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The Big Interview with Martial arts champion Tony Dias
Martial arts champion and instructor Tony Dias talks to TONY KELLY about the pursuit of his sporting passion.
THERE’S an unyielding steel allied to a calming reserve about Tony Dias – qualities which have served him so well for nigh on three decades of competitive combat.
Those self-same traits he showed in abundance on the martial arts world stage and they are the same characteristics which he consistently tries to convey to his pupils.
For the last three years Dias has dazzled at the highest level and for the last 17 years he has helped a posse of youngsters and adults shine in a variety of disciplines at the United Martial Arts College he runs in Malton.
Manchester-born Dias was a late starter in the world of martial arts.
Initially, when working in London, he tried his hand first at kung fu before then graduating to the Mugendo school of Thai Boxing when he was aged 18.
But his sporting passion was stirred and he knew that his competitive nature would be best served in the myriad styles of martial arts.
A third degree black belt, Dias moved back north in the early 1980s when he joined the Leeds Martial Arts College – then operated in York despite its name – by Paul Lynch.
When Lynch returned to Leeds, Dias, who had fought at various levels in kung fu, Thai boxing, Mugendo and freestyle kick-boxing opted to set up his own club.
He combined that ambition with taking a degree in sports studies and physical education at York St John University.
“I decided I’d do the degree course as a back-up, something to fall back on if the club did not succeed,” he recalled.
However, the club he set up in Malton’s Castlegate went from strength to strength.
Currently it boasts a 70-strong membership, with instructor Dias taking classes for youngsters aged from four to seven, under-13s and also adults.
“It’s just gone so well, and one of the biggest things I get out of it now is seeing how youngsters can advance,” he said with unmistakable pride.
“When you see your students going into competitions and representing themselves and the club so well, it’s a great feeling of satisfaction.”
For Dias, there’s nothing more important than for all his students to perform with dignity and respect.
“Whatever discipline someone takes up, it is not just about the punching and the kicking.
“It’s about character development and helping youngsters with their self-esteem and self-confidence.”
Added Dias: “It’s not simply about competition. It’s about life skills, especially for the younger students. The kids have to show physical discipline and other benefits include sharper concentration.
“But at all times they have to show courtesy and respect. That’s what we teach above – courtesy and respect, not just in martial arts, but in all things they do.”
That ambassadorial role has been one sported by Dias throughout his own fighting career, where national success did not arrive until he was 36 when he was crowned the World Association of Kick-Boxing Organisations’ British champion in 2001.
Two veteran British titles in the World Kick-Boxing Association followed in 2006 and 2007 before three years ago he was a silver medallist in the full WKA body. There then followed two World Karate and Kick-boxing Council British titles two years ago.
But the highlight for Dias came last year when, while classed as semi-retired, he lifted the WKC world championship – brilliantly defying the age barrier to rule the globe in Ireland.
When he also won the WAKO British championship this year to qualify for the European championships, Dias opted to undertake a dual challenge that would have tested competitors half his age.
A silver medal was captured in Azerbaijan from where, hit by a debilitating bug, he then jetted to Portugal to defend his WKC crown.
Unfortunately, the effects of the illness took its toll – “I knew I had taken on too much” – and after reaching the final he was ousted by a Belgian opponent to again finish with a silver medal crossing his palm. But as evidence of his iron competitive edge he will bid to reclaim his world crown in next year’s WKC championships in Dublin after deciding to shelve plans for 2010 to be his final year of competition.
“I’ve got to have another crack at it,” said Dias, whose 2011 will take on even more responsibility.
After he and York’s Multi Masters Academy founder Gaz Watkinson combined to promote the first Cage Fighting show in York two months ago, they are currently putting the finishing touches to Cage Confrontation II for a Saturday night next March.
“That was part of a dream come true for both Gaz and me to see such a bill bringing so many different martial arts together in York for a competitive bill,” he said.
“It was a success for York to see local fights and fighters and to be backed too by York businesses. Now we hope to have the same sort of success.”
Somehow there seems little chance of a failure for the hugely determined Dias.