Shaking Parkinson’s to the CORE

“Generally, when people come to our type of gym, they’re coming for a specific reason,” says Rolando Haddad, owner of CORE Combat Sports. The Louisville gym is an undisputed leader in martial-arts training in the community, and whether you’re looking for Brazilian jiu jitsu, Krav Maga, boxing or run-of-the-mill strength and conditioning, CORE Combat Sports has instructors who are vastly experienced and ready to teach the next dedicated student.

For example, CORE Combat Sports employs the renowned Helio “Soneca” Moreira – one of the original members of the highly respected Gracie Barra team of Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioners – to teach classes. “The main focus of our gym is our very high-level training. It’s not like going to a health club or going to an aerobics class,” says Haddad. Obviously, their methodology is different than that of most cookie-cutter gyms, but there is yet another program at CORE Combat Sports that sets them apart: Rock Steady Boxing.

IMG_0630Rock Steady Boxing is a revolutionary program that not only provides a good workout but has shown to alleviate the symptoms and impede the progress of Parkinson’s disease. There are several scientific studies that support this conclusion. One at Rhodes University in Memphis determined that focused, sustained exercise can eliminate the spread of a toxin that causes Parkinson’s in mice. Another fascinating study at the University of Pittsburgh found that people with Parkinson’s who performed exercise daily were able to produce chemicals and begin biological processes that essentially protect the neurotransmitters responsible for movement.

Scott C. Newman, a former attorney in Marion County, Indiana began experimenting with ways to stay in shape despite suffering from Parkinson’s. At the age of 40 – a mere handful of years after his initial diagnosis – Newman turned to intense, one-on-one boxing and realized that he was seeing incredible improvements in his energy level, agility, dexterity and overall health.

Through his own funds, as well as through generous donations he received after people heard his story, Newman opened a dedicated area in a corporate gym to house the program. Since 2006, the program has flourished, and Kristy Rose Follmar, a former world-champion professional boxer, serves as the head trainer.

Meanwhile, Abdul Jarvis, head boxing instructor at CORE Combat Sports, was developing another female world champion: Terry Blair. The circles in competitive sports are small, so it stands to reason that Blair and Follmar met on several occasions in the ring. Consequently, word of Follmar’s exciting program came back to Louisville and Haddad.

“My mom had Parkinson’s,” relates Haddad, giving insight into his own personal relationship with the disease. After hearing further details of the IMG_0629program from Sue Schonberger, group exercise director at Milestone Wellness Center, and Eunice Ray, national vice president at Arbonne, Haddad agreed to begin offering the program. “Since my mom had it, I thought it would be good to give back like that. I just thought that there was a need for it. I did it because I thought it was a nice thing to do, not because of profit. We have the facility, we have people who can instruct it. It’s good for the community. It’s good karma.”

And almost immediately, they saw that having people hit the heavy bags, jump rope and run drills were having a profound benefit on the participants. “It helps with the symptoms so much,” asserts Haddad. “It releases endorphins, which are good for the body. And the people who do it? They love it. They’re getting a good workout. They’re creating a sense of community. They come and hang out with other people who face similar challenges and overcome them together.”

Haddad modestly calls himself “an organizer” of the program while Abdul Jarvis runs the program in earnest and Haddad’s son, Max Haddad, assists. The legacy of Muhammad Ali is something that Haddad and his team are fully aware of, but even without the added weight of honoring The Greatest, Haddad knows that he would still proudly include the program: “Any time you can do something positive for the community, it’s it’s own reward.”

CORE Combat Sports is located at 13124 Eastpoint Park Blvd. For more information, please call 502.489.5444 or visit

Courtesy photos