Kung Fu good for body, mind and spirit

It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but a new Kung Fu Boot Camp combines the nonviolence of Buddhism with the powerful techniques of the martial arts masters.

Beginning this week, Buddha Kung Fu instructor Richard “Hippy Coyote” Connor will offer Crescenta Valley youths and adults a way to de-stress through peaceful sparring and playful sportsmanship.

The 12 Step 12 Week Kung Fu Boot Camp teaches competitive, non-violent martial arts in a choreographed, slowed down pace that allows for a great workout and greater control of movement, which means no one gets hurt, Connor said.

“I’ve never had a broken bone in one of my classes, not all [karate] classes can say that,” Connor said.

Connor has been teaching Kung Fu and Tai Chi classes in the Los Angeles area since about 1984. He currently offers weekly courses at Verdugo Family YMCA and the boot camp will be offered at Crescenta Valley Park.

A versatile musician, singer, songwriter, poet and self-proclaimed “hippy,” Connor began teaching karate, as a hobby, to interns at his music production company.

Meanwhile, he was moving forward with his music career, making albums and compact discs, and performing live at local clubs. In 1984, he also was given the moniker “Coyote” after performing in the rock opera group Coyote in the Graveyard.

Connor added the “Hippy” portion of his nickname because, he said, it describes him and also provides a better way for people to find him on the Internet.

In 1992, he moved to Utah, where he was hired by then-Governor Mike Leavitt to teach his non-violent style of martial arts to inmates at a maximum-security prison.

Connor said the course was well received because it allowed prisoners to focus their anger and stress in a controlled, constructive manner. It also made for a good exercise program, he added.

“We all need to get rid of our stress. Exercising this way helps to make [one] more mild mannered and have control of emotions,” Connor said.

During the boot camp, Connor will teach his students a variety of moves and techniques. “There are no rules, every dirty trick ever created, if I know it, I’ll teach it,” he joked.

Connor, who is a dual member of the Buddhist faith and also a Gnostic Christian — those who believe in a search for Truth as necessary to salvation and found in the teachings of Christ — said his goal in the boot camp, as with his other classes, is to create “spiritual warriors.”

Connor explained that Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism were both created by Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk, who intended the mental and spiritual meditation and physical elements to go together. Connor said he is attempting to create that same package, to provide his students with a complete mind and body workout.

Connor’s students believe their instructor has achieved that goal.

Jessica Isaacs, 25, of Shadow Hills, is the owner of Sparkle and Shine pet grooming salon in Sunland, and has been one of Connor’s students for about a year.

“The classes have helped me a lot,” she said. “I have a hectic schedule, with running a business, and it’s hard to separate work from everything else. But [the classes have] helped me to balance things and get sleep. Everyone who knows me sees a difference.”

Nicky Lam-Douglas, 13, an eighth grader at Rosemont Middle School, also appreciates the benefits he receives from learning from Connor.

“It’s really cool; sometimes it’s hard,” he said, of the classes.

Lam-Douglas is half-Chinese. “I like that I’m learning from my heritage,” he said, adding, “And, it’s a lot of fun.”

Twelve Step 12 Week Kung Fu Boot Camp started this week and runs from 7 to 8 p.m., every Wednesday night through Dec. 17.

Classes are at the Crescenta Valley Park Multipurpose Center, 3901 Dunsmore Ave.

Cost is $120 for the complete program, or $20 per session.

For more information or to register, call (818) 723-2769 or send an e-mail to producer@shaolinrecords.com.


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