Courses, Workshops & Retreats

Dharma River offers a variety of weekly classes and events. These classes all share that they are taught by expert instructors who have devoted their lives to cultivation of these practices and who are skilled in providing a class setting, event, or workshop that will meet you where you are at and provide you with a scaffolding to deepen your connection with yourself and your community through the learning context…embracing our mission of reclaiming the world as sacred, in this case through the holistic cultivation of mind, body, and spirit.

Kung Fu – Wednesdays (5:00 and 7:00pm) & Fridays (5:00pm)

Taiji – Wednesdays (6:00pm)

Qi Gong – Mondays (12:00pm), Wednesdays (6:30am) & Fridays (6:00pm)

Yoga– Mondays (5:00) & Fridays (8:30am)

Zen Meditation– Tuesdays (5:30am) and Sundays (9:00am)

Weekly Embodiment Classes

Kung Fu

Our Kung fu curriculum directed by Paul Kisho Stern. He is a recognized instructor within the Miao Kong Martial Arts Association in Taiwan, headed by Master Lee Chang Ren and Master Lee Chang Chih. Kisho offers the Miao Kong curriculum as well as the Choy li fut system of the Winnipeg Plum Blossom Kung fu and is a senior student and instructor.

Choy Li Fut is a system that can provide a lifetime of learning. There are over 150 forms (sets) in the Kung Fu System of Choy LI Fut. This includes hand, weapon, partner, and internal sets. You may ask why such a large system? It’s not a system of Kung Fu that is meant for any one person to learn and master it all. Rather it provides the opportunity for persons with different body types and abilities to improve their health, become proficient at many techniques, and continue to learn and challenge themselves.

Choy li fut is a system that was founded by Chan Heung to suit the average person. Many martial arts styles have forms and techniques that are suited for specific body types and abilities. Students practicing with Manitou Center are trained in a tradition of martial arts systems that promote health and longevity as well developing proficiency in a highly effective system of self defense.

Golden Leopard Martial Arts

Miao Kong Martial Arts Association
Historically, around 1928, the Koumingtang in China established Zhong Yang Guo Shu Guan. Within this organization, the dream was to establish a national martial arts school that would bring famous teachers from across China together in one place. This would offer students an opportunity to study that had never been achieved before that time.

As the Kuomingtang was forced to move to Taiwan, part of the student population from this school moved across the strait as well. In approximately 1983, a cultural university was opened in Taiwan with the idea of again offering interested students a venue to step into this cultural tradition. Within this university, students studied over 100 forms with that idea that in doing so, they could distinguish and hold fundamental knowledge regarding the myriad of kung fu styles they may encounter as they went on to become martial arts coaches in their own right. Mr. Lee Chang Ren was a student within that Zhong Guo Wen Hua Da Xue.

In 1998, the Miao Kong Martial arts association was formed by Lee Chang Ren and Lee Chang Chih. The main focus of kung fu within this system was Bei Quan, or Northern Fist Kung fu. Other styles were also included, such as suen bing, nan chuan, ba ji, and zhan quan. The decision of what styles are included within a particular course of study is taken from these traditions.

Paul Stern came into contact with Miao Kong and Lee Chang Ren and Lee Chang Chih in 1998 when he moved to Taiwan. During his time in Taiwan, he became a student and disciple (徒弟) of Lee Chang Ren and his brother Lee Chang Chih. He is a licensed instructor and coach within the Miao Kong Martial Arts Association.


You can expect professional instructors working to create a learning community that will help you reach your goals!
Students in the Tai Chi program at Dharma River are trained in a system that promotes health and longevity as well as a highly effective system of self-defense. There are several wonderful benefits that come from the study of Taiji Quan. Taiji can help improve balance, coordination, and general well being. Through practice, one massages the internal organs bringing them potential benefit. The special breathing techniques of Taiji are quite effective in relieving stress and calming the mind and spirit. Taiji is simultaneously a martial art that can bring practitioners a sense of confidence through providing the ability to competently defend one’s self when need be.


The series of Tai Chi courses offered will being with the study of the Chen Style 24 form. From there, Lao Jia Yi Lu (老架), Da Shi Tao (大四套), Xiao Hong Pao ,(小紅炮), and Pao Chui (炮捶) will be taught. Additionally, applications are taught in conjunction with all open hand and weapons forms.


The type of Chen Style practiced within the Manitou Martial Arts and Wellness Center stems from the Miao Kong Association in southern Taiwan. This style traces its history from Du Yu Ze (杜毓澤). He was a student of Chen Fa Ke’s (陳發科)father, Chen Yen Xi (陳延熙), in He- nan Province, China. Du Yu Ze was also taught by Chen Ming Biao (陳名標) upon the retirement of Chen Yen Xi. Master Lee Chang Jen (李章仁) was a student of Du Yu Ze. His focus of study as Chen Style. As his practice continued with Chen Style, he created Da Shi Tao(大四套), Xiao Hong Pao(小紅炮), Ji Jing Pao,(急勁炮) as well as weapons forms by taking his knowledge learned from the Zhong Guo Wen Hua Da Xue Gou Shu Zu (中國文化大學國術組)and fusing this with his Chen Style knowledge. Master Lee Chang Ren currently lives in Tainan (台南), Taiwan. Paul Stern is a student and disciple (徒弟) of Lee Chang Ren and his brother Lee Chang Chih. He is a licensed instructor and coach within the Miao Kong Martial Arts Association.

Qi Gong

The word qi gong (is made up of two Chinese words. Qi is pronounced “chee” and is usually translated to mean the life force or vital-energy that flows through all things in the universe. The second word, ‘gong’ pronounced “gung”, means accomplishment, or skill that is cultivated through steady practice. This is the same word that is used in the common term for the myriad of practices that come to constitute Chinese martial arts or ”gong” (kung) fu. Together, qi gong (Chi Kung) means cultivating energy, it is a system practiced for health maintenance, healing and increasing vitality.

As a practice, qi gong has existed in Chinese culture for thousands of years. It is a meditation practice, a practice of spiritual development, a holistic wellness system of exercise and method of movement based practice that helps to balance the mind, body, and spirit of the practitioner. Historically, this practices developed through Taoist and Buddhist practices as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine, where qi gong is one of the five branches of treatment and regulation.

There are innumerable styles of qi gong. Ours at Dharma River consists of a variety of practices organized into forms that are accessible and available to people of all abilities and ages. Classes are taught by Paul Kisho Stern, who has studied for more than 30 years. His teaching style focuses on empowering individuals to integrate qi gong into their daily lives.

Yoga For Awareness & Alignment

These classes are for practitioners interested in growing in their yoga practice.

Classes are led by Alanna Pelowski (certified March 2018 with RYT-200 from YogaFit Inc.), who studied with Iyengar-certified yoga teacher Francie Ricks for more than 15 years. Class style includes using props to increase awareness of postures (asanas) to build proper alignment. Each 1 1/2 hour class rotates through basic postures with a focused theme each week. Every 4th class will be a restorative practice.

Forest-inspired Vinyasa Yoga

Elle Newman combines her Vinyasa and Forrest Yoga trainings to bring you a unique class filled with an emphasis on support, core development, and movement linked with breath. You can expect care taken to protect our wrists, shoulders, and neck, as well as attention paid to your lower back.  Please reach out if you need accommodations, or you have any questions. Elle is happy to help you find creative solutions. You are important to our community so please let her know how we can support you!

May 2024
Wednesday May 29
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm Tai Chi Classes
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm Martial Arts/Kung Fu Training
June 2024
Wednesday June 5
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm Tai Chi Classes
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm Martial Arts/Kung Fu Training
Monday June 10
Wednesday June 12
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm Tai Chi Classes
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm Martial Arts/Kung Fu Training
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Zen Meditation

Zen Sutra Chanting – Sundays

Join us Sundays at 8:30am either in person or online for our Zen Garland Order Service including chanting and our traditional Zen Morning service.  No prior experience necessary.  All are welcome.

Zen Meditation – Sundays

Following our Sunday morning Zen Service, join us for zazen practice extending from 9:00am to 10:00am either in person or online.  For students of the Zen Garland Order, dokusan is available at this time.  Zazen practice is followed at 10:00am by a dharma talk/zen dialogue.

Zen Meditation – Tuesdays

Our Tuesday zazen practice is open to practitioners of all levels.  Our practice begins at 5:30am and ends at 7:00am.  Zazen practice is followed at 7:00am by a dharma talk/zen dialogue.

June 2024
Sunday June 2
8:30 am - 9:00 am Zen Sutra Chanting Service
9:00 am - 10:30 am Zazen – Zen Meditation
Tuesday June 4
Sunday June 9
8:30 am - 9:00 am Zen Sutra Chanting Service
9:00 am - 10:30 am Zazen – Zen Meditation
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Courses & Retreats

Spring Ango

Ango (安居) is a three-month period of intense training for students of Zen Buddhism, usually lasting 90 days.

The practice during ango consists of each participant making a personal commitment to intensify aspects of their embodiment of the Zen Garland Vows.

Each participant in Ango shares their commitments with the community at the Ango Entry Ceremony

Spring 2024 – Ango Dates:
January 28 – April 14, 2024

International Ango Entry Ceremony: January 28th at 8:00am Central

Full Day Zazenkai Extended Practice Days:
January – January 28- 8:00am – 3:00pm Central Time

February – February 25- 6:30am – 3:00pm Central Time

March– March 24- 6:30am – 3:00pm Central Time

*You are welcome to attend any of the zazenkais without participating in the other aspects of Ango.

$100 suggested donation for all Zazenkai dates- – Donations supports teaching, supplies, food and programming.

Please reach out if you need financial assistance or if you would like to set up a payment plan.

Ango registration 

Spring Sesshin (Retreat)

5Dharma River Zen Community hosts a 5-day retreat immersed in the peaceful, natural beauty of Whitewater State Park.

Guiding teachers at the retreat include: Roshi Paul Kisho Stern, Sensei Trish Baishin Johnson, Roshi Paul Genki Kahn, Roshi Monika Genmitsu Kahn

Retreat Dates: April 9-13, 2025

Time: Wednesday evening- Sunday afternoon
Location: Whitewater State Park, Altura, MN
Cost: $350- includes all vegetarian meals, lodging, supplies, and programming
Registration closes  April 1st, 2025.

Please reach out if you need  financial assistance or if you would like to set up a payment plan.

Please contact Paul Kisho Stern with any

Register for Spring Sesshin