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Byron Shire
March 23, 2023

The Challenge of MMA – fighting men’s depression

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Ben Pietzsch and Anthony Williams prepare to work it out by working out at the Extreme MMA gym in Byron Bay. Photo Eve Jeffery.

Anthony Williams suffered from depression and anxiety for ten long years. He had sought help in many different areas and had been on and off a medication rollercoaster trying to find the best answer to his illness, and what is often a misunderstood condition.

Anthony finally found something that was for him, better than any of the drugs. He discovered Mixed Martial Arts and decided to train with a professional academy where he could learn what it takes to train for a real Mixed Martial Arts fight.

In July, Anthony approached Ben Pietzsch from Extreme MMA in Byron and asked if the gym would sponsor him in a Mixed Martial Arts Challenge supporting and showcasing the fight against men’s depression and anxiety.

The plan was for Anthony to reach a peak level in 12 weeks and get into the MMA cage to show that he could ‘punch men’s depression on the face’, and show other men suffering from similar issues that it is so important to get involved with martial arts or a group of like-minded men that you can open up to.

Ben says that in what appears to be a tough environment, openness and mateship is found amongst training partners.

‘In what would seem to be a place where you need to be tough, often a martial arts academy is where men learn their limits and feel more comfortable with their weaknesses,’ says Ben. ‘There is no hiding, and because of this it helps to promote openness.

‘Men learn while doing the martial arts that vulnerability, fear and weakness are things we all experience in some form, and in this group men can feel more comfortable about sharing what’s on their minds.’

Ben says being tough might be closer to a gruelling 12-hour-per-week training regimen than staying at home and not talking through your thoughts and issues. ‘Men everywhere may suffer depression at one point in their lives and it’s important to show all men out there that it’s easier in the long run to talk and to work through your issues than to keep quiet.

‘Money issues, family and spousal issues, and generally just being a “man” can be hard work. We men need to pull together, have a good chat, and if you’re into the martial arts, get up a good sweat and let those natural endorphins loose.’

Extreme MMA are in the process of putting together a foundation for men’s depression using martial arts as a platform for recovery. Anthony wants to help as many men as he can and will be using his Facebook page and a soon-to-be-launched website that will encourage men to open up and chat to him personally or through social media.

‘Extreme Mixed Martial Arts want to encourage everyone to live a healthy lifestyle with a good training regime, good food choices, and doing the right things for your mental health, like being a part of a club or association where you feel comfortable talking and sharing with those around you,’ says Ben.

Anthony can be contacted on his Facebook page or through Extreme MMA Byron Bay 6685 7001.

~ Photos Eve Jeffery

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