Lutz resident headed to Canada for martial arts games

Ethan Dillon has a trip to Canada planned for later this year. He’ll probably pack a jacket and some long-sleeve shirts.

He’ll also bring his three black belts.

Ethan Dillon, 14, of Lutz, will represent the United States at the TAFISA World Martial Arts Games in September. (Michael Murillo/Staff Photo)

Ethan Dillon, 14, of Lutz, will represent the United States at the TAFISA World Martial Arts Games in September.
(Michael Murillo/Staff Photo)

Dillon, 14, of Lutz, is one of 60 martial arts athletes selected to represent the United States at The Association For International Sport for All World Martial Arts Games, Sept. 3-7 at The Olympic Oval in Richmond, British Columbia. TAFISA has had World Games every year since 1992, but September will be the organization’s first world games dedicated specifically to martial arts.

Dillon owns a first-degree black belt from Krav Maga Martial Arts, a second-degree black belt from Extreme Martial Arts and a second-degree black belt from Lee Jacobs Christian Karate. His disciplines include karate, mixed martial arts, jiu-jitsu, tae kwan do and Krav Maga, a self-defense program used by the Israeli Defense Forces.

He also has a couple of green belts and a white-yellow belt to round out his collection.

While he earns plenty of accolades, Dillon spends little time dwelling on them.

“I don’t look at it too long because there’s always someone out there trying to get that, and if I want it I’m going to have to fight for it,” he said.

When he travels to Canada, he’ll fight to defend three world titles he won at the organization’s 2012 World Games in Austria. TAFISA, which is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Olympic Committee, operates under a “sports for all” philosophy, and includes adult and child competitors of both genders.

Dillon competes in both matches against opponents and through kata, a display of choreographed patterns of movements by himself. Of the two, it’s the one he does alone that’s hardest for him to master.

“I enjoy the kata. It’s a challenge, just because the way my head is, I don’t remember stuff very easily,” he said.

Dillon has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, making it sometimes harder for him to focus or remain still for long periods of time. But his mother, Melony Dillon, said that a decade of martial arts has given Ethan a great deal of discipline and improved his concentration, allowing him to excel in areas on and off the mat.

Even his behavior and attitude is better than most of his peers.

“I have to say, he’s probably one of the better teenagers around,” she said. “I see a young man growing into being a really great young man. Not just with martial arts, but on the whole, being a nice productive citizen.”

Dillon’s productivity on the mat requires a lot of effort and a busy schedule. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Dillon works on traditional martial arts. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, it’s mixed martial arts, a sport that has gained popularity over the years due to high-profile professional leagues such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Fridays are private lessons, and Saturdays are spent with team training.

Most of those days also include weight training, and Dillon has to fit his education in during the school year as well. Dillon is home-schooled, which allows him some flexibility with his schedule. But even his day off, Sunday, is often spent doing some physical activity, like paintball or swimming.

Martial arts also has taken a toll on his body. Dillon has torn ligaments in his right foot and broken his left foot. But he’s always eager to get back from an injury, doing whatever work he can while he heals.

His fighting injuries might take a greater toll on his mother than Dillon himself. While Melony is supportive of her son’s martial arts career, and travels with him to other countries to watch him compete, she hasn’t gotten totally comfortable with watching him get hit.

“It’s really hard sometimes when he’s fighting for me to put my mom hat over here and not go, oh jeez, my son just got hit really bad,” she said.

While it can be tough on his mother, getting hit isn’t usually a problem for Dillon. In fact, he likes to give his opponent the first strike, so he can absorb the first blow and proceed with his own attack unfazed by his opponent.

“It wakes me up, actually,” Dillon said. “I actually laugh sometimes when I get hit.”

Getting hit in Canada is expected, but it also will be expensive. For Ethan and Melony to make the trip, they’ll need around $4,500 to cover basics like equipment and uniforms, flight and lodging.

After fundraising efforts, he still needs to come up with around $1,200 by the end of July.

Dillon’s family goes to a lot of effort to fulfill his busy schedule, with weekly trips to Lakeland, Odessa and Sarasota for training. His 7-year-old sister, Emma Dillon, and his grandmother, Betty Dillon, are also big supporters.

While he works hard to excel and gain recognition, it’s his family’s support that helps keep him going.

“That helps quite a bit because I know that there are some families that push their kids to do this, and then there are other families that don’t even support their kids doing this at all,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”

For more information about Dillon and his fundraising, visit For information about TAFISA, visit

Published July 2, 2014

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