Hilary Smith, R.N., B.A. has been studying Tai Chi since 1989, and teaching since 1994. Her teaching style empowers students to become competent Tai Chi practitioners who can reap the benefits of an independent Tai Chi practice. Hilary is a third degree black belt, certified fitness trainer, and certified massage therapist, as well as a registered nurse. She has taught in many different types of community-based and health care settings.
As a teacher Hilary is able to tailor Tai Chi to the individual. She has taught students who are rehabilitating from injuries, illnesses and surgery, and those seeking Tai Chi as a moving meditation to reduce stress; those who are interested in learning Tai Chi as a traditional martial arts form; and those who wish to use Tai Chi as a form of exercise. She emphasizes proper alignment and precision in order to maximize the benefit and minimize the risk of injury.
Besides teaching Tai Chi, Hilary's history includes hospital nursing, massage therapy for clients in acute and/or chronic pain, and most recently, performing fitness assessments, designing fitness programs along with wellness education and lifestyle management for older adults. Hilary's vision is to help adults age with independence and dignity, and Tai Chi is a perfect practice for realizing that vision.
On a more personal note.....
I’m often asked why I started martial arts training, and how I got to this point in my teaching. If you’re curious, here is the unabridged version.
I was working evenings as a registered nurse in a hospital Ob-Gyn unit, and teaching Childbirth Education classes (my first foray into adult education!). During the day, I was mothering young children. I read an article in the Whole Earth Review about “Women in the Martial Arts" just as my youngest child started nursery school, and found it intriguing. My research tool was the Yellow Pages, where I found a listing for a Kung-Fu school offering classes during those few free hours.
I started studying with Sifu Tom Parrish, and never looked back. More importantly than teaching me kung-fu and tai chi, he taught me how to learn. I credit him with my success as a teacher, and consider him to be one of the most profound influences in my life. Although he was very strict with me, he was accommodating of my children, which allowed me to train as intensively as I did (six days a week for my first eight years). I found that martial arts training was a missing piece of my life that I didn’t realize was missing.
There is an adage in the martial arts: “If you can hurt, you should know how to heal”. Although nursing was in that vein, I didn’t think it was enough, so I became trained as a massage therapist. My career path shifted from one to the other. About that time, I started teaching tai chi in some community settings. As a massage therapist, I learned that I couldn’t heal everyone and everything; people needed the tools to help themselves. That led to becoming certified as a personal trainer, and then a senior personal trainer.
My tai chi teaching schedule became fuller and I cut back on massage therapy. I worked at a senior center, using the combined schooling I had to help older adults with fitness programming and lifestyle/wellness management. Tai chi teaching became even busier, and I finally realized that it was the most effective way to synthesize all my training to help people help themselves. I try to bring my knowledge of eastern and western medicine, the traditional and the modern, to my instruction.
Sifu Parrish retired, and now I attend workshops and seminars where I can find them: the National QiGong Association, The Omega Institute, Kripalu, and others.
Traditionally, martial artists also practiced a fine art. For that reason, and because I think it is important to stay in a “student mindset” and be challenged in that way (and just because I like it!), I study harp with SaraJane Williams, of Planet Harp in Macungie.
And, no, my children do not study the martial arts. I tried.
I hope to continue to grow and learn, both as a student and a teacher, so that I can continue to provide you with satisfying instruction.