INspirational People: Mike Tajima punches back at Parkinson’s

INspirational People

Watching Mike Tajima throw punches and pop his boxing mitts into the hands of his trainer, you’d think he has experience in the boxing ring.

He doesn’t.

While he was always active, you were more likely to find him on the golf course or running.

But today, there’s no place he’d rather be in than at the gym with his gloves on.

“He tells me he dreams about boxing. He wakes up and he’s doing jabs,” said his daughter, Misha Morioka. “Every time I see him, he asks me, ‘Okay, what are the numbers for the punches?’ and he practices. It’s been a while since he’s really been passionate about anything, so it’s just amazing.”

It’s even more amazing when you consider where Tajima was just a few months ago – hospitalized with a feeding tube as the result of a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“He was not in a good place,” said wife Gail Tajima. “He was very weak, and he was not able to eat even, and he just lost all of his energy.”

“He lost for some reason all desire to eat, to just live life,” added Morioka.

Enter Kyle Pressley, a professional trainer who found a specialized area of training that is clearly changing lives.

“I have a lot of Parkinson’s clients that come in that either it’s progressed or starting to begin,” said Pressley, who owns Flex-Hard Pro Fitness. “When we start to really get into the neurological response to the muscle groups, the constant repetition helps so much and in my clients, we’re seeing a big improvement within months.”

For Tajima, the change has been swift and dramatic.

“I totally thought he’d come in and have to sit down and do some really measly, slow punches, maybe last 15 minutes at most, and he lasted an hour,” said Morioka.

Now, less than four months later, Tajima is on his feet, throwing strong punches and working on the speed bag.

“I see most of my clients that have this disease come in and they’re hardly moving,” said Pressley. “But once we establish that jab and establish that right cross, for some reason, it gets better and better. Every week, it gets better and better. Their movement gets better.

“They’re constantly thinking about boxing, thinking about their numbers, what comes next, their footwork. With the body and the multi-joints moving together, it’s amazing what goes on,” Pressley continued. 

For family members watching Tajima getting put through the paces, the experience, in their words, is mind-blowing.

“It’s amazing to see him doing this, getting back to being somewhat active and how he was before, it just makes my heart happy and makes me happy that he’s passionate about something again,” said Morioka.

In addition to helping Tajima get back on his feet and be active again, boxing has returned his sense of purpose and independence.

“This whole situation, I mean, the little things mean a lot,” said Tajima. “This whole experience and working with Kyle, I feel whole. … (Kyle is) unbelievable. He’s really helped me a lot. A lot of my friends can’t believe that I’m boxing.”

Pressley still can’t believe the power of boxing, how it can unlock a body that no longer works and give his clients a chance to enjoy life again.

“I’m telling you, I am just in shock. I’m still in shock,” said Pressley. “He gets better, like today. He’s got better today. You witnessed today another progression from Mike.”

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