As breathing becomes labored and lactic acid builds in the muscles, tasks become harder. A deeper focus is needed and sometimes, that mixture induces a desire to stop. For actress/producer Margo Graff, quitting isn't an option.
Fighting through those conditions inside the gym and at her Los Angeles dojo has translated beyond workouts and has enabled Graff to remove barriers from her life. It’s given her the ability to conquer the ghosts of her past.
“A lot of times we give so much of ourselves and Martial Arts is one of the few places that I can go and I can say, I've been doing this for a year, I just got my purple belt I'm done learning my blue belt techniques,” said Graff, a co-host of YouTube’s Lipstick Television. “I can see the strength in my body, I can see the confidence. Someone who deals with PTSD and understanding that when I walk my dog alone on the street at night, I know how to carry myself and I feel stronger. I feel, you know, more grounded in who I am.”
I was paralyzed in my bed
These are important steps for Graff who was nearly the victim of human trafficking and also had her family targeted by scammers. The crooks called her parents and claimed she was kidnapped and in their custody. The ruse was intended to get money without an actual kidnapping.
“They had a girl screaming and crying on the phone that sounded identical to what my mom would think I would sound like if I was screaming for my life,” recalled Graff, a Butler University College of Business graduate.
Hours into the ordeal, authorities met her parents at a bank where they were in the process of withdrawing money to send to the caller. It was determined no one spoke to Graff directly to confirm if she was in danger or safe. When they reached her by phone, Graff was in bed in her apartment. That experience, combined with a near human trafficking incident several years before, left Graff in a bad place mentally and emotionally.
“I was paralyzed in my bed, not knowing if someone was going to be outside to actually take me,” she said.
Earning her purple belt in Kenpo under Sensei Richard Mesquita has given Graff the drive to unlock that paralysis. Instead, she takes those anxious moments and works them out inside of her dojo, leaving with a clear head.
Graff has surrounded herself with people she trusts. During training sessions, she is fully confident in her partners, which, in turn, allows her to carry that new level of faith into the real world. Graff also understands that with each session, she and her partners have made a silent agreement to better the other. As one person’s skills sharpen, so does the other’s.
“You have to be fully present. And if you're there, why wouldn't you give 100%,” she said. “Give it all to the bag. Give it all to your partner so when you leave, you’re open, you’re free. You are holding on to nothing else.”
Finally, Graff has a sense of freedom.