Self Defense in the Sacred Battleground

Life can be so cruel, so undeniably and inexplicably cruel that it hurts. You can feel the pain in your bones, as if the world is laughing at you, laughing at the pain of your failed marriage or failed relationships. This invisible force that smirks when the big deal falls through, the job that you’ve been working so hard to keep is falling apart, and you feel like your life is crumbling right in front of you. For me it is the incessant and relentless fear, anxiety, and panic that follows me everywhere I go, as if it were my shadow. This painful and horrible fear, crafted by the hands of horrific men from my childhood, gives me this lingering thought in the back of my mind, “Don’t open up too much, don’t let people in, or it could happen all over again.” And the pain grips my chest, seizes my entire being, and I am helpless to stop the panic fill my very lungs. And the world just laughs at me, smirks at me, and whispers, “What are you going to do about it?” In this way I feel the cruelty of life, this horrific inertia of dying, the slow march towards death and the inevitable pain, suffering, and callousness that develops from this difficult journey. It feels as if being alive is a battle in itself to experience the glimmers and glimpses of beauty and joy it has to offer.

And that is when I find myself at Lightning Kicks Mixed Martial Arts class, filled with a mix of excitement and trepidation: excited for the lesson in combat and self defense and the comradery of my teammates, but trepidation because I know my mental and emotional fortitude will be tested. For this place is a sacred battleground, where we come together to accept the realities of life, the war that is being waged against our health and happiness; that life is, in fact, a battle to squeeze as much joy out of this world despite the pain and cruelty that accompanies our existence. Yes, life is a battle, and at this academy, we are trained to fight and claw for every inch, every second, every moment to gain victory over our lives. There is no pity here, no self-loathing or complaining, only the constant encouragement to fight with all the skill, strength, and endurance your body can muster up..

Hitting pads, drilling various techniques, sparring, and the exercises to increase our pain threshold and resiliency under great duress; it is all a metaphor. While these are all beneficial to become a skilled fighter, they are even more beneficial for personal transformation, to become the Peaceful Warrior ready and waiting for the battle of life. It is a challenge to accept pain, copious amounts of pain, and to endure the pain until there is no more pain, only the joy of being alive and knowing that with every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears shed within these sacred walls I am becoming more impenetrable. I can laugh at the cruelty of life, the disappointments and the failed relationships and tell myself, “I was born for the battle and the blood.” And when the world laughs at me and asks me with a smirk, “What are you going to do about it?” I laugh back and say, “I am going to live.” 

Tanner Lauka

About 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.

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