Buck Sam Kong’s Siu Lum Pai Kung Fu Association. “Okay! Now we do some real kung fu.” These are the words that set the class to groaning, because we know that for the next long stretch, we are going to be in pain. Holding the positions of the Lau Gar Kuen (Lau Family Fist Set) for minutes at a time, we sweat and curse under our breath as our muscles scream for relief and our sifu, Master Buck Sam Kong, walks slowly around the room, correcting positions and handing out admonishments like “One inch lower” or his favorite, “No pain, no gain.” When Master Kong was a boy in Hong Kong, his sifu would make him hold his horse stance (legs apart, back straight, knees bent till the thighs are parallel with the ground) until a stick of incense had burnt down. Ouch. Learning kung fu is hard. It takes coordination, speed, a lot of strength and patience. It took me almost a year before I could even begin to do some of this stuff. But when I got to that place where I could see myself improving, see the new muscles in my arms and legs and stomach, throw playful kicks at my boyfriend’s head, I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do. The fees — a $10 initiation fee, then $65 a month for two hour-plus classes per week — are a tiny price to pay for all that confidence. 1723 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (213) 664-8882. (Hazel-Dawn Dumpert)


BatCade. Sometimes you just need a release from the pressure of the big city. So here’s an idea: Be a 10-year-old again. Revert to living in the suburbs. Hop on your Schwinn’s banana seat and skedaddle on over to the BatCade in Burbank. Break out them quarters and wiggle with some video games, some Skee-ball and air hockey. Be sure to check the coin-return slot for any leftover change — it rules when you score an extra quarter! Then lay the big money down, because it’s time to jack a few baseballs. Choose your enemy, whether it’s the 70 mph machine (where the cool, buff dudes take their cuts most major-league-like) or the lob-pitch softball machine (where the balding, overweight men pull muscles with each swing), or something in between. Stare that pitcher down. Tell ’im he’s got a rubber arm. Take ’im to center. Go opposite field. Go deep! Dream of being a Dodger. Can’t you just hear it? “Now batting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Number 10, me!” Yeah, reverting is good for the soul. Lose the psychotherapist; go to the BatCade. 220 N. Victory Blvd., Burbank; (818) 842-6455. (Neal Weiss)


Dixie Canyon Place. Vertical four-story Marina Peninsula–style homes loom over blink-and-miss-it Dixie Canyon Place, a spur of rutty Dixie Canyon Avenue in Sherman Oaks. But at the short street’s dead end there’s a shady uphill hiking trail with lush foliage and a flowing creek — maybe a mile — that recalls Palm Springs’ Indian Canyon. Beginners might find it pleasantly challenging; keep your dog leashed — there’s snakes in them hills. (Cary Baker)


Downtown Bike Ride. A great way to get to know and love downtown is to hop on your bike for a nine-mile time-travel tour. Weekend mornings, when traffic is lightest, is the best time for a stress-free ride. A good starting point is southbound Vermont Avenue near Franklin. Speed by the trendy shops; mourn the passing of George’s. Turn left on Sunset and head east for about two miles; note the cute little public-art park at Portia Street. Make a right on Figueroa, then a left at the Third Street Tunnel. Once on Hill Street, you’ve traveled to the L.A. of the ’20s and ’30s. Lock up your bike and ride the resurrected Angel’s Flight. (It’s only two bits.) Back on your bike, go one block over to Broadway. There’s the Million Dollar Theater, scene of many a silent-film premiere. Across the street is the Bradbury Building, seen in Blade Runner and an Outer Limits episode. The shop to the right is where O.J. bought The Knife. Head north on Hill Street, right on Second and left on Main. Take note of the Triforum, a brightly colored, seriously spazzed-out metal sculpture from the ’60s that once upon a time was hooked up for musical light shows. You’re now approaching Olvera Street, the L.A. of the 1800s. Reward yourself with margaritas at Las Golondrinas. After your rest stop, make a left on Sunset, a right on Broadway and ride to Chinatown and the old Madame Wong’s, the L.A. of the early ’80s. (Adriana Leal)


West Fork, San Gabriel River. One of the few year-round streams in our local mountains is the mighty San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest. You can reach it by exiting north from the 210 freeway onto Highway 39. About 15 minutes up the canyon, the river forks three ways; where Highway 39 crosses the west fork, there is a parking lot and a gated access road from where you can bike it or hoof it. The first mile isn’t much for scenery, but past the first bridge at Bear Creek you hit the good stuff: waterfalls, flora and wildlife. The paved road makes for an easy hike and follows the river for roughly seven miles to Cogswell Reservoir. Mixed with the chaparral are streamside clumps of sycamore and cottonwood, providing shade for deer, badgers, birds, busy little squirrels and soaring hawks. (A $5 day permit is required, available at any ranger station.) Park at mile marker 26.91 on Hwy. 39; (626) 574-5200. (Neil Viker)



Johnny G’s Spinning Headquarters. Headquartered in the old Helms Bakery building on Washington Boulevard, this loftlike space has about 50 Schwinn stationary bikes, along with headphones that drop from the ceiling. Indoor cycling, or “spinning,” gives you the aerobic benefits of cycling without having to invest a month’s salary in a bicycle, a goofy helmet and the possibility of being flattened by a truck. Johnny G, regarded as the father of spinning, has been offering strength, endurance and all-terrain classes since 1990. From a bike onstage, an instructor coaches the class by microphone. Pulsing music also plays through the headphones, which is supposed to help you focus. 8729 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; (310) 559-5454. (Karen Cusolito)


Malibu Creek State Park offers a wide multi-use trail for beginning to ad vanced mountain-bikers. After you get past the often-crowded first mile, things get interesting. You hit the trail beyond the farthest parking lot across Las Virgenes Creek. Cross grasslands dotted with oaks past the visitor center; head across the creek (by the bridge) and turn left onto Rock Pool Trail, where boulders in a reflecting pool await those in need of a swim. Returning to the main trail, pump up and over the hill to where the shady oaks give way to river bed, which in turn leads to the old M*A*S*H set (now just a rusting jeep and an ambulance). Straight ahead, bear right at Bulldog Road and continue to the green manhole; another right takes you to more reflecting pools and, another fifth of a mile to your left, the end of the park. (Tip: To avoid the $5 entrance fee, park near the corner of Mulholland Hwy. and Las Virgenes Road.) Entrance three-tenths of a mile west of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Hwy.; (818) 880-0367. (Liam Finn)


Tropical Terrace (Old Roberts Ranch House). From the entrance of Solstice Canyon Park, hop the rocks across the stream and saunter up the road. On the left side, past a small house, lies the TRW trail, which takes you up to a strange, futuristic farmhouse-looking building where Space Tech Labs used to conduct satellite-instrumentation testing. It’s about to become a local headquarters for the National Parks Services. The TRW trail eventually drops you back on Old Solstice Road, where you make a right and then another right at the fork. A mile past the Matthew Keller House, built in 1865, lie the ruins of the Roberts’ family house, destroyed by fire in 1982. The house — an exotic tropical oasis with palms, bamboo, birds of paradise, a swell little waterfall and a fountain — incorporates Solstice Canyon’s creek and waterfall into its design. One can only imagine the parties the Roberts might have thrown here. So now it’s time to break out with the mai-tais you have stashed away in your backpack and play “Fantasy Island.” Three and a half miles west of Malibu Pier on PCH, make a right on Corral Canyon Road; take your first left, into the Solstice Canyon parking lot ($5). (Adam Bregman)


Century City Tennis Club. There you are, six stories high on the roof of the ABC Entertainment Center, poised to serve, when the scent of sautéing garlic from Harry’s Bar wafts through the air. You swing and miss. Tennis pro Wendy Schwartz, a nine-year coaching veteran, offers group clinics in doubles strategy and shot placement. Each clinic has, on average, four players (with a maximum of six) and is offered four nights a week. 2040 Avenue of the Stars, Century City; (213) 874-5466. (Jaime Lowe)


Run to the Hollywood Sign. Griffith Park reveals itself as a run in fragments: At its far western edge is a trek up to the Hollywood sign that builds strong quadriceps at least 12 ways, although there may be 13; you lose track of a few things as you round precipitous Mt. Lee and realize that even though you started out in Hollywood, you are now looking at Burbank and — if it’s winter — snow-capped peaks. Then there’s the Mt. Lee–to–Sunset Ranch stretch, which, once you’ve come down the mountain, descends on a relaxing, gentle grade; breathe deep only if the smell of horse manure evokes a pleasant childhood. Continue on to the top of Bronson Canyon, resist the urge to take that downhill right at the first fork in the road, forge uphill to a paved road and a disintegrating gate, where civilization, in the form of a triangular park, a stone wall, a yellow line on what used to be an auto route, will begin to emerge in ragged increments. Stave off fatigue as long as possible. Head back into the wild by taking the high (dirt) road at the park, and stumble on a succulent garden known as Dante’s View, built by Dante Orgolini in 1964, rebuilt by Charlie Turner after a calamitous fire in 1990. The path that leads from the fire road to the Griffith Park Ob servatory will make itself plain a few hundred feet later, and it’s the only place on the route you’ll find a crowd. If you don’t live within running distance, it’s best to park at the Obser va tory and run to the sign, which the rangers will tell you is four (persistently hilly, in fact, brutal) miles. Don’t believe them. You have to run back. (Judith Lewis)

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