February 18, 2011
Wanda Hall, an adjunct professor of Tai Chi at Flagler College, recently won the 2010 title of "National Champion in Push Hands" in the International Chinese Martial Arts Tournament.
Hall, who is in her late 60s, has been practicing Tai Chi for more than 10 years. She has won over 15 gold awards over the years. When she first started competing, Hall won a silver award and since then has only won gold.
"It all came from a student," Hall said. A student invited her to attend his Tai Chi competition. Hall said she instantly fell in love with the art. She was teaching sociology at the time, and 5 years ago, the college asked her to teach Tai Chi.
"It's gone full circle," she said. "It came from the school, a student, and now I'm giving it back to students."
Push Hands is classified as a martial art. Participants apply the exercises they've learned to compete against another person. The goal is to knock the other person off balance to gain points. Hall said many of her students have noticed significant changes in their balance, breathing and posture while practicing Tai Chi.
"It's a stress reducer. It's really good when the pressure is on and you can find a way to send your mind somewhere else," she said. "Sometimes they call it swimming in air...It's very beautiful."
Hall said she loves teaching Tai Chi because you don't need skills in order to participate. "You just come to the class," she said. "All you need is tenacity. You just need to hang in there, to be a person who will make a commitment."