We live in New York City, with its reputation as a ‘tough’ place. You’d think that as an MMA school in NYC, we’d emphasize self-defense and fighting in ‘the streets’ more. Instead, we emphasize the fitness, the fun and the mental aspects of training. Why is that?

I’d like to take this chance to build off what Christian, our Head Coach, talked about when he was recently interviewed by the Huffington Post about MMA and self-defense.

We firmly believe that, whenever possible, you should try to avoid situations in which you need to employ martial arts to defend yourself. Violent assaults across the country have dropped in the last few decades, and it’s less likely than ever for you to be put into an unavoidable violent encounter. Even when you’re put into that bad spot, immediately going into attack mode is usually not the best response. Like Christian suggested, situational awareness is the best thing when it comes to self-defense. Understanding when you’re in possible danger, recognizing what’s going on and identifying the best option to get yourself out of that danger; those are the most valuable skills to protect yourself.

To a certain degree, that’s what we provide at Ronin Athletics. At first it seems weird, that a New York MMA school, where you learn how to punch, kick and twist limbs, would be so proud of its abilities to help with mental acuity. But if you really examine what we do here, you’ll quickly see how MMA, BJJ and Kickboxing provide the mental workout you need to always keep your wits about you.

Discipline is a buzzword when it comes to martial arts. Let’s explore that in relation to what we do here. Being a part of an MMA school is hard. Training is fun, we wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t, but it’s also difficult. We all know how frustrating it can be at first, when your body just doesn’t want to move the way you want it to or when someone you’re rolling with is so much better than you that you feel helpless. Part of what the staff here does is to make sure that you can get through that initial awkwardness as smoothly as possible. But it’s the will that brings you into the gym even when your body’s sore, the same will that we help sharpen, which allows you to persevere and get more and more skilled.

The ‘alive’ training that we do here – the sparring, the drills, the rolling – all of it is geared to giving you the ability to always be in control and cognizant, even when the blood is pumping and the adrenaline is flowing. That’s unfortunately not often something you hear about when people talk self-defense.

When you are put into a dangerous situation, your body reacts unconsciously, your physiology gets ready for fight-or-flight. It becomes very difficult to think clearly. When we first start rolling or sparring, a very similar situation arises. Our brain panics, technique and conscious thought become hard to find. But through training, our mind is able to adapt and we’re able to react intelligently in those stressful moments.

If you’ve trained for a while, think about the first time you ever rolled and what it felt like versus what it feels like now. Where once technique was the last thing on your mind, now you’re able to see opportunities and take advantage of them. Where once you’d be totally stuck in your head, now you can observe, notice patterns and make conscious decisions that allow you to do better. Not only have you trained your body to react to what were once overwhelming stimuli, you’ve also trained your mind to be able to think your way through problems when the adrenaline dump hits, instead of just reacting. This is invaluable for self-defense, just like it is for life.

Because you’re in control of your mind, you are able to examine your situation and act more wisely than you’d be able to otherwise. MMA Training gives you the confidence you need to make smart decisions, and the options to handle many types of situations. You can recognize what level of force you need to use, if you need to use force. Once you’ve trained for a bit, you’re more able to use those options because you’ve been consistently practicing them in an alive environment with a partner who is trying to resist. You can have confidence in your skills even when stressed because you’ve used them over and over again against someone who is not cooperating with you.

So yes, you will learn how to defend yourself while you’re training Mixed Martial Arts at Ronin. But that shouldn’t be your only focus. For myself, I’m here because I honestly think it’s fun. Learning new techniques, feeling myself grow stronger and more skillful and being a part of the Ronin family; that’s what keeps me coming back, and I hope that the same holds true for you.

See you on the mats.

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