I know what you’re thinking. “This place is full of meatheads and bullies, those with a penchant for hurting other people.” The truth is, that is what I thought when I first considered joining an MMA gym. I thought I’d show up with an invisible sign on my forehead that read, “Fresh Meat” and all the alphas will take turns pounding on me into oblivion. This fear actually kept me from joining Lightning Kicks for so many years. The fear of the unknown, of what could happen, what could go wrong, and the fear of pain or humiliation kept me on the couch and away from personal growth for far too long. I kept telling myself, “I don’t want to be afraid anymore.” I was scared of conflict, of all the things that could go wrong, of what people were capable of and how I was unprepared and unacquainted with the violence that might be necessary to defend myself.
Finally, when I became a father, I told myself it was time to face my fears and provide an example for my children and found myself at Lightning Kicks. I remember when I got there, I was terrified and was half wondering if there would be some initiation ritual, a kumite that I had to survive in order to be apart of the club. Perhaps this some type of gang and I had to be “beat in,” so to speak. Thinking back on it I laugh at myself because it is so far from the truth and such a misrepresentation of the Lightning Kicks family. I remember strolling towards the mat, trying to play it cool but deep down I was terrified of the killers and alphas that were dominating the mat. But to my surprise what I found was a relaxed and jovial group of people who were in the midst of learning some new jiu jitsu moves. I was sitting on the sideline waiting for the MMA class to start when Amir Khillah, founder of Lightning Kicks Martial Arts Academy, jogged over to me with a big, friendly smile and said, “Welcome to Lightning Kicks! I promise you that martial arts will change your life.” I don’t believe truer words were ever spoken and I was grateful to be so readily accepted by this group of martial artists and fighters.
What I discovered is that most people who find themselves at Lightning Kicks have also told themselves, “I don’t want to be afraid anymore,” and are so inclined to welcome others into the fold. Whether it be through MMA or BJJ classes we are all slowly become familiar with what we are capable of. We are all discovering our true strength, awakening the Peaceful Warrior that resides deep in our chest and are grateful to have teammates to join us along the way.
There is a real sense of comradery at our school, as we know deep down, we are all battling our own demons, fighting our fears, and trying to carve out the strongest versions of ourselves. There is a sense that every time I am sparring with a teammate I am helping them overcome some unknown, unspoken fear, that by standing in front of me and not backing down he or she is also standing up and not backing down to their personal demons. They are preparing for the challenges of life and equipping themselves with the tools necessary to knock down the doors that are keeping them from the joy of living. They are fighting back against the forces battling against them, both tangible and intangible, mental and physical, and declaring that they will not live in fear anymore. With every second on the mat, every drill and every sparring session we are all becoming more impenetrable against life and the pain and adversity that is sure to follow.
Life is a battle after all, isn’t it? It is a battle to achieve our dreams, to create beautiful memories and long lasting friendships and relationships. Sometimes we can forget that life can kick us in the teeth, and we find ourselves surprised when adversity hits us like a bolt of lightning.
Sometimes we need a reminder that the inertia of this world is death, decay, and destruction and that it is up to us to fight as long as we can to squeeze out all the beauty this world has to offer. If you’ve ever told yourself, “I don’t want to be afraid anymore,” and are looking for help, we would love to help you fight your fears and become impenetrable.
Author the Author
David Tanner Lauka is a member of Lightning Kicks Martial Arts Academy and author of Capturing the Ghost. He is also the founder of the Slaughterhouse Combat Team, a non-profit organization designed to equip trauma survivors to battle their fears through the martial arts. He is a childhood trauma survivor who suffers from PTSD and hopes to use his story to encourage others in their journey of healing.