GREENFIELD CENTER, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Saratoga Springs native Donald Walton started training in martial arts at a young age. He recently went on to win the 170-pound DonnyBrooke Fight Promotion title for Muay Thai in Barre, Vermont on February 19.
“I started training with MMA fighters just for fun, and it was strictly just because I wanted to learn,” said Walton. “As I began to train, I realized that I actually had skill, and one day I decided I wanted to just test myself and I said I just wanted to try one fight. And then suddenly, one turned into 20 really fast.”
Walton works and trains at the Ndakinna Education Center in Greenfield Center, which has both martial arts programs and wilderness education programs. The martial arts program includes Northeast Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with an affiliation under Alliance Jiu-JItsu, Saratoga Muay Thai, Saratoga Judo and Saratoga Kyokushin. Walton teaches Muy Thai and Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu classes and helps out with the wilderness programs.
His Muay Thai title fight was supposed to be five rounds, but the referee called it during the second round, in favor of Walton. However, this fight wasn’t the one Walton originally signed up for.
“I was supposed to make my professional mixed martial arts debut and my opponent dropped out with a week’s notice with a rib injury, and they found me a last-minute replacement,” said Walton. “I had to go up an entire weight class against a guy who had over 10 fights. The guy had a winning record.”
“I walked out there and there were people actually placing bets against me because this guy looked terrifying, but the entire fight he could barely touch me,” said Walton.
Walton kept putting his opponent on the ground during the fight by kicking him in the legs, and he kept getting back up. When his opponent thought Walton was going high with his strikes, he went low, and vice versa.
“He was really tough,” said Walton. “He was not going down easy. I definitely went in there and showcased what I’ve been working on my entire life.”
“His fight went great. He stuck to his game plan. He felt things out in the first round. He figured out very quickly the weaknesses his opponent had and in the second round he did what he needed to do to finish the fight,” said Jim Bruchac, Director of the Ndakinna Education Center.
Ndakinna’s martial arts program began in 2011. The program was being temporarily held at Ndakinna until they found another space, but decided they liked it at this location. They renovated one of the old barns, turned it into the dojo, and connected it to the main building, said Bruchac.
“Soon as we opened, Don was here not long after, and did very well. Now he’s one of our top instructors,” said Bruchac. “He’s passing on his knowledge to others, as well as still stepping in the ring or cage once in a while.”
Walton was ranked first in his MMA division in New York. Since he ran out of competition, he decided to move to California to train under Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA.
“It was absolutely incredible,” said Walton. “I loved every minute of it.”
Walton spent five years in California. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he made the decision to come home. Walton said he doesn’t regret that decision at all. His skills grew in California, and now everything he does is for his school.
Ndakinna had to shut down temporarily at the beginning of the pandemic, but the center managed to survive. Aside from the martial arts program, Ndakinna focuses on Northeastern Native Cultural History, as well as understanding the natural world. Bruchac said the youth programs, camps, and storytellers are very popular.
According to Bruchac, the martial arts program has over 70 students, including kids, between the various styles. “We’re open to all levels and we like to push anybody to be the best that they can be through martial arts,” said Bruchac. “Gain self-confidence, get in good shape, and learn some very useful life skills.”