And in this corner: HOPE fighting back against Parkinson’s


Balance on one foot, sit down on the floor, get back up, walk in a straight line….that’s easy enough.. or is it?

My mind repeatedly returns to Lake Norman Muay Thai with the “athletes” that are fighting back against Parkinson’s with the Rock Steady program that I met and watched last week.

Arriving early last Wednesday and standing in the empty Muay Thai training facility in Mooresville it felt like a regular gym with a full floor mat, weighted bags hanging and the half man punching dummy waiting to be put to use but as I met each Rock Steady class member I began to realize and feel the transformation of this gym into a room of hope and determination.

The simple motions and bodily functions that I listed in the opening line are just a few of the many physical challenges these amazing folks are battling.  This doesn’t even touch on the mental and emotional toll that Parkinson’s takes upon the individuals and their families.

We, as a family, experienced first hand the obstacles, stress, frustrations and so many more emotions as Mike’s, my husband’s, father, Jim, dealt with having Parkinson’s.  Alice, Mike’s mom, faced those challenges head on with incredible strength.  I do believe Jim would have benefited from Rock Steady for the physical aspect, in addition, to the bond and support that comes from being together as a class.  Mike also joined me to watch the class. His observations brought on a flood of memories of his dad and with heavy emotions Mike agreed, his dad would have embraced the opportunity to be part of this class. As Mike spoke with the participants he learned some hid their Parkinson’s struggles early on, as his dad did, from the public but within the class time they are able to be in a comfort zone filled with sense of humor and understanding.  All agreed being physical and active made them feel better and a scheduled class time encourages regular movement plus ways to continue to move while at home to be ready for the next class.

During the warm up part Rock Steady I watched the “athletes” with various stages of Parkinson’s begin to go on the mat, chat, smile and encourage each other and along their side was J T Smith, coach of this class, but the word coach does not clearly convey the message of what I saw.  J T is the owner/trainer of Lake Norman Muay Thai and J T took additional training to bring this Rock Steady program to his facility.  What I saw was a man full of passion about giving folks with Parkinson’s a way to fight back, a way to physically respond to the symptoms and improve coordination, plus get them motivated in a challenging yet fun environment.

There are volunteer trained coaches on the mat with the class ready to provide a helping hand but mostly what I saw with the volunteers and students was a relationship that gave moral support and compassion that made me smile and warmed my heart.  I spent one on one time on the mat at each station during the work outs.  I was impressed with the tenacity and determination of each person.  I plan to visit that class again and watch their progress.

The Rock Steady program is growing.  Please listen and learn more from my August 8th “Why Should I Care” show with special guests: J T Smith, owner/trainer of Lake Norman Muay Thai, Carma, a volunteer coach and Jackie, one of the amazing students of Rock Steady.

To find out more:

Rock Steady Boxing Knocks Out Parkinson’s

Author: Melissa Neader