Corey Hopp Returns From China and Will Teach Classes at BLS

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Corey Hopp in Yuxugong Temple

Corey Hopp is a full time student of kung fu.

Eight hours a day, six days a week, ten or eleven months of the year, he can be found punching, kicking, and jumping on the paving stones of Yuxugong temple in rural Wudang Mountain, Hubei Province, China. However, in January and February of 2012, Corey will be at Balanced Life Skills Martial Arts here in Annapolis, sharing some of his experiences with the local community.

Corey is a student of Master Yuan Xiu Gang of the Wudang Daoist Traditional Internal Kungfu Academy. Wudang Mountain has its own special style and tradition of martial arts, emphasizing softness and sensitivity, flexibility and balance. Students of Master Yuan’s school learn a variety of disciplines, including Tai Chi, that are intended to impart not only the ability to defend oneself, but also to protect and nourish one’s spirit and vitality.

Though he had been studying martial arts for a few years beforehand, Corey’s kung fu training truly began in January 2008. He had been teaching English at a small university near Nanjing for the fall semester. During his Chinese New Year holiday, he decided to follow his interest in martial arts and visit one of the ancient homes of Chinese kung fu. That first dark, cold January visit left its mark of snow, sweat, and muscle pain, and the determination to learn more about Wudang’s unique art.

Corey is now part of the traditional program at Master Yuan’s school. It is a rare and demanding opportunity for non-Chinese martial artists to be immersed in the same physical and mental training that has been handed down through many generations of kung fu practitioners.

Having grown up in southern Anne Arundel County, Corey returns here every year to spend the holidays with his friends and family and save money for another year of training. For six weeks in January and February, he will be offering seminars in the basic health practice called Qigong. Qigong combines breathing, stretching, and meditation to strengthen and relax mind and body.

I would like to invite all of our students and others in our community to meet Corey and practice with him for the short time he is here in Annapolis.  You can then follow his studies next year right here on our site.

Internal Self Defense

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A small shrine near Five Dragon Temple

What does it mean to practice Martial Arts in your daily interactions? The uninitiated might imagine this as fearsome, like a businessman using The Art of War to overwhelm rivals. Myself — years ago when I had only been training long enough to develop some arrogance and little else — I had to give a speech in front of a large group of people. I was nervous, so I drew confidence from my imagined superiority. They might not like my speech, but I could beat them up. Ha.

Aikido was my first experience of how martial arts could be applied positively when dealing with strangers, friends, and loved ones. Aikido’s philosophy separates the intent to do harm from the art of defending oneself. The goal is to use sensitivity to neutralize the conflict without harming either attacker or defender. While the principles of block and counter-attack would only do harm if manifested verbally in an argument with a loved one, Aikido’s methodology provides a healthier model for conflict resolution.

I found myself reflecting on these things this week after listening to an impromptu lecture from my master. I paraphrase, but he was discussing external self-defense versus internal self-defense. Imagine a punch to your nose. You block — you break the attacker’s arm. An effective defense, no? But what if the attack is verbal? Words that wound, that make you sad, or angry. Words that keep bubbling up in you, and each time make you sadder and angrier. That same attacker has now given you a festering wound that will take longer to heal than a bloody nose.

To take this seriously, you must accept that emotions have power. Negative emotions do violence to the heart and mind. Chinese medicine also links emotion to the health of the major organs. So an unusual mood might be a symptom of a developing illness, or conversely, learning to calm the emotions might bring better health. But I think what makes negative emotions so dangerous is the way they influence behavior. If they lead to self destruction, no one else can help you, and you yourself are already out of control and not well prepared to protect yourself. Internal self-defense means keeping calm and choosing happiness in every event. The more I train, the more important this seems.