BLACK BELT HALL OF FAME VIDEO 2011 Man of the Year: Michael Dillard
CENTURY. Today this name is synonymous with martial art supplies and manufacturing leadership on a global scale. Today it is a company based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, housed in a 650,000 square-foot plant containing its sewing, shipping, receiving operations, administrative office and call center—strategically organized to oversee the production and distribution of more than 2,500 products: uniforms, training gear and accessories for boxing, fitness—and, of course, the martial arts. Thirty-five years ago, however, this operation was but a gleam in the eye of one man… a martial artist with a passion for his sport, and a passion for life... … a man named Michael Dillard. Dillard’s path started early, where more than one run-in with bullies and nefarious characters prompted this Oklahoma native to start training as a wrestler in his early teens. A wrestling buddy introduced him to the Korean martial arts, and at that moment a fire was lit. Dillard immersed himself in traditional martial arts training, exploring taekwondo, jujitsu, Okinawan and Japanese karate, as well as judo. Dillard competed for the first time in 1969 and went on to compete in more than 300 tournaments. Working his way through college, he taught martial arts at Oklahoma State University and then drove to California, where he met Chuck Norris and other great fighters whom he’d read about in the pages of Black Belt magazine.
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In the mid-1970s, a trip to Korea for more martial arts training proved to be the turning point in Dillard’s life. He realized that Korean martial arts uniforms were superior in quality and fit compared to American uniforms at the time. Dillard seized the opportunity. Working out of his parents’ home, Dillard imported the superior Korean uniforms for domestic distribution, tailoring them a bit larger to properly fit American martial artists. And so began Century Martial Art Supply... Century’s early ads in Black Belt featured Dillard’s image, but he quickly figured out that having pictures of Chuck Norris and Bill Wallace sold more uniforms. And as Century’s business and reputation for quality grew, so did the talent associated with the company. As the years turned into decades, Century would evolve from selling imported uniforms to manufacturing and distributing a wide array of martial arts training gear used by both traditional martial artists and mixed martial artists.
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And as the company evolved, so did the man and his vision. Dillard’s success with Century gave him the resources to give back to his best customers: the schools, the instructors—the very places and people that gave Dillard his start on his martial arts journey. Dillard created the Martial Arts Industry Association, the Martial Arts SuperShow and began publishing maSUCCESS magazine with one goal in mind: to spread the positive impact of martial arts based on his core belief that the martial arts changes lives. Nowhere is the idea of “change” more evident than in the life of Michael Dillard. His has been an amazing life, and it’s far from finished. There are more products to launch, more instructors to train, and more children to energize and inspire. In recognition of all he has accomplished and will accomplish as a leader, luminary and longstanding champion of the martial arts industry… ... for his decades of progressive achievement as a visionary who has shaped the martial arts as a sport, as an enterprise, and as a career path for others in his wake... ... Black Belt is proud to induct Michael Dillard into its Hall of Fame as the 2011 Man of the Year.