Vernon’s CounterPunch Boxing Club gives to new meaning to fighting. When some of the members strap on their gloves and throw a few punches, they aren’t just fighting the bag or an opponent, they are battling Parkinson’s disease.
Vernon boxing coach Antony Stamboulieh has been offering free training sessions in Vernon since 2005. The club, which meets every Monday and Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at IRON HEART GYM, is open to people of all ages and abilities. He said the goal is to give back to the community.
“It caters to children, male, female, elderly and even people who have Parkinson’s disease,” he said. “Boxing is a sport that really helps them with their movement and fluency of their movement and gives them energy of the group that is inspiring to see.”
While some attend in preparation to compete, many use it as an opportunity to exercise.
“Regardless of your experience, you will be in a good space and you will find it very friendly and very positive,” Stamboulieh said. “I am amazed at the level of participation [of the individuals with Parkinson’s disease]. Their effort is always 100 per cent. They do not shy away from any exercise I set up and I believe it really does help people.”
Parkinson’s disease causes a loss in many of the same elements that boxers work to improve. Medical research has shown that forced, intense exercise, like boxing, can reduce, reverse and delay Parkinson’s symptoms.
“I started out with the Parkinson’s boxing class and it went on for about a year or two. Tony asked us to come and have a look at this class and I have a good workout here. It takes your mind off it and increases adrenaline — it’s still there but it takes your mind off of it,” said Gary Tancock, a Parkinson’s patient and CounterPunch attendee.
Though many participants are younger, completely healthy individuals, some of whom are even training for competition, but that doesn’t prevent any fun from being had.
“Until a few months ago, I hadn’t had boxing gloves on since 1963,” said Walter Wallace, who does not suffer from Parkinson’s but does have circulation problems. “Needless to say, we’re the seniors but the really wonderful thing about this group is that you have young men and young women boxing and having a great time with us old guys and it’s just so much fun.”
Stamboulieh encourages anyone interested to attend the training Monday and Wednesday nights at IRON HEART GYM, at 5400 24th Street in Vernon.
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