By Pauline Stewart.
Tony Wilson is a martial artist, first taking it seriously about twenty years ago.
The martial art Tony does is called Tao Do which is a mix of other martial arts focussing on self-defence and defence.
It is a hobby and way of being he loves, requiring several hours of training a week and added to that is his time as an instructor. Tony’s work, however, is at his computer designing kitchens. Tony and Carol, his wife, own Mastercraft Kitchens in South Highway, Whitianga.
Tony was looking forward to his 65th birthday as on that day, three of his students were to be graded by a Tao Do Master. One grading was for first level Black Belt and two for second dan or level in Black Belt. In addition to that, Tony was to also be graded for his third dan in Black Belt. There can be up to ten levels or dan in Black Belt martial arts. The youngest being graded is 16. Tony’s level is very difficult and of a high level of fitness.
However, the weather storm on that particular weekend put a stop to those plans. The Master is in Rotorua and could not travel the roads. The grading was postponed to Saturday, 17 June and was to be held in Rotorua. Tony and his students train in Whitianga Town Hall two evenings a week and sometimes on Saturdays.
“This all began in Tairua Club, when I took my son and daughter along when they were very young,” says Tony. “We were keen for them to start. Carol wanted the children to have something that dad could be a part of. I watched them the first night and thought, If I’m going to spend my time here every week, I may as well join them. We have always had mixed classes- adults help the kids.
My daughter dropped out and my son continued up to a certain grade. But I kept going,” adds Tony.
“I think about why I kept going. Eventually it becomes a way of life. There’s more to it than just the physical side. It’s a matter of applying yourself. It’s hard every time. It doesn’t get any easier.
The rewards are personal growth. You have to face challenges and fears and overcome them if you are going to keep on. I take one step at a time - like climbing a staircase.
You get to a stage where you start instructing and you help others. Your focus changes a bit.”
Recently Tony had been talking to a couple of dads who were explaining how their daughters had become more confident and how much more focussed they were in approaching other areas of their lives. Tony quietly says, “For me, THAT’S the reward. The effort is worth it.” In the Whitianga club, there are children who are seven years old, and the older students are up to 65.
Over the years, Tony Wilson has had a few different Masters - the leaders, instructors have changed.
He left the Tairua Club where he started for one of his students to run (and it’s still going) and he commenced the Tao Do club in Whitianga.
“My Master, Craig Thompson, and I were in a club together called Tae Kwan Do. Craig decided there was more to Martial Arts than to follow just one form. He brought together a whole lot of elements which he felt made it more complete and more defence focussed.
Tao Do is a combination of martial art styles. “We have selected what we consider the most effective aspects,” says Tony. “China was the birthplace of martial arts, and we go back into that history to capture some of that. Tae Kwan do is Korean, Muay Thai and Moy Thai are Thai, Ju Jitsu and Karate are Japanese. We are defence focussed and self- defence focussed and not competitive. Some forms of Martial Arts do not portray the Asian concept of humility. We don’t have competitions as such. We have gradings. We have the pledge that we are supposed to live by - the normal morals, no harming anyone, no cheating no stealing. We only use the art for self-defence or for the defence of the weak. We do not accept violence.”
Back at his computers doing design at Mastercraft Kitchens, Tony says. “When a client sees the design we have developed from their input of ideas and descriptions and are pleased with it, we are satisfied.
“Tao Do has changed me. I have more focus for my work. I am giving back to the students now. It is a way of learning. You are always learning and your spiritual understanding of what you are doing is important. Often the goal is to become a Master Instructor. This is a western concept. The traditional martial arts are about being Master of oneself rather than being a Master of others. Being an instructor, I have learned to be able to get up in front of people and speak and teach. To be a good martial artist, you have to be able to leave behind your ego. That’s hard for anyone,” Tony concludes.
But when the finished kitchen stands there before them in their home, everything they envisaged and hopefully more, and I witness their joy, then I am a happy man.”
Caption: Tony instructing Tao Do at the Whitianga Town Hall.