Martial artist offers free classes for mental health after personal tragedy

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ROCKFORD (WREX) – R-Strong, known for its martial arts training, is taking on a new fight, the fight against mental illness.

“Last year, mental illness took something very precious from our family and it’s been difficult,” R-Strong Movement Facility owner Beny Rivera said.

Suicide took Rivera’s mother.

“My brother said it best, one day she was here, and one day she was gone, and we were just blind to what was happening,” Rivera said.

But like a fighter, Rivera didn’t let the blow defeat him.

“Knowing I have something to offer, was helping me cope with what i was going through,” Rivera said.

So, a few months ago, he started offering free martial arts classes at R-Strong, so people can learn the art of fighting and how to defend against mental illness.

“It just happened to be really good for me to deal with my anxiety,” Lucian Kuranz said.

That’s how Rivera found Lucian, who goes by Luca.

“One day Luca came to me, really quiet, shy, really anxious,” Rivera said.

Five months later…

“I feel like I have a lot of weight lifted off of me, because all week I have stress building up, and stuff like that and I get to come into here and I get to burn off a lot of stress and I just feel great at the end of a class,” Kuranz said.

“I’m so proud of what’s happening, because the change he’s gone through is amazing,” Rivera said.

Two friends bonded through trauma and helping others fight the stigma that comes with it.

“If you need help, there’s people out there, you’re not alone,” Rivera said.

 R-Strong offers its free classes on Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

To find out more about how you can join a class, call (815) 847-9772.


Taylor Utzig

Taylor Utzig


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