People use Martial Arts for many things. For some, it is a form of exercise or just a way to be able to kick some ass. For others, they are trying to master a challenging set of skills.

But for some people, martial arts can offer a lifeline and a connection back to a normal way of life. In Elkhart, Indiana, Kenny Holmes, who has been practicing martial arts since the age of seven realized that. And also realized the crucial role it could play in helping military veterans, such as himself cope with the physical and mental challenges their time serving their country has left them with.

Kenny Holmes Founding Veteran Relief Fund Project

Hapkido Veteran Relief Fund Project korean martial art
By Mickael Pipier (Mickael Pipier) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kenny spent 12 years serving in the US Army, including a spell on deployment in Iraq. But after returning from the front-line he suffered complications that led to him being medically retired.

Cut loose from the job he had committed a large chunk of his life to, and suffering from anxiety and panic attacks as a result of his time in combat, Kenny found life back on civvy street tough. But that was when he rediscovered his love of martial arts.

“I got back into [martial arts] and it has helped me.,” he told the Goshen News. It helps me with breathing and if I have an anxiety attack, it helps me get through it.”

After benefiting himself from practicing martial arts, Kenny began to wonder if other veterans like himself might see similar benefits. Which is why he has involved in founding Veteran Relief Fund Project.

Veteran Relief Fund Project and Hapkido

Hapkido Veteran Relief Fund Project
By Nathan Hall from USA (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Veteran Relief Fund Project is a free martial arts program which is open to all military veterans. Their families and friends are welcome to join it for a small fee, which is always donated to veterans charities.

They offer a multi-discipline class built around the Korean martial art of Hapkido. Hapkido focuses on such skills as punching, kicking, throwing, and joint locks, and also involves weapons combat. It emphasizes moves applying circular motions and usually does not involve forms or patterns like its fellow Korean martial art, Taekwondo.

The classes are taught by Holmes and Bruce Andresen, who manages Elkhart Martial Arts, who explained why he was so keen to get involved.

“We need to help our veterans all we can,” he said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to our service people. This is a way of helping to pay back that debt of honor.”

The classes at Veteran Relief Fund Project offer participants the chance to advance through the ranks. But they focus on veterans who are suffering significant physical or mental traumas as a result of their military service. These include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), brain injuries, and many other disabilities.

“Veteran Relief Fund Project for veterans is to help build confidence and control, belong to a team and take control of their physical training,” Holmes explained. “[It also helps participants] learn how to control their emotions, thoughts and have pride in themselves.”

The classes have already proved popular with local veterans. Regulars can already pay testament to the benefits they have gained from taking part.

Hapkido Helps Veterans

Hapkido Veteran Relief Fund Project
By Nathan Hall from USA (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One such is Steve Pace, who has lived in Elkhart but served in the US military in the Vietnam War.

“Some of the moves in Hapkido helped me from seriously injuring myself after I slipped on a chunk of concrete when they replaced the steps on my front porch,” he explained. “Remembering the front fall that I learned in Hapkido [helped me] walk away without any serious injuries. This program will be helpful for other veterans.”

Veteran Relief Fund Project is run through Freedomsystem.org, a non-profit organization in which Holmes serves as CEO and President. They have received funding to support the project from the Military Family Research Institute as well as various other local donors, and run classes on a weekly basis.

This project to deliver Korean martial arts training to military veterans in a Mid-Western US state highlights everything that is great about martial arts. They can not only teach people valuable skills but bring communities together to look out for one another and help those who need support the most.

And fun as it is to be able to show off awesome moves and kick ass now and again, it is this side of martial arts that we should all really be celebrating.

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