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In February 2007, at the age of 20, Zac Hare became the Australian Wushu Grand Champion, the highest competitive recognition in Australia. So how did a 15 year old self-confessed rebel become an extremely focused elite athlete? According to Zac's mother, Rebecca, 'I always knew deep down that he was going to be something special, but it was just a matter of him finding what suited him'.
Zac had apparently been very interested in sport from a young age. He started off very early in Kung Fu, and then did running, football, basketball, baseball and swimming. By the age of 15, Zac had tried just about everything but was becoming very disillusioned with his life as a whole. It was about this time that he became hooked on a Manga cartoon featuring acrobatics and fight scenes that really captured his imagination. Desperate to find a way of channeling her son's energies in to something constructive, Rebecca contacted his old Kung Fu teacher, Cameron Douglas, who recommended Zac try Tai Chi or Wushu with Master Han Jin Song. The rest, as they say, is history.
Zac initially tried Tai Chi and really liked it but following Master Han's advice, he went and had a look at a Wushu class. It was his favourite Manga cartoon come-to-life. Zac put everything he had in to his Wushu training under Master Han's ever-watchful eye but in 2004 he developed a work-related hernia. Master Han suggested that he move in to Tai Chi until the hernia was completely healed. With Zac's typical gusto, he trained as hard in Tai Chi as he did in Wushu and went on to win the National Youth Tai Chi Champion title at the Australian National Championships in 2004.
After his hernia healed, Zac returned to his first love, Wushu. It was then that Master Han sent him to the China Olympic School at Beijing Sport University for 6 months training in preparation for the 8th World Wushu Championships in Vietnam. Master Han used to coach at The China Olympic School which has produced many World Wushu Champions in the past 10 years. Zac returned to Australia to successfully compete in the Pre-Selection Trials to become part of the Australian Team attending the 8th WWC, where he gained valuable experience competing against the world's best.
There was no rest for Zac. As soon as he returned from the 8th World Wushu Championships he started training again with Master Han. His commitment to Wushu was definitely worthy of acknowledgement so in early 2006 he was granted a Tai Chi Australia Special Scholarship to study for 2 years at a professional Wushu School in China. Master Han said 'The Scholarship is only granted to outstanding athletes who show the commitment and dedication to benefit from such an opportunity. Basically it covers all the tuition, accommodation and meals for a 2 year stay in China. I stay in constant communication with the masters there, and oversee the training programme for my students.' Unfortunately, the isolation proved too much for Zac to handle and after only 2 months he returned to Australia. However, the experience proved to be very beneficial and certainly gave Zac a much greater sense of self-reliance.
Shortly after arriving back from China, Master Han suggested he enter the trials for the First Global KStar TV show. Zac won a place in Wushu and was flown to Shenzhen where they had intensive training for the KStar Show. From there it was on to more training at the Shaolin Temple followed by daily competitions, being put in to groups and performing throughout the small provinces of China. He was picked for the first round of 18 out of 50 competitors, and then selected in the Top 9 and finally the Top 6 from competitors all around the world. 'His confidence just sky rocketed. He made heaps of friends and having to compete every day on the spur of the moment, a bit like the show Australian Idol, helped his confidence so much. He's got a demo clip that one of the guys made for him from the show. The whole thing looks so professional. They had tailor-made costumes, enormous sets and everything.' Rebecca said.
Zac returned from being a KStar star and went straight in to full-time training for the 2007 National Championships in Canberra where he came First for the Barehand, Broadsword and Pole, and received the title of 2007 National Wushu Grand Champion. Now he's in training for the Oceania Championships and Team Pre-Selection Trials for the next World Wushu Championships in China. He wants to place in the Top 10 at the WWC but competing against athletes from China, Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam he's realistically aiming for the Top 20.
Master Han said 'Wushu is not only about competitions. There are many components to being an outstanding wushu practitioner such as the philosophy, discipline, self-control, and respect for your body. All of these things will lead to a very well-rounded person who can make an enormous difference to himself and others.' Rebecca supports and endorses Master Han's comments when she says 'Master Han has said that competitions aren't the only important aspect of wushu but we think it is good for Master Han to have a student that has reached Zac's level. Master Han's competition students really like to make him proud. Zac particularly likes to see Master Han smile as then he knows he's done well. Master Han has really turned Zac's life around. Having someone to impress and someone with such high morals and dignity gave him purpose and something to strive for.'
Master Han has obviously been an incredible influence on Zac and provided the coaching and discipline he so richly needed. That said Zac's self-discipline is incredible. His daily training routine is exhaustive. 'Every morning Zac gets up at 5.30am. He does Â½ hour of stretching, goes over to the oval for 2 hours fitness training then has breakfast. After breakfast he gets on to the computer and works on making Wushu clips, looks at other styles of Wushu, other performances and so on. In the afternoon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday Zac goes to a gymnasium to practice his acrobatics. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons he does his own training and practice in the back yard. On Saturday he trains with Master Han and Sunday he has a day off.' Rebecca said. When asked, Master Han said that it was important for Zac to maintain this sort of discipline if he wanted to get to the Top 20 in the world. 'Our training sessions on Saturday incorporate a list of things for him to focus on in the week ahead' Master Han said.
So, where to from here? With Master Han's guidance, Zac hopes to go back to Beijing Sport University to do the 2 year Associate Diploma in Wushu. While he's studying at the Beijing Sport University he would like to get in some competition practice but ultimately would like to just focus on achieving an outstanding performance at the next World Wushu Championships rather than all of the other stuff he has been doing. He'd like to get to the best of his abilities for the Olympic Invitational Tournament in Beijing 2008 but his big goal is to try for the Top 10 in the world. When asked, Rebecca said 'Long term, Zac would like to make Wushu more popular in Australia and to become the Best in the World.'
Let's hope he makes it.
Val has just returned from competing at the Dong Yue Festival in China. Here is what she had to say of the experienceâ€¦
During our recent trip to China, I performed Tai Chi, (or played Tai Chi as the Chinese say), for the judges.
I would like to pass on a few tips to you.
You've done it!
Play again - over again!
You are famous!
You have learnt that people who play Tai Chi always belong together no matter where they come from.
Qigong increases vitality, impacts positively to improve medical conditions and in this way will improve and prolong the quality of life. Health Qigong is taught at Tai Chi Australia and you can read more about it here or contact Tai Chi Australia.