N.C. boxing gym helps people with Parkinson's disease to fight and get stronger

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LAKE NORMAN, NC (WBTV) - Boxing gyms work to train fighters.

Boxing gym helps people battling Parkinson's disease get stronger / Source: WBTV

But one in North Carolina brings in a special type of warrior - those with Parkinson's disease.

"I like it. Kinda gets the frustration out a little bit," said Peggy McCombs, a student at Lake Norman Muay Thai.

McCombs comes to the hour-and-a-half class to throw punches, work on balance on the beam.

She's fighting to get stronger.

"At first it wore me out so much that I was going, I don't know, but it makes you strong. Your body and I think your mind," said McCombs.

"These people are fighting a different kind of fight," said J.T. Smith, the owner of Lake Norman Muay Thai and coach for Rock Steady Boxing.

But Smith's boxing gym isn't just teaching people to fight with their hands, they are also learning to fight a disease.

"I wasn't prepared for the diagnosis, I didn't expect it at all," said Jeannie Barfield, a Rock Steady athlete.

Parkinson's disease - each person in Smith's Muay Thai boxing class has it.

Three times per week they meet for class and get moving.

"You don't think about your disease for that length of time," said McCombs.

Once it's time for class cool down, in stillness, the tremors show.

Tremors are a symptom of the disease.

"I have a 6-month-old grand baby and that was my big concern was being strong enough to be with her. But this makes you stronger I think," said McCombs. "I think it helps with the tremors."

"I feel like I'm doing something that's helping my condition," said Pressly Boyd, an athlete in the class.

So they keep coming back. Throwing punches. Not done until the boxing bag is left swinging.

"When I come I may not wanna come but when I leave I feel better, much better," said Barfield.

"It's pretty moving to see. They don't have to come do this but they wanna fight back and that's what they are doing," said Smith.

If you want to help, the gym relies on volunteers to help all the students make sure they don't fall over and have someone there to increase their confidence.

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