Davinder Dhanoa tells us about his martial arts coaching sessions and how it serves as training for the body and mind.
“Come on, Davinder… 10 more, 5 more, come on I see you slacking!” he hits me just to give me “extra motivation”, I struggle to the end and finally finish the workout. Next, he says to me “Davinder I want you to fully extend your right hand, you are not extending your punches… move, use your footwork… I will hit you so keep your hands up!”
This may sound like a typical fitness, boxing/kickboxing coach session, but it isn’t… you see coach Mark is very special, he has a large “cross” to bear.
Mark Desa has a disease called ataxia. Ataxia is a degenerative disease of the nervous system. Many symptoms of ataxia mimic those of being drunk, such as slurred speech, stumbling, falling, and incoordination. These symptoms are caused by damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that is responsible for coordinating movement. It is a rare condition, affecting about 150,000 people in the U.S. Mark started exhibiting signs and symptoms during College but they became more pronounced when he started working.
I met Mark at my MMA gym Kombat Arts Academy, one of the top MMA facilities in Canada. We did Muay Thai and boxing together and I always love partnering with him. He never asks for special treatment and does what he can. I started to notice his gift of coaching and helping out our instructor coaches during classes. I love partnering with him because he is a natural coach and can catch the most subtle mistakes etc.
Last year I did a full training camp with him that encompassed conditioning, drills, and heavy bag work. Besides Muay Thai and boxing, he practices karate and has excelled in this also. For the so-called “normal” world he may have a disability or be at disadvantage, and there is some practical truth to this no doubt… but I know coach Mark, who is like a “Jedi Master” and would have him any day in my corner in a heartbeat.
He is the only person I know with the disease and is such a hero, he is the founder of the Hope For Ataxia organization. It was created so people know about this rare disease as awareness is lacking.
What I have learned from coach Mark is mental toughness, resilience, acceptance, and most of all to live life every day and find ways to work around the challenge and to fight it.
Life is a battle everyday, everyone has different challenges and issues to take care of… some more than others. What is amazing is when you see someone who has more challenges than others and is still going for it and excelling… what’s your excuse? I know a secret he never shared with me, but I see it in his eyes and when he smacks me if my hands drop… he looks at me and shows me, if he can do it… so can I.
A big thanks to Davinder Dhanoa for sharing his story!
Please consider sharing your story – whether you have Ataxia, are a caregiver, friend, or relative. You may fill out the form below to get started.