Wojciech Konopka, a native of Poland, recently brought south Chinese kung fu to Columbia County.
Wojciech Konopka, the owner of Tiger and Dragon Kung Fu School, conducts a class. He is a sixth-level black sash.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Konopka, who trained under master Chen Yong Fa in China, has opened a new studio in Evans called Tiger and Dragon Kung Fu School.
The school is a continuation of a program that Konopka launched in 2001. His first students practiced at the recreational facilities at Patriots Park. Konopka now has about 20 students at different levels, including beginners.
"Basically, we have a lot of kicks,'' he explained. "We have beautiful forms in our style, but they all have practical applications. So, when I train my students, I emphasize application.''
He has trained in Choy Lee Fut kung fu for 22 years and is a sixth-level black sash. Konopka moved to the United States from Poland about 10 years ago. He has a wife and two children and is a full-time physical therapist. In the evenings, he devotes a few hours to his Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu School.
Choy Lee Fut refers to the style of kung fu that originated in the southern Chinese province of Canton in 1836. There now are four major centers for Choy Lee Fut kung fu in North America.
Konopka calls Choy Lee Fut kung fu "a traditional Southern style of kung fu with a Northern taste," because it originated in Southern China.
Choy Lee Fut kung fu is useful in self-defense, as Konopka can testify. He said he once had to use his skills to defend himself.
"The simplest moves work best,'' he said.
Kung fu also serves students in other ways. For one, it teaches them to become servants themselves.
"Everyone helped set up the new school,'' Konopka said, referring to his students.
Konopka also expects his students to train with great patience according to their personal best.
"If you want to be an expert in a particular thing, you have to spend some time," he said. "Not just one year, not even just two years, but more.''
Finally, kung fu teaches culturally accepted ethical norms such as respect for yourself, respect for your opponent or for other students, and respect for your elders. In order to perform their best, Konopka urges his students to take care of their bodies and to stay off drugs. They even learn a little about Chinese culture and history.
Gary Coleman, Konopka's most advanced student, met his wife, Trish, at the kung fu school. They both are on their way to becoming black sashes.
Gary also is involved in competitive Choy Lee Fut kung fu. Last year, he went with Konopka and some other students to an annual competition in Charlotte, N.C., where he received a gold medal for his performance with a staff, a traditional Chinese weapon.
For Jeff Liu, a Chinese-American student of Konopka, kung fu is a way of honoring and remembering his Chinese heritage.
Liu and the Colemans have been studying Choy Lee Fut kung fu under Konopka for years.
"We fell in love with it,'' Liu said.
The new studio for Tiger and Dragon Kung Fu School is at 4120 Evans to Locks Road. For more information, call Konopka at 869-8933 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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