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Sunday January 19, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday January 19, 2014 MYT 8:34:01 AM
by revathi murugappan
Two-time British gymnastics champion Mark Skipper has overcome extreme adversity to achieve what doctors deemed impossible.
MARK Skipper’s life would make an interesting movie script.
A sickly child with multiple allergies, he was confined to bed most of the time. while other children were out at play. Among other things, he was allergic to nuts, grass pollen, dust and animals.
To make things worse, he was asthmatic and had severe eczema. He would catch every bug or cold in town, which often led to pneumonia and hospitalisation.
Then he broke his thoracic vertebra, became wheelchair-bound and was told he’d never walk again. He did – thanks to Bruce Lee.
The Brit’s bounce from the depths of despair to a motivational coach-cum-professional acrobatic performer has been nothing short of phenomenal. The medical fraternity hail him as a miracle, though some doctors consider him a freak, even part alien!
“When I recovered, I went back and approached the doctors. They were still convinced they were right in their diagnosis and that something was wrong with me. They did a series of tests again and couldn’t find anything peculiar. One even told me ‘humans cannot recover like this,’” says Skip, as he likes to be called, at a recent interview.
A transformational coach to the rich and famous (he has worked with Sir Richard Branson, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Anthony Robbins), Skip now dedicates his life to helping people overcome their health issues.
Referring to himself as the Naked Health Detective (naked because a friend took a flattering topless picture of him, which he uses in his promotional shots), he travels the world spreading his word on health, energy and vitality.
Skip was in town last week for a two-day “Supercharge Your Life” seminar.
Looking at the good-looking 40-year-old, one would never guess the adversities he had to overcome. He attributes it to having the right mindset.
As a kid, his one passion was gymnastics. Barely 11, Skip showed so much promise that he was tipped to be the youngest male to enter the Olympics. Alas, all that changed radically when his mum ran away with his gymnastics coach.
After his parents divorced, Skip’s dad forbade him from pursuing the sport again. Depressed, the teenager turned to food for comfort, and at 18, was diagnosed as being clinically obese.
“That’s when I first hit rock bottom. I didn’t want to be me and wondered why I should live. I kept asking myself what has to happen so I can be happier? The answer was gymnastics,” Skip shares.
His friends thought he was crazy, especially since he was tubby and weighed over 102kg (225 pounds). After all, at 18, they were getting ready to enter university.
“I had to follow my intuition, not my brain. There’s a big difference between intuition, brain and the heart. I didn’t want to ask, ‘what if?’ later in life, so I found a Bulgarian coach who was willing to train a fat kid.”
The pounds melted, and within a year, Skip won the gold medal in the British Gymnastics Championship. His ego spiked.
He recalls, “My win led to mind destruction. My coach said I wasn’t ready to do certain manoeuvres, but I believed otherwise. While training one day, I was attempting to do a triple dismount while swinging on the high bar and let go a millisecond too late. I hit the bar and broke my spine.”
Rushed to the hospital, numerous specialists came to look at his injury and offered the same diagnosis – he would never walk again. The family reeled in shock and disbelief.
Skip spent six months in traction, and during this time, was fed with all kinds of medication. He described his brain as giving him thoughts that were killing him and stripping him of power.
The turning point came when a friend brought him some reading material on Bruce Lee. Skip felt a bulb light up.
“If Bruce Lee broke his back and recovered to become a huge movie star using the power of the body, mind and soul, I knew I could do it, too. When intuition gives you a message, suddenly you’re in charge of your life, though it makes no logical sense to your brain. Most people have numbed down their intuition and are the walking dead,” he opines.
He read everything about Lee’s philosophies. Defying the odds and medical advice, Skip took one step, then three, then five, and was soon jogging his way to the gymnastics arena.
Eighteen months later, at age 20, he won his second gold medal and became an overnight sensation.
“This time, it was a humbling experience. It felt powerful. I was fit, but not healthy. I decided that was it – no more competitive gymnastics.”
Acting on intuition, Skip set up an entertainment company doing acrobatics for commercial, television and Broadway shows. He also went on a mission to get healthy and energised. He did extensive research on nutrition and yoga, and spent time with various healers.
He explains, “People were healing diseases by methods outside of normal medicine, and they were advocating those same methods for the prevention of illness – with phenomenal success. I discovered that this was being done with the use of basic scientific knowledge. “There were no ‘miracle cures’, just good natural management of the body’s systems – giving the body the conditions and nutrition it needs to heal itself, combined with a directed mind.
“All these people looked and acted younger than their actual age. I also wanted to stay looking and feeling younger.”
He flew all over the world finding healing “formulas” from different cultures. Skip experimented with being a vegetarian and began applying some of these healing principles.
Slowly, his allergies vanished. Skip cites the example of animals on a plant-based diet, which are big and active, while carnivorous are usually smaller and lazy.
“Eating a lot drains you of energy. You live a dull existence instead of a wondrous adventure. However, even if you eat and drink the right things, but you remain stressed, you are poisoning your body. You are releasing chemicals such as cortisol into your blood stream, which cause damage to your cells.”
Putting all his findings together, he published his bestseller, Supercharge Your Life with the 10 Commandments 4 Health. He believes it can help change lives.
He says, “To follow the commandments, we have to return to a way of life our ancestors adopted. Breathe plenty of fresh air, get enough physical exercise, drink only fresh, clean water, get enough exposure to sunlight, eat safe, natural foods that grow in the place where you live, and get enough sleep and rest.
“I cannot claim to follow my own line 100%, but I walk my talk, and I think I present a pretty reasonable example of a balanced person. I’ve no qualms recommending these commandments to you.
“If I hadn’t broken my back, I wouldn’t have a deep understanding of the power we live with. Now, I’m starting a programme to train others.”
Skip keeps fit by lifting weights, doing yoga and gymnastics. In fact, come March, he’ll be performing for two weeks at London’s Royal Albert Hall in Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme.
If you happen to watch the musical, look out for the man doing acrobatics.
To find out more about Skip’s work, log onto SuperchargeYourLifeAsia
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