Vaughn “Buffalo Bull” Lodge, born Vaughn Joseph Lodge, is used to answering tough questions. He is after all a “warrior,” and wants to teach men and women the true meaning of the word.
“Why do you want to teach our children to fight when they are already fighting? To make them better at killing each other?” To this question, Lodge, enrolled in Fort Belknap, Gros Ventre Tribe of Montana, says, “I don’t teach them to fight; I teach them respect and discipline.”
In March 2012, Lodge opened Dog Soldier Mixed Martial Arts on the south side of Minneapolis. Its name is derived from the Ancient Cheyenne Warrior Society of the Plains, the Dog Soldiers. “I recognized the need of our Native peoples who were living in dire conditions and poverty. I saw men, women and children trying to cope with the daily abuses stemming from their involvement with gangs, alcohol, drugs, prostitution and domestic violence,” he says.
Lodge lived in Spokane, Washington, with his father and stepmother, where he built up his resume in leadership training, organizing Native leadership camps, academic challenges and sports camps. These days, he is devoting time to organizing the 1st Annual Intertribal MMA Championship Cage Fight, with the tryouts scheduled for May 2 and 3, at The American Indian Center.
ICTMN spoke with Lodge about mixed martial arts, his gym and the cage fight.
How and when did you get started with Dog Soldier MMA?
I started Dog Soldier MMA in a small community gym on the South Side of Minneapolis in the first Urban Indian Housing Projects. I volunteered teaching martial arts to the youth in the evenings. Now, we have a perfect fit as our gym is housed in the Minneapolis American Indian Center since 2013.
What is your main goal for your organization?
Our goal is to instill the warrior society mentality in our communities — to defend, protect and teach — and also, to give our men purpose and our women empowerment. We want to continue our community outreach program and to be a trusted presence in our community.
What kind of training/classes do you give in Dog Soldier MMA?
We currently contract with Saint Paul Public Schools teaching martial arts. We have worked with Nawayee Center School for half a year teaching high school youth self defense. But the majority or our student base are adults. We have fighters, competitors or just Natives looking to get into shape. We also have started to offer Zumba, and Salsa y Bachata classes.
What kind of skills do Natives need to be good at martial arts?
Listening, self-discipline and patience are needed. Anyone can become great at the physical aspect of martial arts if they follow these skills.
How do these athletic skills learned from Dog Soldier MMA transfer to life skills?
We have students that chose to make better decisions because their self- esteem is dramatically improved. Their self-discipline causes them to think before reacting. I’ve had numerous occasions where students would have gone the “hood” route, but instead chose to keep calm and respect themselves, and think about the consequences of their actions instead of engaging in fighting.
Tell us about the Cagefight. Why are you doing this?
The cage fight is something that Indian country has been waiting for for a very long time. A bragging rights fight — “represent your nation” cage fight. With MMA being the fastest growing sport in the world and coming from a warrior society, it’s only natural for us as one of the first Native-owned and operated MMA gyms to host an intertribal event.
What’s next after the Cagefight for Vaughn Buffalo Bull Lodge?
I plan to take a small vacation then back to the grind and focus more on the community service aspect of Dog Soldier Fitness. I want to begin an affiliation program where Dog Soldier MMA becomes the premier MMA gym that helps tribes build a model like ours.