Warriors Way Kickboxing is class designed to help anyone, whether they suffer from PTSD, other injuries, stress or anxiety.
My name is Terrence Popp, and I am a retired First Sergeant from the U.S. Army with 33 years of service under my belt.
My journey across that span of years was great, thrilling, terrifying and painful. I know that string of words is hard to accept, but there is no one word in the English language that can explain it properly. The character of my service was one of action and front-line exposure to the savage violence that man can inflict upon each other. I was a Green Beret, Airborne Ranger, paratrooper and infantry soldier.
In my time, I have faced the rawest evils of our time and did so looking them dead in the eyes, and for it, I was nearly killed many times. I have two Purple Hearts to show for it and a boat load of pain that I carry forward with every passing day. I have had a hard time transitioning to normal civilian life. It seems strange, but I long to be back in the combat zone, and I wake up almost every night with a panic attack.
I spent a year in Iraq and operated out of the prison Abu-Gerab in 2004. We were shelled three to five times a day for months. Traveling around Baghdad was an experience in driving that makes road rage look like patty cake. Roadside bombs and RPG fire were commonplace, and it was a roadside bomb that came the closest to killing me.
In August 2004, the vehicle I was in was destroyed outside the city of Ramadi. We were hit by a bomb that measured between 60 and 80 kilos. I walked away from it, but the size of the blast was more than my body could take. It took three years to recover, and I was never the same again. I lost my photographic memory and feeling on the left side of my body. My mind was wracked with anxiety, depression and doubt. It took many years to crawl out of the pit of despair that my life had become: divorced, homeless and lost. I had no direction, no compass to navigate by, and a mind that did not work like it once did.
I wish I had known that my life as I had known it was going to die in Iraq. I might not have gone. I say that now, but in reality, I still would have laced up my boots and marched forward anyway. I know no other way. I was born to be a warrior no matter the cost.
I realized I had to find a way forward.
I had been a professional fighter for a few years between wars, and I did it mostly out of boredom. I started going to the gym and hitting the heavy bags. Then I added in the shadow boxing and other drills. I don’t spar anymore, as I dare not risk another head injury. Training in the boxing gym was great. I regained some of what I had lost. I even found myself able to brave traffic again while traveling to Pontiac where the gym is located. And while driving is still very hard for me, but I gut it out to get to the gym.
While working out, all that mattered was the simplicity of the action. My Zen — my inner peace — is the rhythm of hitting the bags and that sweet one-minute rest between rounds is. After a few months, I noticed that peace traveled with me when I left the gym. It was a revelation and epiphany that somehow the workout was healing me.
The owner of the gym suggested I run a class for other students, hoping what helped me can also help them. So, I did.
I have been running a class every Monday at Smash Hit Kickboxing in downtown Pontiac for more than a year now. It’s a class designed to help anyone, whether they suffer from PTSD, other injuries, stress or anxiety. My hope is that this class will provide others with the same respite it has for me.