Black belt in karate flows into a pas­sion for Tai Chi

Rome News-Tribune - - NEWS - By Michelle Wil­son Cor­re­spon­dent

It was 19 years ago when Dekie Hicks was learn­ing the proper kick­ing, punch­ing and block­ing tech­niques in her jour­ney to earn her black belt in karate. She achieved that goal in April 2002. But it was the in­tro­duc­tion to an­other mar­tial art in 1998 that would be­come a life­long pas­sion.

“I had read an ar­ti­cle about Tai Chi and one day I saw the sign for Tai Chi classes,” Hicks said. “I said I’m go­ing to try it. I re­mem­ber think­ing, wow — that sounds in­ter­est­ing.”

She started study­ing Tai Chi un­der the di­rec­tion of Mas­ter Wey­land Billings­ley in Rome and even­tu­ally started teach­ing classes at the se­nior ci­ti­zen cen­ter at Etowah Park.

“The op­por­tu­nity to teach came at a time when Tai Chi was get­ting a lot of pub­lic­ity,” Hicks said. “I knew I wanted to keep Tai Chi in my life.”

“I knew that if I wanted to stay mo­ti­vated, I needed to do some­thing,” she said. “Teach­ing was my mo­ti­va­tion. The se­nior cen­ter was look­ing for a Tai Chi in­struc­tor and I said, ‘I can do that.’ I just took the plunge. It is some­thing that makes me ac­count­able for my own prac­tice.”

In 2009, Hicks started teach­ing Tai Chi classes at the Rome YMCA.

Tai Chi, also called Tai Chi Chuan, is an an­cient Chi­nese mar­tial art wherein its prac­ti­tion­ers per­form dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of defensive move­ments in a slow, grace­ful and fo­cused man­ner.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mayo Clinic, Tai Chi move­ments are low im­pact and are ac­com­pa­nied by deep breath­ing. Phys­i­cal ex­er­cise and stretch­ing com­bine in var­i­ous Dekie Hicks demon­strates push-brush knee from Tai Chi.

pos­tures which flow into each other with­out stop­ping, en­sur­ing the body is con­stantly mov­ing.

“It is a mar­tial art,” Hicks said. “You are mim­ick­ing fight­ing an op­po­nent.”

She does not teach Tai Chi as a mar­tial art for de­fense, but she does go over this an­cient as­pect with her stu­dents.

Hicks, who is 55 years old, says that Tai Chi is an ex­er­cise most se­niors can do.

“It’s much kinder to one’s body as one ages,” Hicks said. “I call it karate Con­trib­uted photo

for old peo­ple. … It is gen­tle, but it’s a good work­out. It does re­quire strength to move slowly.”

She teaches a class for more ad­vanced Tai Chi stu­dents ev­ery Monday at the YMCA from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Her class for stu­dents who are begin­ners or who are at an in­ter­me­di­ate level meets on Wed­nes­days from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Her stu­dents typ­i­cally range in age from 50 to 80. They also vary widely in their abil­i­ties.

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