Veteran Starts Fight Club For Those Suffering From PTSD


Veteran Starts Fight Club For Those Suffering From PTSD

Tod Vance is an Army Veteran who has served in the US Army and was part of the first deployment units to Iraq. He was the leader of his squad and spearheaded more than 250 combat missions. He returned to San Diego in 2005, but the initial euphoria of being back soon faded giving rise to a severe case of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), with vivid memories of what he had seen and done.

Vance’s Personal Struggle

Six months after returning back state-side, there were clear signs of a problem with him becoming a recluse, drinking a lot, having extreme pangs of anxiety, and resorting to means of inducing extreme adrenaline rush or ways to numb his senses. The Veterans AffairCenterer diagnosed his issues as PTSD and handed Tod a load of medications and pills that weren’t very helpful.

Not unlike many others in his position, Tod resorted to prescription pill abuse and excessive drinking to ease his struggle. His family then urged him to get professional help. After getting therapy and deciding to go back to school, things started looking better. He straightened his life out and became involved in martial arts. That in his own words ‘saved his life’.

Fighting His Way Through PTSD

Vance was a professional fighter in Muay Thai in high school and soon went back to training. This gave him routine, discipline, and structure. It even got him off his drinking. After completing community college, he proceeded to pursue a degree in social work at Loma Nazarene University. This made Tod realize his passion for helping and working with other military veterans. He then decided to create a fight club for veterans to fight PTSD and help them revisit their lives, just like he had.

The Fight Club

What initially started as a team competition between veterans, the club turned nonprofit in 2012 under the name POW (Pugilistic Offensive Warrior tactics). The play of the acronym is on ‘ Prisoner of War’ because most veterans are prisoners of their own individual wars when they return from combat.

Mixed martial arts focuses on fitness and technique and not violence as most people misinterpret. The club has severed more than two hundred and seventy-five veterans, all of whom have successful stories to share.

POW offers an MMA class three times a week in San Diego at the Undisputed Downtown gym. The club has peer-to-peer support and coaching sessions, this enables sharing and group therapy. The art helps the club members to become calm and move on to a regular civilian life. The idea is to help the person involved be mentally present in the moment and let go of trauma and depression. To help clear negative thoughts and keep a clear mind, yoga has also been incorporated into the program.

Results of the Program

A recent study that was conducted on 30 participants who had been part of the program over one year, showed an eighty percent improvement on stress and symptoms of PTSD, a ninety percent improvement in the physical state and health, and a hundred percent improvement in the feeling of loneliness and isolation in the participants.

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