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Former WSU instructor teaches tai chi to community

Skanchy, left, leads students in beginner tai chi moves at the Eccles Community Arts Center. (Photo by Sarah Knowlton / The Signpost)
Norm Skanchy, left, leads students in beginner tai chi moves at the Eccles Community Arts Center. (Photo by Sarah Knowlton / The Signpost)

A trip to China in 1992 became a life changing experience for Norm Skanchy, former art instructor at Weber State University, when he learned the flowing motions and positions of tai chi from an 80-year-old tai chi master.

After learning the ancient art of tai chi, Skanchy saw many benefits both physically and mentally. He had improved balance and strength, as well as a sharper mind.

“I thought my teacher was old when I learned from him, but now I’m 89 and I’m still doing it and I teach other people,” Skanchy said.

Skanchy has students who come week after week to learn tai chi and to enjoy the benefits.

“Norm is an inspiration and a great teacher,” Sandy Miller, regular attender of Skanchy’s class, said.

Twice a week Skanchy and his students gather at the community arts center where they turn on calming instrumental music, warm up, then practice beginner and advanced moves. Normally the class is for adults 45 years old and older, but Skanchy welcomes all eager to learn.

“When I do tai chi, my body just knows how to do it,” Skanchy said. “Sometimes when I am watching my students, I’ll find my arms moving with them.”

Skanchy grew up in Logan, Utah and graduated from Utah State University as an art instructor. He has taught many classes at the community center as well as at WSU.

Skanchy first went to China in 1945 when he served in the Marine Corps. That service sparked his first interest in the country and its people.

While taking a train from Beijing to a town six hours away, Skanchy was curious about the local passengers. He wandered from his cart to the next and saw a young girl sleeping on her mother’s lap.

“I thought she looked so beautiful, so I asked her mother as best I could if I could draw her,” Skanchy said, “The mother agreed and I left to get my supplies. When I came back, the little girl was standing up straight, ready for me to draw her.”

Skanchy was a little disappointed since he wanted to draw the girl sleeping, but he drew her anyways. After others on the train saw the drawing, they all wanted to be drawn too, and Skanchy spent the rest of the train ride drawing.

“I must have drawn at least 100 people,” Skanchy said, “Every single person in that cart wanted me to draw them. It was great for my portfolio.”

For many years, Skanchy has stayed active, not just by doing tai chi, but also by playing racquetball. Skanchy is a 12-time national champion and has played in some international competitions. Unfortunately, his career was cut short when he sustained an injury.

“I’m 89 years old and I still drive, paint, and do tai chi,” Skanchy said.

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