Trainer Darin Reisler and associates remember Stuart Scott

“Boo-Yah!” came booming out of the living room T.V. That was how Pierre Newton, a Brooklyn native, usually started off his morning: sitting on his black foam sofa, eating his usual breakfast: Kellogg’s yogurt cereal while watching Stuart Scott on ESPN. He would then get up to continue with his morning routines with Scott in the background.

His voice was vibrant and his energy transpires through the TV. The days I didn’t hear Stuart Scott’s voice, it felt like something was missing.”

Just three days into the New Year (2015), Scott passed away at the age of 49 after battling cancer three times, but Scott fought hard, engaging in mixed martial arts in the midst of chemotherapy treatments. Martial arts training was necessary because it would often restore energy that was taken from him by chemotherapy. Dr. Antonio Webb, who is currently doing his residency for Orthopedic Surgery stated,

When cancer hits, it hits hard. The chemotherapy hits even harder. It attacks and damages every cell type in your body good and bad. It kills hair cells leading to baldness, your GI system leading to diarrhea, particular receptors in your brain leading to nausea and vomiting.”

Scott engaged in mixed martial arts at Plus One, West Hartford, CT with trainer Darin Reisler, who is also the center’s owner and head instructor.

Stuart is the only person I’ve had who continued his training during cancer treatments. Mentally, being active helps you feel alive, and this can really be helpful to people who are struggling with health related issues. Martial arts, overall, are an activity that utilizes a lot of physical movement, but the techniques require a great deal of mental thought.”

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But the physical impact of mixed martial arts is equally as beneficial as its effect on the mind. Perhaps that was one of the reasons Scott kept going to training. It made him feel good. In one of Scott’s sessions, as he wrestled with Reisler, he wore a T-shirt that read…

Every day I fight.”

“When you are appropriately active, your body has a greater tendency to heal. There are also endorphins that are released during exercise, and I believe serotonin levels increase in the body too. This helps you to feel good,” Reisler said.

Dr. Webb stressed that “working out, getting good nutrition, and having a positive attitude” plays an important role in one’s health when it comes to fighting cancer.

“Working out and good nutrition counteracts the catabolic wasting that occurs when on chemotherapy. Exercise can improve mood, boost self-confidence and reduce fatigue,” he said. However, Reisler noted that certain physical activity such as running on a treadmill or lifting weights are very much different from mixed martial arts—even though both fall under the category of “physical activity”.

While those are great activities, the martial arts are more holistic in their approach to physical health and fitness.”

Ralph Ruiz, a twenty-seven year old fitness trainer, holistic health coach and NLP Hypnotherapist at Ralphitness also agrees that martial arts are more “holistic” than certain physical activities. For instance, weight lifting, “has a stiffening effect on the mind and body,” he said.

If we are already under pressure and are metaphorically carrying a heavy load on our shoulders maybe turning that load into a literal load may not be a good idea ‘opening up’ exercises such as running outdoors and yoga may be better.”

Ruiz battled a disease known as ankylosing spondylitis since he was 13 years old that lasted for 13 years. It caused him severe back pains and spinal inflammation. Just like Scott, he too engaged in mixed martial arts to help him with the healing process.

“I practiced Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,” he recalled. “The more I fought the better I felt. The harder I trained the cleaner my body felt.”

[Author’s note: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is generally practiced on a padded mat, a form of ground fighting, there is no striking involved—it is all grapping. Muay Thai is practiced standing up and involves a lot of striking, comprehensive of punching, kicks, knees and elbows.]

It was through Ruiz’s battle with ankylosing spondylitis, he realized that “the body and the mind are not two separate things.” There is also a third element, one’s spirit.

He also emphasizes that working out during any illnesses often releases stress.

Less stress, equals less inflammation in the body. Less inflammation in the body and cancer has less fuel.”
-Ralph Ruiz

For Durval Morgan, head athletic trainer at Lehman College argues that, those who are battling cancer or any other potentially fatal illnesses, it is essential to engaged in physical activity, more particularly in mixed martial arts like Scott and Ruiz. “It [martial arts] teaches you how to think positive, and use your body in ways you never thought possible,” he said.

In fact, according to Dr. Webb, several studies have indicated that higher levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk of cancer coming back. Morgan too indicated, “Having stronger skeletal muscles can help offset a disease’s effect.” Though Ruiz, on the other hand, believes that there is no such thing as a disease, instead “there is only misbalance.”

Mr. Scott was a great man, very brave indeed. Cancer may have won the war in the physical world, but deep down inside we know his spirit is whole.”

Scott’s death has left many of his fans emotionally distraught; but he did teach us one thing when it comes to fighting cancer when he accepted his award at the ESPYs:

You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.”

-Sherley Boursiquot– @sherleybee_