Qigong by the lake in Big Bear offers an abundance of mental and physical benefits. Instructor Anthony Von Sager knows that better than most.
"I had braces on my legs, therefore partially using the wheelchair as a child," said Von Sager.
Von Sager was born with cerebral palsy, which affects functions such as speech, brain function and coordination. He was also orphaned at an early age, which took an emotional as well as a physical toll on him.
"I end up in orphanage. You can imagine child with that kind of disability, quite difficult, and especially, I was the only person with a disability," said Von Sager.
But hope came to him at age 12 when Grand Master Geert Lemmens mentored Von Sager in martial arts.
"I didn't have a dime to my name. I had nothing to give to him except my dedication and my hard work and he took the challenge and he turned me into a black belt champion," said Von Sager.
Von Sager is actually the first-ever handicap person to earn a black belt. He's also a third-degree in kickboxing and a tai chi and qigong master.
"I lived my dream. I walked my way and that's the most important thing," said Von Sager.
Von Sager still teaches kickboxing and other modalities, but Qigong is his passion. The meditation, balance and breathing work help stroke victims and those with other ailments.
"I had shoulder surgery two years ago, and I haven't been able to get the range of motion," said Ruth Ann Hall of Big Bear.
But a few months of taking the class, Hall made great strides.
"I'm living proof that it does get better," she said.
Along with exercise, Von Sager has a "Get Fit for Life" program, seminars, DVDs and books to empower others to overcome their challenges.
"If you are stubborn enough, and you really put your mind to it, it doesn't matter what people say," said Von Sager.