Wilfredo “The Warrior” Gonzalez (1-0-0) first found interest in martial arts when he incorporated boxing into his workouts. His curiosity in the sport flourished and before long Gonzalez joined Miami’s Twin Dragons Martial Arts, trained for two years, and became an amateur fighter.
He won his only fight via a rear naked choke submission in the first round. Unrelated medical issues sidelined Gonzalez for a while, then in 2017, he started getting back in physical shape, and three months ago began training in martial arts again.
He’s back with Twin Dragons Martial Arts, but has also begun training locally with Pastor Eric Fisher, of Lighthouse on the Rock’s Martial Arts program, in preparation for his return to the ring during Premier Fight League 14 on Saturday, Jan. 20 in Miami. The amateur organization’s fight card will be televised locally in the Miami area.
Gonzalez isn’t the only martial artist in his family, however. He’s introduced his 9-year-old daughter, Julieanna, to the sport. On Saturdays, she attends the free Kid’s Karate program at 11 a.m.
Lighthouse Martial Arts tries to teach life lessons on integrity, confidence, character, mental strength and honesty, said Gonzalez.
“Every class closes with something inspirational they can take with them,” he said. “I understand that people see it as having an aggressive side – you see people getting punched in the face – but there’s a sportsmanship behind it, and a lot of people don’t understand how humbling it is.”
Martial arts lends itself well to building positive character traits, said Fisher, who took over the Key Largo-based church in 2014. A year later he began the martial arts program and grew the kids’ class to about 15 students.
The program’s philosophy is a three-pronged approach, with the first being courage.
“We have to be strong and are confident when we know who we are. One of the ways to overcome fear with courage is to be self-disciplined,” he said. “The second one is honor. We honor God, we honor our family, and we honor those in our community. In a Socratic way, I’ll ask somebody to tell me what honor means. The answer I’m looking for is living with honesty. Living by the truth. The last is perseverance, meaning we don’t give up. When we’re in class, and things get hard, it’s ok, because we’re learning. Don’t give up.”
Gonzalez said he has seen a big difference in his daughter’s attitude and confidence since introducing her to martial arts at the church.
“I feel that martial arts carries over from one aspect of your life to others,” said Gonzalez. “Pastor Eric teaches students to kick and punch through their targets, so if any walls come up in your life, the mindset is to take them head on, and go right through them.”
In anticipation for dad’s big fight, the father and daughter duo have been watching UFC and practicing together. If he happens to miss part of a match, she recaps the events for him. Her favorite fighter (other than dad) is Conor McGregor. Dad’s favorite fighter is Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Athletes interested in joining Lighthouse on the Rocks’ martial arts programs can call 305-451-6212. Visit lighthousekeylargo.com for more information.