MODESTO — Sixty thousand people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year and for many, it’s a constant fight to keep the disease from taking over.
Everyone has a reason to fight.
“I have six grandkids,” Maryellen Backman said.
Backman’s fight led her to Dynamic Mixed Martial Arts in Modesto, for her first Rock Steady session.
“My motion is getting less and less and less and it’s getting harder and harder and harder to move and I thought this was something I could do that would help me with my movement,” Backman said.
Movement is the key to the Rock Steady program, an interval regiment featuring boxing and balance exercises that is used around the world to help people with Parkison’s.
“Once I had seen this program and saw the improvements it made to people with Parkinson’s, I knew I had to do it, I had to bring it to my school, I had to bring it to Modesto,” Dynamic MMA owner Paul Mendoza said.
Mendoza and instructor Matt Miller both saw the Rock Steady program as a way to mix their backgrounds in mixed martial arts with helping those fight their toughest battles.
“This has been way more rewarding than anything I have ever done,” Mendoza said. “I’ve won four world titles in mixed martial arts, and everything I’ve done is small compared to what these people do every day.”
Alan Armstrong says he’s seen drastic improvements since he started the program this summer.
“I don’t have as many issues as I had before I started. There are some issues that have disappeared such as the frozen face look, I don’t really have that much anymore. I was actually skipping one leg while I was walking, no longer,” Armstrong said. “It’s fantastic, I’ve reduced my medicine intake from three to two times a day. It’s fantastic, I’ve noticed a huge difference.”
That difference is felt not only with Parkinson’s patients, but the program’s instructors.
“You make me cry and we have a problem here. I almost can’t put it in words. It’s on the inside,” Miller said. “They are me in 20 years. This is the best thing I’ve ever done, for me.”
Rock Steady is supported by a grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation and Moving Day San Francisco.