurring theme with the ladies.

“Rob and Karen are great,” said Jeanette Newkirk. “They make you feel like a part of the group.”

Jeanette has been training at the Mountain Beast since the start of this year and really enjoys yoga. “It is a great stress reliever,” she said.


Diane Billiet explained how the other women at the gym keep her motivated.

“I work out with a great group of girls. They are my inspiration to come everyday.”

The women train for a wide variety of reasons but at the most basic level most of them began attending classes for health and fitness; to stay active. But training to fight has other benefits as well.

Middle Park High School junior Alama Bravo talked about how her training and the atmosphere at Mountain Beast have helped with her self-confidence.

“The people that surround you, they give you the positivity that you need to work out and be healthier.”

Alma has previously wrestled in high school and has taken a liking to jujitsu, a form of submission grappling similar to wrestling.

Young Nicole Munro is just 10 years old but speaks with a wisdom and eloquence beyond her years. The daughter of gym owners Rob and Karen reiterated what Alma said.

“This helps you be more confident, it makes things less stressful and it lets out your passion.”

Passion and work collide at the Mountain Beast for some of the women and girls who train there.

Grand County Firefighters Maegan MacAleese and Shannan Stensvad are regulars down at the gym. The Granby Fire Department has a deal worked out with the Mountain Beast to allow firefighters to train at the facility.

But MacAleese and Stensvad also wanted to participate in the martial arts training classes.

“I fell in love with the training on my first class,” said Stensvad. “For me, being a woman in the fire service is already difficult, because you have a lot of disadvantages. Being able to train and work to get to a point where you can keep up with the guys, that is huge. It makes you feel empowered.”

MacAleese expressed similar feelings.

“As small as I am I have got to get my body up to par with the rest of the guys,” she said.

The young woman recently recovered from pneumonia and explained how good it felt to be back working out. “A workout is the best medicine.”

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the training also helps the women with their energy levels.

Mariana Beard, a former exchange student to Grand County who is a native of Sao Paulo Brazil, said, “It is weird but I have more energy coming here than if I just stay home all day. I am more motivated to do everything else in my life.”

Beard has been training for six months at the Mountain Beast. She is an avid snowboarder but was looking for a way to stay active in the warmer months.

Stacey Deits described how boxing and kickboxing training had made her tougher mentally.

“There are a lot of things you have to remember, movements and combinations. You have to think about what you are doing. I need that mental sharpness and clarity.”

Deits, like the rest of the women interviewed for this story, spoke of the character of gym owners Rob and Karen.

“Everybody that walks through that door is treated like family,” she said. “Other places you are just a client, but for them everyone that comes through the door is family. I think that makes the difference.”

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