Black Widow MMA co-owners Jorge Castaneda (left) and Bitsy Esparza (right) first opened their gym in summer 2017. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
It was this kind of experience that Esparza said she wanted to eliminate when she opened her gym alongside co-owner and jiujitsu instructor Jorge Castaneda.
“We don’t do that here. You make everyone feel welcome. If they’re brand new, if they’re a girl, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is going to feel welcome and equal,” Esparza said.
Esparza and Castaneda said they have molded their instruction and classes around getting more people into their gym and sticking with mixed martial arts. As a result, Esparza said the duo has been able to accommodate students of any age as well as students who are overweight or have disabilities.
Black Widow MMA’s instructors have also held self-defense seminars for the LGBT community and are an open gym to gay, lesbian, queer or transgender students.
Between Esparza and Castaneda, Black Widow MMA offers boxing, muay thai and Brazilian jiujitsu classes. Esparza said the instruction of her classes is rooted in drilling down fundamentals and basics, so each class is beneficial to both professional fighters as well as someone who is taking their first class.
The gym also offers youth martial arts for children ages 6-16.
“We focus on all of it—the self-defense part of it and the sport—all of that so the kids feel confident, but at the same time they’re also learning the art,” Esparza said.
Soon, Esparza said the gym will relaunch its women-only mixed martial arts classes.
“We need to get more women into sports,” Esparza said. “Once they learn the power to punch and kick or submit someone, it’s awesome.”
Black Widow MMA is one of a rare few female-owned mixed martial arts gyms in Austin that Castaneda said he has encountered.
“We’re under a strong female that is able to represent Black Widow MMA, not just through fighting and martial arts, but also through positivity. [Esparza] can be one of the nicest people ever, but she’ll show you how to become a great fighter. She has definitely elevated my training,” Castaneda said.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the gym to close for three months. During that time, Esparza and Castaneda continued classes through Zoom sessions, which are still offered to clients uncomfortable with in-person training.
“We’ve experienced a lot of growth since we opened back up. People tell us often that we are one of the few gyms that makes them feel comfortable,” Esparza said.
Black Widow MMA
2007 Kramer Lane, Ste. 101, Austin
Hours: daily 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
*Black Widow MMA has a mask and temperature check policy for coronavirus precautions. Sanitation stations are available in the gym. Contact Black Widow MMA for more information.