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Anxiety and Martial Arts | Ryan's Story

My name is Ryan Benedetto.

My story starts here in Columbus. After some time living in Columbus my mother found it a better fit to move away from the city to a small little town called Pataskala, roughly 40 minutes outside of downtown.

I was raised in a questionable home. My mother was physically abusive and dad, well, dad wasn't much help either. He was around but only when he felt like it. Once a week or so. My father was a "tough" guy to say the least. He was very hard from a young age because I wasn't athletic or into sports. I got picked on and allowed it from the kids at school. This led to many self esteem issues seeing how my father also picked on me for the same reasons as the kids in school. To put it bluntly, I was a fat kid.

By the time I turned 15, I weighed 337lbs. I'm sure it was higher at points but that's the highest I ever saw on a scale. Two friends pulled me into a weight room my sophomore year of high school and from then on, I began working out.

The summer going into junior year I fell in love with boxing. I had always been a fan, strictly because of the Rocky movies. That was one good memory I had with my father, watching those movies. As I continued to grow, I watched those movies religiously. I joke to this day that Rocky was my father figure growing up.

Post high school was quite the challenge. I was thrown out of my mother's house at the very fresh age of 18. At that point I was a more aggressive teenager.

After jumping from place to place, a couple of friends offered me a chance to move with them to Florida. Without question I jumped at that opportunity. Anything to get away from Ohio sounded great to me BUT I wasn't cut out to make it on my own down there quite yet. After a short couple of months I found myself back in Ohio. Doing the same dumb things with the same crew.

One, as I say now, "lucky" night I was arrested. We were drinking and having a grand old time. Next thing I know we are outside in a brawl with the grown men living across the street. I say that night is lucky because if it weren't for that night there is no telling what dumb thing I would have done next with my "friends". After which all found themselves in front of a judge for different reasons.

From that night on, I set out on a new path. I dedicated to being better. Better than who I was and better than who people thought I would be. After leaving the courthouse for said charges, I went straight over to the recruiting station. I desperately wanted out of my situation and I had always dreamed of being a soldier.

March 5th 2012 I got that chance. I left for Ft Benning, Georgia two days after getting off of probation. I was 19 years old weighing in at 179lbs. There I learned teamwork and how no one man is bigger than the mission. Upon graduation in June 2012, I found that I was to be stationed in Ft Lewis, Washington in a unit set to deploy that October. Talk about a gut check. Not even a year into the army and I found myself in Afghanistan. My job? Minehound. I was to walk in front of every man in my platoon with a metal detector (ground penetrating radar) and sweep the ground for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device).I was laughed at when that job was assigned to me. Many of my comrades told me "good luck" or "well we know you're expendable". But I took it a different way. I accepted the job with the mindset I was vital to the missions completion. After arriving in Afghanistan, we were sent out to where we would be for the next 9 months. Sperwan Ghar. Give it a google.

As soon as we got there we hit the ground running. Our missions were labeled as "movement to contact". Damn near every day. Between the 24/7 patrols, and the attacks on our base it definitely was not boring. By January 2013 we had lost a few great men. Men that I respected and looked up to immensely. This angered all of us. We hit it even harder. Our missions became more complex and daring. I found myself on day 8 of a 3 day mission. That's right, day 8, and it went on for 13 total days. We packed and prepared for a 3 day in-sector mission. Meaning we would be outside our base and securing areas on our own for 3 days. Things did not go as planned, obviously. During that time we all found out who we really were inside, as we found ourselves day in and day out under fire. To make some light of it, we did have one soldier actually re-enlist while on that mission. That motivated the hell out of us but also made us question what he was thinking. At that time we found ourselves working along side SEALS and Army Special Forces. It forever changed who I was as a person.

After coming home I realized I had to do something with all of the aggression. Losing friends and the day to day grind overseas can be overwhelming. I found a boxing area upstairs at a gym on Ft Lewis. I spent most nights there training with an older gentleman who would never tell me his name. We just called him "Coach C". He helped me develop a true stand up game and an understanding that it's an art form not just a fight. After a few months, Coach C stopped showing up. No explanation as to why. Just gone. Which left me scrambling to find a way to train.

In 2015, I somehow talked my way into teaching a boxing program for my unit. With no true boxing experience, I dove right in. As a kid, I would stand in front of the mirror and throw punches attempting to mimic my favorite fighters. I'm not sure if it's the mimicking, the amount of fights I had been in, or maybe I was just a natural but somehow I ran that program. There were 6 fighters in the program. No one had experience in boxing. I ran the program for 3 months. However, my time in the military was not over. Every few months we were gone for one reason or another. This made it difficult to train. Soon after I found out I had a daughter on the way. Boxing was put on the back burner for the time.

In this time of always being gone and away from my daughter, it became very hard on me. I was not right inside anymore than after the 2012-2013 tour. I became a heavy drinker and had a lack of care for my own life.Something had broken. It became dark.

After leaving the military I was lost. I was going through a divorce and transitioning to civilian life, it took a toll on me. I lost myself and who I was along the way. I hated every single thing about myself. I shot back up to weighing 230lbs+ and distanced myself from everyone I knew. During this time I hit rock bottom. Bad. I wont bore you with the details but things weren't great.

Then, I found Ronin Training Center. Honestly, I found Ronin even before moving back to Ohio. I had spent some time looking into gyms to train in once I got home, and it was clear that Ronin was the place for me. I completed my free week right after getting back home. However, I did not become a member for some time because of where I was at mentally. I just wasn't ready yet.

Finding Ronin saved me. Absolutely saved my life. If I did not come in here, I'm not sure where I would be.

I was on a downward spiral. Walking into the beginner MMA class changed it all. I met Travis Davis and it did not take long to tell, just by the way he spoke and carried himself, that I had met a fellow soldier. I'm sure he doesn't remember this at all, but he put us through hell that day. I walked in way out of shape and he let me know it. At the end of class we sparred in the ring. He told the rest of the class to follow suit and watch how calm I was while being engaged. That sparked something in me. Walking in at 230lbs and no real experience under my belt, it meant the world that a coach and pro saw something in me. I walked out of class with a black eye and was proud as hell of it. Since that day I've tried to adopt Ronin as my second home. Just walking into RTC perks me up.

I suffer from crippling anxiety. Getting panic attacks from just sitting on the steps trying to go to the grocery store kind of anxiety. Ronin pulls me out of that. It gives me the desire to get out and fight the anxiety, PTSD, whatever you want to call it. The caliber of coaching and the skill level of the person beside you will motivate you to do things you thought you couldn't. I had no clue how to throw a kick, or what the difference between a "darce" and "anaconda" choke were. I've learned so much about Martial Arts and all the work it truly takes to be proficient at your craft.

So I thank Ronin. I want to thank the staff and members. If it weren't for all of you, I would not be here to tell my story.

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