Training for MMA

Parkinson’s is full of weird inconsistencies. Sometimes I can’t seem to master walking. But I can almost always dash up the stairs. One minute I’m full of energy, the next my leg is dragging and I can hardly utter a word. One minute I’m struggling to keep my balance simply standing to watch my sons soccer practice1, then an hour later I’m training striking2 to get ready for a potential Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) bout.

Yes, you read that right.

My friend and fellow Young Persons with Parkinson’s (PwP) Nathan Lee Ward of Rally Cap Fitness and I have teamed up to organize a charity fight to raise funds to help make the lives of PwP better. Nathan and I discussed doing something like this months ago, during our time in Oaxaca, Mexico for an outreach we did there. When Nathan recently resurrected the idea of a charity fight on Facebook, it rekindled my interest too.

But why?

Well, how many people can say they’ve fought in the octagon? But seriously, it’s for a great cause. I don’t like whining about Parkinson’s because nobody likes a whiner but hey…

Parkinson’s sucks people.

From not being able to move or speak normally or predictably, to bouts of pain, to… relationship issues, to communication challenges and constantly being mis-understood leaving many PwP feeling increasingly isolated, and lonely, the disease wreaks havoc on many Parkinson’s sufferers mental health. More than just the fact that you grapple with increasingly difficult symptoms, the disease causes anxiety and depression. Probably worst of all, the disease torpedoes your self confidence. Us Parkinson’s sufferers put on a brave face (what else can you do) but it’s not uncommon for many of us to often feel terrible about themselves and just plain crummy overall. In short, Parkinson’s is a devastating disease.

For a chance to make the lives of PwP better…I’ll fight for that.

Also, I tend to suffer from Apathy that can make it difficult to workout as hard as I could to help ensure that I am feeling and moving as well as possible. The thought of getting my ass-kicked is pretty motivating for me to train hard. PD or not, MMA workouts are very difficult. But I feel and move amazingly well afterwards!

How, you might ask, could I possibly stand a chance against a person not hampered by Parkinson’s?

That’s a great question.

On the one hand, I can at times move pretty much as if I do not have Parkinson’s. Other times, my stiffness, slowness, and fatigue are all too obvious. How can I optimize my “on- time” to ensure that I’m loose and fighting well during the bout, when I need to be at my absolute best to have a chance?

First, I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to train with Darbe Schlosser of Motorvation. Her techniques for better movement for PwP allow me to overcome Parkinson’s to a degree, allowing me to unlock potential that I didn’t know I had.

Second, I got off Dopamine Agonists (DA). Those of you who have read my posts recently know that I’m not a fan of DA’s. Besides making your sleeping pattern go to crap and making you slowly go crazy they also hamper athletic performance to some extent. When I got off Agonists I basically went from climbing 5.8-5.9’s to being able to climb 5.10-5.11s pretty much immediately.

Third, for training, my friend Will Merino, head coach at Arte Suave Jiu-Jitsu Academy, agreed to train me for the match. Will is a former MMA Amateur Champion and Number 1 rated heavy weight Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Black Belt. Under Professor Will’s highly competent tutelage, I should have the conditioning and muscle-memory to fight well as long as I consistently show up for training.

Finally, I’m experimenting with a medication regimen during the match to help me perform as well as possible. With my medication tweaked, I should hopefully be able to make Parkinson’s a non-factor, or very nearly so.

There is still considerable planning to do but we are shooting for the bout to be in roughly 6 months time.

  1. I’m not exaggerating these symptoms at all. Seriously disabling when untreated, Parkinson’s often responds well to medication. Along with exercise, Parkinson’s can usually be managed relatively well for Young Onset People with Parkinson’s (PwP) like myself.
  2. Striking – Combination of form, stance, and footwork for effective hand-to-hand combat.

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