Dutchess County MMA Fighter Brian McLaughlin, owner and head instructor at Precision MMA in LaGrange, NY gives advice on using martial arts as a tool for growth inside the ring and out.
Precision MMA is currently offering a FREE 30 Day trial to Dutchess County residents call 845-392-8495 or visit www.poughkeepsiemixedmartialarts.com to get started
In MMA the saying “Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” is a very popular idiom. The idea is that the path to personal growth and development is often achieved through a series of unfavorable crucibles. In 2007 I traveled far from Dutchess County to Atlantic City where I entered the Ring of Combat Beasts of the Northeast MMA Tournament. After winning the initial bouts I found myself in the tournament finals. At one point I came across a fellow fighter, Charlie Brenneman, who was a finalist in the weight class above me. We were both waiting for the elevator and Charlie decided to engage me in friendly conversation. “Don’t you just love this?” he asked me. “No! I hate fighting, I can’t wait until this is over” I replied. Charlie gave me a confused sideways look and decided against engaging me in further conversation. While not making many friends, I was being brutally honest.
Part of me hates fighting. Whenever I have an MMA match on the horizon everyday is filled with a combination of doubt, fear, anxiety and nervousness. Prior to my first fight my coach had trouble wrapping my hands because they wouldn’t stop shaking. Many people are perplexed when they discover my feelings towards fighting. Everyone simply assumes that I enjoy fighting and I’m right at home under the bright lights of competition. When I’m standing in front of a sold out MMA crowd in Atlantic City I really wish I was at home in Dutchess County. Upon discovering the truth I’m always asked why I continue to fight if it makes me so uncomfortable. The reason is that once I went through a professional fight everything else in my life was easy by comparison.
I started MMA training at 15 years old. Before I began training MMA, nervousness and anxiety took over nearly every aspect of my life. When I met people for the first time I couldn’t look them in the eye. I used to walk with my head down. I was probably the least confident teenager in all of Dutchess County. If I had to speak in front of a group my voice would quiver and I would start sweating profusely. For my first couple of months sparring terrified me, but it allowed me to face my fears in a controlled and supportive environment. Eventually getting choked, thrown and pinned by someone twice my size wasn’t so frightening. By putting myself regularly in uncomfortable situations I began to relax and my anxiety began to disappear and be replaced with a quiet confidence. The self-assurance and composure I developed through regular training was incredible, but I knew it was the result of facing a real fear and conquering it.
In my case, I decided to fight MMA specifically because it terrified me. At the time no one else in Dutchess County had ever fought MMA, I was in many ways entering uncharted territory. Once I had overcome the fear of confronting a professional fighter who was being paid to hurt me I knew I could handle anything. College exams, public speaking, even opening a business were nothing compared to being locked in a cage with someone being paid to hurt you. Anytime I feel anxiety creeping in from a situation I ask myself “is this worse that any fight you’ve been in?”. Now very few things cause me to doubt myself or truly frighten me. By placing myself in stressful situations and confronting my fears and doubts I gained a confidence and self reliance I never thought I’d posses. I truly think a martial artist should at times embrace truly stressful situations or even intentionally create them. I even preach this in my kid classes. When one of my young students hurts themselves they don’t start crying and looking for sympathy, they work through it (Pit bulls not Poodles is our saying). MMA fighting is an extreme example and I’m not trying to get everyone in Dutchess County to climb into a cage. However, I believe everyone should think of ways to challenge them self in training and at times be genuinely uncomfortable. Whether it’s pushing a little harder when you’re completely exhausted or rolling with someone much bigger and stronger than you – when you survive the anxiety you’ll walk away a stronger, prouder person.