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Military Vets Fight PTSD With MMA

Army veterans use mixed martial to help cope with PTSD

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    After fighting in the war in Afghanistan, Army veterans are practicing new ways of dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

    On a Saturday morning inside the Undisputed gym in Point Loma , Todd Vance leads a therapy session that is anything but routine.

    "It doesn't matter what moves, you know if you're getting kneed in the face," said Vance as he demonstrates a technique to his students. He is using mixed martial arts to help veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan find their way after feeling isolated at war and set adrift at home.

    "You don't know what to do or where to go," said Joe Northcote, one of Vance's best students. The Army veteran said he had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life when he returned from a tour in Afghanistan.

    Northcote is not alone.

    "Whether it's two months down [or] a year down the road, it catches up with you and I would say 90 percent of guys have an episode," said Vance who knows from experience. His struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) strained his relationships and brought him to the brink of a breakdown.

    "There were road rage problems, blowing up on people that didn't deserve it," he said.

    Focusing on being a fighter helped him channel that anger and frustration in a positive way. It is a technique he is teaching others who are battling the same demons.

    "When they get out, they see that trash can on the side of the road with a car battery in it, that's an IED to them, because their brain has been rewired so they'll pull over and won't pass it," Vance said as he explained why combat veterans often feel like they are misfits or misunderstood in the civilian world. He's proud he's created a place where they can find friends.

    The class has grown from 5 people to 20 in six months. Vance says he hopes people will spread the word about it so more veterans have a chance to participate.

    You can find out more about the program by clicking here.