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Tai Chi master hopes to bring health to Southside

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

After spending more than 20 years teaching Tai Chi, Wing Chun, Hung Gar, and other forms of Chinese martial arts throughout the South, Frank Roper has brought his skills to the Southern Crescent, in hopes of combating stress, diabetes, and other cardiovascular diseases affecting the area.

Roper, who is currently the ranking master in the Chung Chan style of Wing Chun boxing, opened the Roper School of Martial Arts this week in Jonesboro. The modestly sized studio is located at 8160 Tara Blvd., inside the Jonesboro Shopping Center.

Roper, who specializes in the Chen style of Tai Chi, said the martial art, which is viewed by many as a recreational form of meditation, was actually once used by Chinese generals to defend their territory. He said he wants to promote the healing power of Tai Chi throughout the county.

"I'm trying to promote the health aspect, even though I know the combat part of it, because we need it ... they need Tai Chi in this area," said Roper. Living in Clayton County since last September, he said he has observed a high number of people with poor eyesight, failing kidneys, and diabetes, and other medical issues associated with unhealthy lifestyles.

"A lot of these areas are damaged because of poor circulation and Tai Chi increases circulation," said Roper. "If we have more circulation, then we have more to fight with to stay alive."

Since the age of six, Roper said he has studied martial arts with many teachers, but only refers to one affectionately as "sifu" (master). For many years, Roper studied with martial artist, Chen Zhongchuan, in Clearwater, Fla., who challenged him and inspired him to stay healthy.

Roper said Master Chen, who presently lives in Shanghai, China, is still very spry, despite the fact that he is in his late eighties.

"I haven't seen anybody who can match his skill as far as combat is concerned," said Roper. "He was an 80-year-old man, who was still leaping and kicking, and that inspired me a lot."

Marion Webb, Roper's sister and a long-time resident of the metro Atlanta area, owns the business while Roper serves as the center's master instructor. Several months ago, she began studying Tai Chi under her brother, and believes it can be helpful to others.

"I'm the ultimate type A," said Webb. "I recognize the need to have some other form of stress relief.

"I have trouble sleeping at night, because my mind is always going," said Webb. "Through the relaxation techniques, I am able to calm my mind. I'm able to get a good night's sleep now without things always churning in my head."

Bill Fielder, a broadcast executive who resides in Cumming, Ga., said he has been a student of Roper's since 1995, when Roper was teaching in Albany, Ga. Now that Roper is teaching in Clayton County, Fielder said he commutes every Saturday from Cumming to train.

"I drive two hours on Saturdays to go and visit," said Fielder. "That's a long drive for a work out. I don't think that there is anybody else in the metro area who excels in his skill set and abilities, and I have looked around for a long time."

Fielder said prior to training with Roper, he was in "pitiful health," but can now run two miles in sand dunes and move for five hours without stopping.

"He doesn't mind if you're a clean sheet with no skills and no stamina," said Fielder. "Frank's approach to his training is growth at any level ... that's probably where he excels."

For more information, call (770) 896-9692, or go to www.ropersmartialarts.com.