The young, or the young at heart, might celebrate their birthday with a trip to the pool or the arcade. Others might go out with a few close friends for dinner, drinks or both.
Cliff Kupper, a kung fu master who runs the Egg Harbor City martial arts studio Atlantic City Wing Chun Kung Fu, spent his in the company of a few students - and a trio of martial arts legends.
For his 37th birthday Jan. 24, Kupper invited his students to attend a training seminar conducted by kung fu grand master Chung K. Chow, retired UFC and professional wrestling star Dan "The Beast" Severn and actor Ron Van Clief.
Kupper stood off to the side in awe as he watched Van Clief demonstrate some holds.
"I feel more humbled in their presence," the Egg Harbor City resident said. "That's a good thing for martial arts."
The seminar fell into place, Kupper explained, because the trio happened to be in town for the Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors at the Tropicana Casino Resort the weekend of Jan. 26.
Kupper had initially invited Chow, who was one of his teachers when he started learning the wing chun style, to conduct a seminar on his birthday. Severn called Kupper to check in with him after Hurricane Sandy and offered to do a seminar of his own. Kupper also invited friend James Jefferson, who runs the martial arts competition Global Proving Ground, who in turn brought Van Clief into the fray.
Severn, Chow and Van Clief split the four-hour seminar between them, each demonstrating a few of their specialties.
Kevin Tracy, who has studied at Atlantic City Wing Chun for the past two years, worked with Van Clief on techniques called joint locks, which mobilize the joints.
"This is a great opportunity," the Absecon resident said. "Here, that almost never happens. Usually, you have to go into Atlantic City or New York or something. It's awesome."
Kupper, who has studied martial arts since he was 7 and wing chun since he was 18, started his studio in Egg Harbor City three years ago. He offers classes Monday through Friday for about $110 per month.
Seminars like the one held Jan. 24 offer a valuable supplement to regular instruction at the studio, Severn said.
"They're being exposed to two different instructors, two different demeanors, but exceptional people nevertheless," Severn said as he watched Van Clief and Chow working with students. "That's what the martial arts are all about - they're giving back stuff that was taught to them."
The three masters have more than a century of experience in various martial arts forms between them, making them a wealth of information for the students.
While Kupper's students may not yet realize the full value of what they learned at the seminar, he's confident it will become clear in years to come.
"They may not realize the depth of what's happening and how much sharing that these grandmasters are doing for them, but later on, they will understand," Kupper said.
For more information on Atlantic City Wing Chun Kung Fu, call 609-665-3889 or visit ackungfu.net.
Contact Braden Campbell: