Mikayla Ashe loves to help others. She teaches women and girls self-defense, usually doing two free classes a month, one in-person and one online.
“I’m a third-degree black belt. I started when I was 5,” she said. “I was known for being the youngest achieving belt in my class.”
Now, she is the highest ranking belt in the school.
Ashe and a friend created Fight Like a Girl when she was 12. The first class had about 35 people.
She has been giving classes called Fight Like a Girl at Believe Martial Arts, 8773 SW 133 St.
The classes run 60 to 90 minutes.
“We have about 30 people taking the class — socially distanced,” she said. “My martial dojo is able to supply the equipment we need. We have 30 punching bags, shields, a big television and soft mats. We take into consideration each other’s physical health. It all works out.”
She recently did a Women’s Day event at Palmetto High School and the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum for 30 staffers on Jan. 27.
The advent of COVID-19 did present challenges and resulted the opening of an Instagram account (FightlikeAGirl305). While she has resumed in person classes, she still is hosting online classes as well as posting videos and tips for everyone.
The social media platform is run by Ashe’s friend Denise Vaque, head of digital design for Fight Like a Girl.
“I make infographics and posts for the Instagram account,” Vaque said. “We put a lot of self-defense tips on that as well. Usually, we aim to post an infographic once a month. They are quite detailed. We work to get the wording correct and the design is engaging.”
Vaque said the tips could be used by anyone.
“They go over a lot of different topics,” Ashe said. “They go over difference self-defense tools you can buy and how to use them.”
During the pandemic lockdowns she started hosting classes on Instagram that continue today.
“For the online ones I usually have a big group of people. around 15 to 20 people,” she said.
For the in-person classes, she likes to gather people who are comfortable with each other.
“I give them physical activities. I try to get some of their friends to come,” Ashe said. “I try and gather an event for a specific group of people. I’m doing it live with them. I have about three presentations prepared for them, based on the level of the group of people.”
With the advent of COVID-19, there has been a huge increase of hate crimes against Asians in the U.S. Ashe has hosted special classes to help Asians with self-defense.
“Our program is specifically targeted to girls and women. In March, there were attacks against Asians so I opened that to everyone,” she said. “I put on my presentations specifically for hate crimes. I’m involved in eGirl Power. They reached out to me to do a class.”
She is back to classes for girls and women but will give tips to guys who want to learn how to defend themselves.
Next year, Ashe plans to go away to college. She has been looking for a successor to keep the classes going so she can concentrate on adapting to college life.
Her efforts have brought her recognition. She is Palmetto’s Silver Knight nominee in the Athletics category.
Ashe credits her martial arts instructor Master Antony Graff for helping her become the person she is.
“He’s been my role model since I started,” she said.
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