La Palma offers residents many recreational programs, and many who live in surrounding cities come to La Palma's Central Park to play on the clean, well-kept tennis and basketball courts.
But every morning at 8, a group gathers near the tennis courts to participate in an exercise program started not by the city's Recreation Department but by one woman.
Seven days a week, 68-year-old Lillian Lou leads 40 to 50 people in luk tung keun, a form of exercise similar to tai chi.
Lou said the exercise form was invented by a woman named King Ho in the late 1970s, and Lou got the idea of starting the program from one of her friends, Yuk Law. Law was an assistant to Ho during the 1980s, before Law came to the United States. After her arrival, Law began teaching the exercise form in Monterrey Park.
Lou asked Law to come to La Palma to demonstrate the techniques before a small but enthusiastic group in 1989.
"We did not have many people here when we started," said Lou. "Now we have many more who come and join us."
The exercise consists of 36 different head, leg and arm movements, all designed to increase circulation.
Older participants say the program has made it easier for them to stay healthy.
"We just want to keep in shape," said longtime club member William To. To, a retired engineer who has lived in La Palma for more than 40 years, is a native of Hong Kong. He grew up learning various forms of martial arts in group settings as a child. He said the collective energy the group gives as it performs the exercises is what makes the program a success and what draws more people to the program.
The daily ritual has become a social event. The club has incorporated hula dance into its routine Tuesdays and Thursdays, and four times a year members hold potlucks to strengthen the bonds they've created.
"It can be very hard for older people to stay in shape, but doing these exercises together makes it easier and it gives us something to do," To said.
Andre Briscoe, can be reached at (714) 966-5848.