This is the eighth in the This Fighting Life series by Underground Blogger DeLeon DeMicoli, whose column is insipred by NPR's "This American Life." It covers in long essay form fighters and those that train.
Harvey Lillard spent his life working in cramped areas. As a result, he suffered from an uncomfortable sensation in the middle of his back. Over time he lost some of his hearing. While working as a janitor, he joined a conversation between Daniel David Palmer and a fellow associate. Palmer had a magnetic healing practice in Iowa. This was back in 1895. While delivering the punch line to a joke, Palmer broke out into laughter and joyfully slapped Lillard in the back. The next day Lillard’s hearing improved, which prompted Palmer to explore spine manipulation.
That’s one account of how chiropractic was discovered, depending on who you ask. Another story goes like this:
Lillard was a patient of Palmer. Palmer, experimenting with spinal manipulation outside of his magnetic therapy practice, felt an unusual lump on Lillard’s back. He manipulated the protrusion by re-aligning the spine. Then, Lillard got his hearing back.
Palmer’s philosophy was simple: misaligned vertebrae affects nerve flow in the body, which causes disease. By realigning vertebrae, health is restored.
“Outside of situations that require emergency medicine, many people went to these old school chiropractors with all types of requests and found amazing results,” said Brooklyn native Dr. Peter Goldman who holds black belts in Kyokushin Karate and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
By 1901 the American Medical Association (AMA) pressured state medical boards to require all medical professionals receive a diploma from an AMA approved college. Palmer chose jail time instead of paying a fine when he was convicted of practicing medicine without a license. After his release, he and his son, Bartlett Joshua, dedicated their lives to their chiropractic college and getting chiropractic recognized as a legitimate medical practice.
“The main difference between modern medicine and chiropractic is that modern medicine is generally concerned with treating symptoms, while chiropractic is interested in adjusting the cause.”
Dr. Peter Goldman practices a specific type of chiropractic that many MMA fighters and pro athletes swear by. It’s called “The Zone Technique” founded by Dr. Thurman Fleet in 1931. But before we get into that let’s learn about Dr. Pete’s (as his clients call refer to him) fighting life.
“When I was sixteen, I started training at the World Headquarters of World Oyama Karate with Kyokushin living legend Shigeru Oyama.”
Shigeru Oyama is a tenth Dan black belt and considered a supreme grand master. He fought in a one hundred man Kumite and is known for the “sword catch,” the act of clapping your hands together and catching a sword before it slices into your head.
“My neighborhood was very tough. I was always very athletic and excelled at sports, but never really knew how to fight. When I joined karate it was strictly for self-defense. But somehow I got really good at it and I was knocking people out in class on a regular basis. So, unexpectedly, I found myself competing in international full contact karate tournaments against world-class fighters from all over the world.”
The tournaments Dr. Pete competed in were not for the faint-hearted. Bare-knuckle blows and elbow strikes to the body, forcing your opponent to eat mat got your hand raised, same for concussive induced power kicks to the head. No gloves, padding or body protectors.
“In 1991 only two fighters were chosen to represent the U.S. in the European Full Contact Karate Championships. I was one of them. I won my first fight by K.O.”
Dr. Pete trained six to seven days a week, sometimes more than two hours a day, all while finding time for his studies and graduating college with a BA in Economics.
“My last full contact karate fight was in 1993. That was the year I enrolled in Chiropractic school. I had been getting adjusted at an early age. By the time I was seventeen I had got to the point where I believed that proper chiropractic could help with just about anything.”
The Zone Technique
In a small office located in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco, treatment starts with a head massage, so to speak. But not a massage you’re used to. Although Dr. Pete’s grip is like a steel latch from years of fighting and training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, his fingertips are sensitive as he analyzes the cranium.
“Dr. Fleet taught that the body is like an electrical machine with the brain being the positive pole and the spinal cord being the negative pole. When certain parts of the cord are properly stimulated with touch, the brain can be put in proper harmony with the systems of the body.”
There are six systems or “zones” that comprise the human body: glandular, eliminative, nervous, digestive, muscular and circulatory. When a zone is disrupted, the body suffers. Dr. Pete discovers which zones are unbalanced by palpating specific points on the superior nuchal line of the back of the skull. What feels like a swollen bruise in the back of your head (but no visible mark) is an indicator a “zone” is out-of-whack. Like a carney-psychic that can correctly guess your weight and age, Dr. Pete can tell if you have digestive problems, trouble sleeping or a bleak outlook on life simply by touch. The spine adjustments he makes, afterwards, assist nerve connections to flow more freely, allowing the body to heal itself more efficiently from whatever affliction you face.
Still not convinced of his healing powers?
“About ten years ago, I helped Bas Rutten and BJ Penn quite a bit and then the fight world took notice,” said Dr. Pete.
One patient, in particular, will be fighting UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson in the main event of UFC on Fox 7.
“I separated my shoulder. People have surgery. We opted out of that. Dr. Pete’s a guy that assured me I wouldn’t need it. He’s doing something beyond chiropractic. He’s definitely doing some kind of healing.
"If I have a regular head cold, I call him up and say ‘Hey, man, I need to get adjusted.’ It’s not just for my injuries, it’s for me having good energy and feeling right, feeling balanced,” said Strikeforce lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez.
It also helps that Dr. Pete is a martial artists and a current practitioner in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. He’s familiar with his client’s injuries. He's sweated on the mat, put in the work.
“In 2002 I started training in BJJ. At first it was just a recreational thing. I would only train twice a week. Then in January (2012) I decided to devote a lot of time to BJJ and trained four to five days a week. In August I got my black belt from Carlos Sapao,” said Dr. Pete.
So how does a real “fight” doctor with unorthodox methods convince fighters to come try his form of healing?
“One word, results. MMA fighters, like anyone else, want results, and when they come to me that’s what they get.”
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