After Battling COVID-19 and Strokes, Kickboxer Charles Baines Takes His Fight Back To The Ring

Charles Baines kickboxing during the WAKO Senior World Championships in Lido di Jesolo, Italy, on Oct. 19, 2021. Photo courtesy of Charles Baines.

By Carol Vaughn —

Baines is back.

As a champion kickboxer and an Accomack County Sheriff’s deputy, Charles Baines, 49, is used to facing challenges.

Baines works at the Accomack County Jail and doing crisis intervention at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital.

It was less than a year ago he faced a different type of challenge when he suffered multiple strokes in January after testing positive for COVID-19. He remained hospitalized for a week.

Remarkably, Baines, a member of the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations’ Team USA, was back in competition in October at the WAKO World Senior Kickboxing Championship in Italy.

He was one of 42 team members entered in the events.

“After the (medical) clearance, I had about five weeks to get ready,” Baines said.

He had to undergo a series of medical tests to determine it was safe for him to participate.
While he did not win his bout in tatami kickboxing, as he had hoped to, he had a respectable showing.

“It was really, really close,” he said, adding, “It was just great to be back in the ring.”

The spirit of love and unity was strong at the event, which included teams from 65 countries.

“If the rest of the world could get along like we got along. … We were going at each other (during matches), but after the fight, everybody was hugging each other,” he said, adding, “It was totally awesome.”

Baines is working with Mikey Holcomb, a Virginia Beach trainer, in preparation for upcoming events. He also works out regularly with colleagues, including ACSO Sgt. Donnie Williams, at a gym in the basement of Historic Onancock School and at his home gym.

He also wanted to thank sparring partner Ed Robinson, Andre Tyler, who operates the Onancock gym, and Crystal Roughton, his stretching coach and contact person for Team Baines.

“I’m just having a blast. I’m living my life,” Baines said, adding, “Part of it is, never say die, never quit. At the end of the day, I’ve got a lot of kids watching what I do, especially my son.”

“Part of being a father is to prepare your kid for when you are not here. … I want to have him have stuff that can carry him when he gets in a crisis. … I’m going to tell him a lot of stuff, but at the end of the day, he’ll remember, when my dad was in this situation, what he did was, he got up.”

The drive to succeed in the ring carries over into other areas of life, according to Baines.
“It keeps you focused,” he said.

Sooner or later, all of us are going to experience adversity of some sort.

“So what are you doing? How do you handle it?” Baines said.

For Baines, his recovery and ongoing training are as much mental and spiritual as physical.

“It all starts in the mind,” he said.

Pointing to his head, Baines said, “This is the computer. Whatever you put in it, when crisis comes, that’s what’s going to come out.”

Baines wants to be a good role model.

“You have to chase that dream. It’s yours and God put it in you — then you go after it,” is his message.

Baines is now the elder statesman of Team USA and sees part of his role as being an encouragement to the other team members, as well as to other people he encounters, as others have encouraged him in the past.

His goal now “is to be the standard” for his team.

When someone on the team is hurt or down, he sometimes points to his own experience, saying, “I had a stroke, but I’m still going; so get up, let’s go.”

Baines, always looking ahead, is training now for a competition in February in Kentucky.

“I keep pushing. I keep pushing so the kids will push. … You’ve got an audience right now who is watching you — how you act and how you react. So then, when you go talk to those kids, it’s like, ‘Okay, I hear what you say.’ Your biggest ministry is not what you say, it’s what you do.”

One of the questions people ask is what is the difference between Charles before the stroke and Charles after the stroke.

Baines’ answer is, “I don’t hold back. I don’t hold back, because you don’t know when your time is coming and that’s going to be it. … This is what I want and I’m going all out. … Every day, I’m going to push forward. Every day you get up, there is some type of fight … so why not get up saying, ‘Okay, I’m going to take it on.’”

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