The boxing classes helping people with Parkinson’s

The classes are held at Gainsborough Sports Centre

The classes are held at Gainsborough Sports Centre - Credit: Archant

Nicola Warren finds out about special boxing classes ahead of World Parkinson’s Day (April 11).

They are run by Gavin Williams

They are run by Gavin Williams - Credit: Archant

“You become a normal person for a few minutes”

Steve Burgess, 55, was diagnosed with the progressive neurological condition Parkinson’s two years ago. He visited his doctor repeatedly after he struggled to put his coat on.

Finally, a visit to A&E led him to getting an appointment with a doctor at the hospital.

Two class members

Two class members - Credit: Archant

She asked him to walk down the corridor and, straight away, she knew what was wrong with him. Further tests confirmed the diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

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“It knocked my socks off to be honest with you, it was hard to take, but it was good to get to the bottom of it.”

Now Steve is praising boxing classes which have changed his attitude to the disease, which affects around one in 350 people.

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The classes, run by Gavin Williams of Williams Martial Arts in conjunction with Parkinson’s UK, are held at Gainsborough Sports Centre in Ipswich.

“Gavin is very down to earth. He puts you through your paces and puts an arm around you if you need it. He’s got a great understanding of Parkinson’s.”

“It is nice to get everybody together for a bit of morale. We get there 10 or 15 minutes early and have a little natter and Gavin joins in after setting up.”

Then the training starts. “The training is good and very beneficial. You become a normal person for a few minutes. The camaraderie is good too.

The camaraderie continues after the class, when there’s a chance to stay for tea or coffee and biscuits.

“It’s absolutely brilliant what Gavin is doing. I would recommend it to anyone with Parkinson’s, it really helps.

“We do more than we think we can”

Ronald Frost, 79, also attends Gavin’s boxing classes. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s eight years ago.

“I was a bit depressed. I played football most of my life, I was always active. It gets you down as you can’t do as many things.”

That’s why he joined the classes when they started in January.

“We get pushed out of our comfort zone, we do more than we think we can. We’re more motivated than if we did it on our own.

“Gavin is good, he has such a nice manner. He’s good at getting the best out of people.”

Ronald has found that the classes have made him more mobile and has slowed down the progression of his Parkinson’s symptoms. He also enjoys the social aspect of the classes.

“I’m going to carry on boxing as long as I can.”

“Everybody’s been really supportive”

“I just wanted to offer my support in a productive way,” says Gavin, who runs the classes, which he is hoping he can now extend into other areas of Suffolk and Essex.

Research has shown that exercise can have positive effects on Parkinson’s, such as slowing the progression of symptoms.

There are local exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s, but the nearest boxing class was in Norwich.

“I thought there was a gap in the market and the classes would be really beneficial.”

So, this January, with support from Ipswich Borough Council, he started running the classes.

“I was lucky enough to get some sponsorship from local healthcare provider Fuchsia Healthcare.

“That was mainly spent on buying some equipment from boxing provider Chaos Boxing. Everybody’s been really supportive.”

Students on a public service course at Suffolk College volunteered at the classes for 10 weeks, helping in a number of ways such as setting up the equipment.

“A regular 12 or 13 people who have Parkinson’s attend the classes each week and we can hold 15, so we still have a couple of spaces available.

“I’m hoping to put another class on in the near future as it’s proving so popular.

“The classes are now getting recommended through the hospital, and the Parkinson’s nurses are mentioning them to their patients.”

It’s easy to see why the classes are getting so popular. Gavin says one of the members says when they are there in the moment they forget about their symptoms.

To book a place, call the sports centre on 01473 433655.

Gavin is looking for volunteers to help out at the classes. For more details, email

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