TAMPA — Ethan Dillon was only 4 years old, but he decided he’d had enough.
His cousins, all older, liked to pick on him the way kids in most families do to the youngest of the bunch. Ethan decided to fight back.
They don’t pick on him anymore.
Ethan, now 14, is a three-time world champion in different degrees of martial arts. He has medaled in six different events and has his eyes on making a trip to Northwest Canada for world championships in an event sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Martial arts at Ethan’s level are not yet sanctioned as an Olympic sport, but might be by the time 2018 rolls around.
As a kid, Ethan was surrounded by older kids in his family. He started taking martial arts classes and found out that he didn’t have to take it anymore. There’s a reason everyone calls him “Ironman.”
Ethan lives in Lutz and is home schooled. He practices early in the morning, does his school work, and then practices until late into the evening. He is getting used to traveling and won those medals last year in Austria.
His mother, Melanie, said Ethan has always been an aggressive child.
“At family gatherings he was always kind of bullied,” Melanie said. “He started standing up to them and became a sort of policeman of the family. After awhile, even though he was younger, the family looked to him for protection. He’s still like a policeman in the neighborhood. He’s quiet and confident.”
At 5-6, 175 pounds, he is a big kid and knows he can handle any situation.
“I never start a fight but I know how to finish,” he said. “If I see two people having a problem I can step between them and they know it’s time to stop.”
Ethan is headed for ninth grade next year and still plans to remain home schooled, but there are a lot of high schools hoping to get him onto their wrestling team. He is zoned for Gaither High and he has interest in wrestling, but for now, it’s all about making it to Vancouver for the World Games to defend the titles he earned in Austria.
Ethan has a second degree black belt in a mix of karate, mixed martial arts fighting, kickboxing and ju-jitsu, along with performance kicks and experience with certain weapons. He’s already piling up the trophies and medals in addition to his induction into the Southeastern Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
“I come from a very competitive family,” Ethan said.
Melanie said she knows that when she watches Ethan competing that he’s going to get hit, sometimes hard. It comes with having a son fighting on a world stage.
“He’s always going to be my baby boy, but I like that he can defend himself,” Melanie said. “He gets hit and he gets hurt and that’s tough to watch, but he’s usually the one inflicting the most punishment.”
Even though Ethan said he doesn’t want to fight, he won’t back down.
“I don’t want to hurt anybody but I know a lot of people are scared of me,” Ethan said. “I only fight if I have to.”
Through fundraisers, Melanie said they have raised about $3,000 toward sending Ethan and his family to Vancouver for the World Games. They are still trying to raise another $1,200. XTreme Adventures in Lutz is hosting a spirit night Aug. 6 and other area businesses are getting into the mix.
Melanie said that Ethan will get to Vancouver — actually, it is in Richmond, B.C., about 20 miles outside of Vancouver — but she wants the family to be able to support both him and the team.
“It’s a big thing for us,” Melanie said. “A lot of people on the International Olympic Committee will be there to see if they can expand martial arts into the Olympics. It’s a big deal.”