Waukesha is a growing community; even if you have lived here, or in a surrounding community for a good length of time, there are still new places to discover. Chances are, ShaoLin Center is just such a place.
Formerly known as Shaolin Boxing Methods, ShaoLin Center has been a part of the Waukesha community for nearly 30 years. Led by SiFu (the Cantonese term for "teacher/father") Steve Kleppe, who has amassed over 40 years of experience – including instruction at the temples in China – ShaoLin Center has set itself apart as a notable resource for traditional Chinese martial arts, Taoist healing practices and authentic southern Chinese lion dancing. The studio is now located at 400 Travis Lane, one block west of East Avenue.
On Saturday, November 10, and Sunday, November 11, 2012, ShaoLin Center will host a Community Open House, enabling family, friends and neighbors to experience the school first-hand.
The festivities will be kicked off on Saturday at 11 a.m. with live martial arts demos, and the first of three lion dances that day. Following a special ceremony to bless the school, the new lions will be initiated through a traditional “Dotting of the Eyes” ritual, where the eye is painted in before the first dance to awaken its spirit. The Honorable Dan Vrakas, Waukesha County Executive, and 33rd Senate District Candidate, Paul Farrow, have been invited to participate in this auspicious event.
“It is customary to have distinguished guests play an active role within these types of ceremonies, so it is our sincere hope that both County Executive Vrakas and Mr. Farrow will join us,” SiFu Kleppe said.
Another key component of Chinese culture is a genuine dedication to community and family. Keeping this tradition, ShaoLin Center chose to use the event as a fundraiser for the Milwaukee Area Families with Children from China (MA-FCC), a non-profit organization that provides a support network with social, educational and cultural activities that promote understanding and appreciation of Chinese heritage.
Saturday’s guests will be encouraged to donate $5 per person toward the MA-FCC, and in return receive giveaways, as well as enjoy a show presented by Chris Schmidt Acoustic, a local musical duo, from 3 to 5 p.m. that day.
On Sunday the 11th, ShaoLin Center will again open its doors to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and offer free classes in yoga, qigong (internal energy exercise), tai chi chuan, and traditional kung fu. “This will be a total hands-on experience. We want visitors to feel welcome, and try something they perhaps have always dreamed about, like meditation or wielding a broadsword. The focus is definitely on fun and relaxation,” said SiFu Kleppe.
SiFu Kleppe has more than 40 years of martial arts experience – training with his own instructor, Kwon Wing Lam, in California, and other masters of the Chinese arts throughout the United States as well as at various temples in China. This depth of knowledge gives ShaoLin Center an extensive, and fairly unique curriculum.
“It is unusual to find a school with such a diverse range of traditional arts, especially in the Midwest,” remarked SiFu Kleppe. “In addition to complete programs in both traditional Northern and Southern Canton and Ha Say Fu Hung Gar kung fu, we also teach classes in chin na, the art of using joint locks for self-defense, and iron body work.”
In recent years, the school has expanded its emphasis on the meditative aspects of traditional arts, including a full tai chi chuan curriculum featuring Yang, Sun and WuDang styles, qigong, and Hatha yoga.
SiFu Kleppe explained that the school supports the entire journey of the martial artist that begins with a development of physical prowess, and then progresses toward building internal strength as the practitioner gains in wisdom and experience.
“It’s also important to create a resource for individuals who strive for balance in a demanding, hectic world. Together, we learn to live a longer, healthier, happier life.”
Beyond the teaching of martial arts, ShaoLin Center boasts one of the largest lion dance groups in the Midwest. Performances have been featured predominantly in conjunction with Chinese New Year celebrations, as well as the opening of the China exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, a national conference hosted by Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, and other corporate and school events throughout the community at-large.