January 14, 2005

Do burritos increase athletic performance?

By J.D. Hawk

What does a burrito and fighting have in common? Nothing really —until now. Carne asada burritos could be to restaurant owner Joaquin Farfan Jr., what spinach is to Popeye the sailor.

When Joaquin Jr. came to visit his newly purchased home in Otay Ranch on Sept. 20, 2002, he found his house full of hundreds of partying teens doing thousands of dollars worth of damage. “Screens needed to be replaced, the floor was warped, the shower had been chipped, the walls marked up and there were blood smears all over from what may have been a fight,” wife Alicia Farfan would later recall.

Though alone at the time, the 255 lbs. kickboxing black-belt ran in and chased them all out where more timid souls may have simply waited for the authorities. “Kickboxing definitely increases your confidence level,” Joaquin Farfan Jr. said.

The Farfan family are prepared to take on the unknown. Joaquin Jr. is attempting a daring cross over from the food industry into boxing.

Joaquin Farfan Sr., from left, Joaquin IV, Joaquin Jr., and Joey Farfan.

Joaquin, 35, belongs to the same Farfan family that collectively owns the Lolita’s taco shop chain in the South Bay. And since a Lolita’s carne asada burrito and soda equal approximately 800 calories, it’s a good thing that Joaquin exercises religiously with his Muay Thai kickboxing workout, which coincidentally burns 800 calories. In fact, Joaquin, who’s studied various martial arts since 1987, is about to open Farfan Training Center at 825 Kuhn Drive in Chula Vista’s suburb of EastLake. There, he will begin teaching his own hybrid mixture of martial arts that some have dubbed “Burrito Boxing.” This martial-arts menudo includes: American kickboxing, Muay Thai kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jit Su (AKA Gracie Jiu Jit Su), stick-fighting from the Philippines, and good ol’ fashion street fighting. “I know a lot of styles and moves — and they all very effective,” he declared.

But its the Muay Thai kickboxing that Joaquin is the most biased towards. “It’s more brutal, more punishing if you will... way more powerful.”

And lazy learners will be delighted to know that, according to Joaquin, kickbox-ing takes far less time to master than other disciplines. Joaquin’s appreciation for Mauy Thai stems from the results of an annual competition, held in Tokyo, Japan called the K-1 Grande Prix Single Elimination Tournament. The international tournament allows all types of martial arts, but the winner is almost always a kickboxer.

American kickboxing is taught for good balance. But since a vast majority of street fights end up on the ground anyway, Jiu Jit Su — a method of grappling and submission — is also used. “Jiu Jit Su experts, if you have them on their backs, you’re probably in more danger than they are,” he said.

The 255-lb former Chula Vista High school football star claims that Jiu Jit Su has taught him how to swing his frame into motion . “If someone pushes you back, and you trip over a rock, you have to know how to roll and get on your feet,” he said. “I never thought I could be doing cartwheels, not great, but I was doing them.”

The Farfan Training Center has a 20 ft. USA Boxing-approved ring for sparring , 18 heavy bags for those who like to punch and kick things that can’t strike back, four speed bags, four upper-cut bags, six punching bags for children, two Olympic weight sets and a 700-ft open area with Zebra grappling mats. “They cost me $4,000.”

Crossing over from the food industry to martial arts business may seem risky. “I’m really nervous,” Joa-quin admitted.

But this won’t be the first time that Joaquin or the Farfan family has embarked on a challenge where the outcome that was less than certain. In 1976 the family came from Mexico with Joaquin’s grandfather Roberto Robledo to settle in Chula Vista. They had only the $200 truck to their family’s name. But they pulled together, and with long hours created the Roberto’s and Lolita’s food chain. “My dad still works 14-hour days,” Joaquin said about his father, Joaquin Sr., who’s now 57.

Joaquin Sr., who grew up brawling on the streets of Zone Norte and Guerrero in Tijuana, enjoys sparring with Joaquin Jr. “Back then, you pretty much had to be tough to be on the street after dusk,” Joaquin Jr. said. “If you weren’t tough, you shouldn’t be on the street.”

The Farfan family is more that just tough survivors who captured the American dream, they have also become a warm part in the community. At a recent opening of their taco shop in Otay Ranch, 1,500 to 2,000 friends showed up to wish their business well. The well-wishers crossed all geographics, from blue-collared, tattooed tough guys that raced each other in a mega-burrito food-eating contest, to smiling warm-hearted business ladies. “The Farfans are very active in the community,” said Sandy Williams of the city of Chula Vista’s Business Licenses (now retired). “They have always been family-oriented and treat outsiders like family. Everybody is family to them.”

(By the way, the legitimacy of winner’s victory in that eating contest was in dispute as he began up-chucking for five minutes immediately afterwards.)

Growing up, Joaquin said he appreciated the help given to him by such organizations like the Chula Vista Parks Recreation Department and Chula Vista Boys Club. He believes that such organizations gave him the opportunity to enjoy some of the things that he might not otherwise have enjoyed given the family’s financial position, like going to the then San Diego Clipper basketball games. “So now I figure I’m at the point that I can give back... I think I should give back even more, since I love the sports.”

Though Lolita’s collectively donate $45,000 a year to local programs and community events, The Farfan Training Center will begin a program for underprivileged children to attend kick-boxing courses in EastLake. “They don’t have to do anything except get good grades and be good citizens.”

Though temporary plans are for classes to begin on Feb. 1, the grand-opening won’t be until March. Call (619) 216-8269.

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