Ken Marvin has participated in the Unity Walk since 2003. In this guest blog post, he shares his experience with Aikido, the martial arts practice that he and his doctor believe has slowed the progression of his Parkinson’s disease. This is another example of what our walkers CAN DO to be proactive in managing this disease. It’s different for each person. Let us know what is working for you.
PUW Event Director
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 35. The most important decision I made about treating this disease was made five year before my diagnosis. In 1994, I decided to take a Martial Arts class called Aikido (Nihon Goshin Aikido) with the idea of getting my son(s) into it later. You see, my oldest son at the time was 3 years old and very skinny. I was afraid he was going to get picked on. I wanted him to have self-confidence and be able to defend himself. I did not plan to continue once he got going. Later, I realized I needed Aikido more than I knew.
It was October of 1999. The world was worrying about the year 2000 and its effect on the computer systems (Y2K). I was working for a large company’s Information Systems group in charge of the Y2K project for their Telecom department. It was a typical “bite off more than I could chew” day. I was in my office preparing for a meeting, getting a late start because I had just come from my flying lesson early that morning. I was a bit worn out having stayed up late to work on a project for the MBA program I was enrolled in. This is when I felt a flutter in my left pinky. My pinky was moving on its own. My assistant at work said “Maybe you have that thing Michael J. Fox has.” I just laughed. I thought it was a pinched nerve or something. See, I was also in the process of testing for a black belt in Aikido.
Less than five months later, at the ripe old age of 35, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). I remember looking at my wife and we both looked at the doctor and said, “So, what do we do? What medicines, etc.?” There was no shock; no “why me?” moment. I think we both already knew. I was trained in Aikido to blend with whatever comes your way. This was no different. Over the next two years, I focused on what was important in my life. I stopped the MBA program because I was in it for the wrong reasons. I had to put down flying lessons due to medications. I eventually went out on disability from work to relieve the stress. I also realized how much the training and teaching in Aikido was helping me physically and mentally. My neurologist, Dr. DiRocco, and I believe that my Aikido training has a lot to do with my continued health and slow PD progression.
Fast forward – I am now 48 with a wonderful wife and four boys ages 13-21. In the 13 years since my diagnosis, I’ve continued as a student and instructor in the art of Aikido and recently obtained my 3rd Degree Black Belt in our 5 Degree system. I teach classes every day but Sunday. Other than tremors and soft speech, I do not have many of the issues you would expect after 13+ years with Parkinson’s disease. Balance has never been an issue. No rigidity. Even the tremors stop when I do a technique in Aikido. Click on the image below to view the youtube video I created about Aikido and its impact on my Parkinson’s disease.
Aikido is all about balance and being one with your environment. Continually moving from your center of gravity, keeps your body balanced. The discipline keeps the mind in balance. The exercise in general is good for the body. We even do stretches designed to keep your wrists flexible. This art is exactly what I need to keep me healthy. Aikido found me before Parkinson’s set in. I believe it was by the grace of God.
Team Captain, Miracle Marvins