Small Business

People with Parkinson’s fight back by throwing punches

A new workout program in Wichita is helping people with Parkinson’s fight back against their disease.

Rock Steady Boxing is a non-contact exercise program based on training used by boxers, but it is geared toward people with Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s plus, said Erin Carpenter, Valor Martial Arts co-owner and a registered physical therapist. The program began at Valor in June.

A typical class includes boxing fundamentals, fine-motor activities, boxing on bags, footwork lessons, punch combinations, agility training, balance drills, stretching, bicycling and more, Carpenter said.

“In theory, it probably sounds terrifying and scary maybe … but it’s really not scary,” Carpenter said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

A boxing training regimen targets things like hand-eye coordination, rhythm, strength and power, and these specific areas may help reduce Parkinson’s symptoms and improve quality of life for those with the disease, Carpenter said.

Valor Martial Arts has three Rock Steady Boxing-certified trainers: Carpenter, Marcio Navarro, head fitness and kickboxing instructor, and Mannie Brown, head boxing instructor. They slowly acclimate boxers to the exercise regimen, which is for men and women of all ages, levels of ability and stages of the disease, Carpenter said.

“I don’t want somebody to say, ‘Well, I walk with a cane, there’s no way I can do this.’ No. That’s exactly why you need to come,” she said.

Rock Steady Boxing originated in Indianapolis in 2006. A lawyer who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 40 was told to essentially let the disease take its course, Carpenter said. He started working out with a friend, who was a boxer, and his symptoms eventually improved, leading him to work with others to develop the program.

Valor Martial Arts’ Rock Steady Boxing program currently has three participants – ages 44, 61 and 72 – but nationwide the program has more than 150 members from the ages of 35 to 90, according to a news release.

In addition to its normal classes, Valor Martial Arts offers three Rock Steady Boxing classes each week.

As many as 5,000 people in Wichita and about 14,000 people in the state of Kansas have Parkinson’s, according to the news release. Carpenter said Rock Steady Boxing helps those with the disease and their family members support each other.

“The Rock Steady program really brings people together that have Parkinson’s. It’s a community,” Carpenter said. “Just the camaraderie of everybody having Parkinson’s and knowing the life and the struggles that each have to endure on a day-to-day basis is very uplifting.”

Morgan Bell: 316-268-6514

Rock Steady Boxing classes

Location: Valor Martial Arts, 1836 S. Woodlawn

Hours: 1:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays; 11 a.m. Saturdays

Cost: $20 per class, $100 per month or $150 for a punch card containing 10 classes

Requirements: A $25 assessment is required before exercise can begin. Call 316-500-3828 to set up.

More information: Visit or contact co-owner Erin Carpenter at 316-500-3828.