SAU Buzz

Halfhill Has a Hobby

by Becca Herrmann
Posted on Nov 30, 2017

Participating in his sport, Matt Halfhill has broken his nose, his toes, his ribs and most recently his hand--but he still loves kung fu.

When he was working towards his doctorate degree, he didn’t have time for anything extra. When he graduated, he realized he had a lot of time on his hands.

“I was working 40 to 80 hours a week as a grad student,” Halfhill said. “I didn’t have time to do much else or make money really.”

He realized he had a lot of time on his hands when he graduated. That’s when he took up kung fu.

Kung fu is a Chinese art form that focuses on circular movements rather than linear movements. It’s based on animal forms: tiger, jaguar, snake, dragon and crane. The body is trained to move to the conditions needed, whether it be sneaky, fast or strong.

Halfhill practices his kung fu at a local dojo in Moline, Morrow’s Academy. It is owned by John Morrow who instructs classes and also teaches some classes at SAU. Halfhill has also participated in some tournaments during his time at the dojo, but he mostly sticks to the regular sparring at the dojo.

He attends class at the dojo 3 times a week for an hour and 15 minutes each time. The first 30 minutes are reserved for strength training and conditioning, and the last 45 minutes are for practicing and sparring.

I like the change in strength and conditioning,” Halfhill said.  “Also, it is rewarding to see how much your reactions change due to the repetition of the practice.  The muscle memory of the movement becomes ingrained, and it is interesting to see how I react to a situation now compared to years ago.”

There are different colored belts in kung fu, as most people associate with martial arts. The darker the belt, the more experience and talent the person has. Halfhill is a first degree brown belt.

“It comes from an old tradition where you would start with a white belt and the longer you wore it the dirtier it would get,” Halfhill said. “So, when you had an almost black belt it meant that you had been practicing a very long time. I’m one test away from becoming a black belt.”

Over 12 years, he has had some trouble balancing the life of a college professor and a kung fu student. Sometimes injuries or soreness from workouts have made teaching a little difficult.

Despite the injuries, Halfhill sees himself doing this for a very long time. There are even people in his dojo who are over 70 years old.

“I hope to be the old guy someday,” Halfhill chuckled.

So far, nothing seems to be slowing him down. He’ll continue testing his mind at SAU and his body at Morrow’s Academy for years to come.