The connection between Parkinson’s disease and training for an MMA fight is closer than you might think. Each week around 20 Parkinson’s patients meet at a gym in northwest Oklahoma City where they have found hope.
“My name is Brett Bowman, I was diagnosed about three years ago.”
“Ray Sorise and I was diagnosed in 2013.”
Each person has a story.
“My wife saw my hand shaking one day and I looked up and Googled it and I had like nine of the 10 symptoms,” said Bowman.
It’s these symptoms they find unbearable.
“Talking,” said Darrell Porterfield, another Parkinson’s patient.
“I have tremors,” added Jack Musick.
“Restrictive,” said James York. “Everything is restrictive, your walk, you balance, your swallowing.”
“It’s an insidious disease,” said David Carter. “Your legs don’t work; your hands don’t work.”
But at Solid MMA, these Parkinson's disease patients don't dwell on what they can't do, they focus on what they can.
“They can do more than they think,” said Jerad Johnson, an ACE certified personal trainer.
Johnson teaches Rock Steady Boxing several times a week to those battling the debilitating and deadly disease.
“I include those movements of daily living and then you add some forced intensity,” said Johnson.
Johnson started the classes two and a half years ago after working with his grandfather who had the disease. He began with six in his class and now it has grown to 24.
“I have them slam balls and do the rope stuff where they really push themselves,” he said.
During the workouts, they move from one circuit to the next, each exercise designed to build strength, flexibility and speed.
“My favorite is the speed bag,” admits Sorise. “It's coordination for me, it shows that my coordination is on par.”
“I'm stronger, I’m sharper mentally, my balance is better,” said Cheryl Bullard. “I feel better now physically than I did three or four years ago.”
“When I leave I feel 10 times better,” said Porterfield. “I'm more mobile with my grandkids, they moved here from California, and I can finally enjoy them.”
Johnson say the class isn’t a cure but gives them hope.
“It's the only thing that actually improves their lives, rolls their symptoms back, slows the progression, I mean it gives them their lives back,” he said.
“It feels like I’m my normal self, sometimes when I leave here I forget I even have Parkinson’s,” said Sorise.
For more information about Rock Steady Boxing click here.
To sign up for a class at Solid MMA, click here.