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  • Writer's pictureLaura Bianchi

Busting MMA Misconceptions (Hint: It’s not about violence.)

Updated: Nov 14, 2018

Laura stretching during training at her MMA gym in Scottsdale, Arizona

The first time I walked into an MMA gym seven years ago, I said to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?”

At the time, I was desperate for a new physical and mental outlet. I had been a yogi for 13 years, but my intense daily sessions had left me with a torn and herniated disc in my spine. I found a Rolfing practitioner who put me back together, but I was never able to return to yoga with the same commitment level. Instead, someone suggested I try boxing. I did that for a few months and absolutely loved it, but as with everything if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it 110%. So I decided to leave behind the safe world of cardio boxing and immerse myself in the world of mixed martial arts. That’s when a friend recommended I check out his local MMA gym.

When I first entered the gym and eyed the tough-looking fighters, I was excited and nervous at the same time. It didn’t take long for me to learn that there was much more to this sport than most people watching a pay per view fight from the comfort of their living room couches would ever understand. All too often I hear people describe mixed martial arts as “too violent” or “just guys in a cage beating each other,” but the reality is absolutely the opposite. The best MMA fighters aren’t simply the ones who have mastered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai or wrestling. They are dynamic athletes who sacrifice so much to master numerous disciplines and understand every move, muscle and action of their opponents, training their mind and body to move together like a symphony orchestra. Mixed martial arts is a physical, mental and emotional chess match. Once you step into the octagon, it’s anyone’s victory.

When I first started training, none of the regimens made sense to me. Grappling felt like a constant battle simply to avoid being smashed. Stand up required responses that were the exact opposite of what most people would consider normal. However, over time and with an inordinate amount of dedication, determination and practice, I could feel these disciplines coming together.

Over time, my training partners and coaches became like family. I learned from the best of the best, as we sweat and bled and poured our hearts and souls into our practice. My personal transformation and growth was incredible, but it’s the relationships I built in the process that have meant the most to me. And I think nearly everyone involved with MMA would say the same. A match is over in mere minutes, but my gym family brings richness to every day. Soon, my sister Catherine decided to join the fun and now she has surpassed me, winning numerous gold and silver medals in Jiu Jitsu competitions and advancing in her Muay Thai training, earning numerous belts.

Catherine and Laura Bianchi train at an MMA gym in Scottsdale, Arizona
Training with my sister, Catherine.

Someday, I hope to fight in an amateur match. But that’s not why I spend so much of my time in the gym. The training I’ve undertaken there has strengthened my back and core to such an extent that I have had virtually no remaining back issues, but it’s also the space where I can unwind after a day of fighting chaos and moving mountains as a cannabis attorney and a community that offers incredible warmth and support. MMA is the only part of my life where I am not fully in control, where I have to accept that I still have so much to learn. That provides much-needed balance and perspective for someone who is used to being in charge of everything and controlling every minute of her day.

Whether you want to try MMA or explore something else that’s new to you, I encourage you to be adventurous – and stick it out. It will be hard when you first begin. When you are great at what you do professionally, it’s hard to try something new and suck at it (ha!). No one likes that feeling. But you have to give it a chance. Put in the time, trust your coaches or relevant expert, and be humble in your struggles. It might take a while, but that commitment and determination will always pay off. And that’s far better than just being comfortable and living a stagnant life. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, from an unknown source: “If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”

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