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Taking a Punch at Parkinson's

Rock Steady Boxing Helps Men and Women Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease

SPRINGFIELD, Mo -- In a dimly lit dungeon, 'The Greatest' overlooks time outside his own.

Muhammad Ali acts as a cornerman of sorts for the men and women pitted in the same fight for their lives.

The man in the blue corner needs no introduction: Dr. Stephen Kleinsmith, superintendent in Nixa for the past 18 years. 62 years old.

He writes his name not for fame, but so that Parkinson's knows who's punching; A 13 year diagnosis has been long enough.

"We come down here and just kick the pants off it. It slows it down, and in some cases, may even stabilize it," said Kleinsmith. "I feel very blessed. At times, I feel that it's stabilizing it. Holding it in its place."

RockSteady Boxing operates out of BodySmith in downtown Springfield.  It's been here 2 years.

The circuit based program focuses on balance, coordination, and stability. Striking stark contrast with everything the crippling disease drains away.

"It's the best medicine I've ever taken for Parkinson's. Bar none. Within 6 weeks, I was rockin' and rollin' with the best of them."

Shauna Smith Yates, owner of BodySmith, goes by 'Shauna the Piranha" and calls the shots during the 90 minute class.

"A lot of times they say I didn't want to come tonight, but I know I'm going to feel better, so work me hard. I love hearing that," she explains. "Seeing them workout so hard is contagious. It makes you want to workout even harder, and to be a better person."

Every individual in this class, has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.  

James (Jim) F. Morris is perhaps the undisputed champion. He's 87, and was diagnosed with Parkinson's 3 years ago. 

"I lost my brother from Parkinson's, and that scared the hell out of me, but I've noticed that is hasn't gotten any worse, and that's all I'm trying to do. Keep it where it is," said Morris.

"People ask me if I'm depressed."

"Hell no I'm not depressed. I've had the greatest life in the world and if it doesn't get any worse than this with Parkinson's," he will be alright.

Because in the words of his ever-present cornerman, "You don't count the days, you make the days count."


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