Thomas John (T.J.), born on September 19, 1983 in Grande Prairie, is the youngest of Mary and Danny Antonio’s children. He has three siblings; Theresa, Walter and Catherine. T.J. was raised on the family farm in an area of Bezanson known as East Kleskun and attended the Bezanson Consolidated School.
T.J. was introduced to martial arts by his uncle, James Repetowski, at the very young age of 5. His uncle instructed him in the basic movements in “Wing Chun” and “Chinese Kenpo”. Over the years, he continued the sport and at age 19, he moved into his uncle’s home in Grande Prairie and attended St. Joseph’s High School for upgrading. It was at that point that he decided to train more seriously; therefore, a home gym was set-up thus enabling him to train and refine his practice schedule. It soon became apparent that not only was T.J. very talented, but that he also needed to further his training. Close friends of the family, the Mah’s, advised T.J.’s uncle that there were Martial Art Schools in China that had recently opened their doors to foreign students who wanted to attend long-term studies and attain official accreditation at the same time. A decision was made for T.J. to attend for a year to focus on self-improvement of body and mind.
In 2006, T.J. was enrolled and attended the Northern China Si Ping City Shaolin Marital Arts Academy. The school, owned by Che Wen Long, was sponsored by the Shaolin Temple. The first year encompassed the study of Traditional Shaolin Martial Arts, Taoist Meditation and Qi Gong from the Wu Dang School where he studied under the tutelage of Zhang Xiao Gao who was the top graduate of the Shaolin Wu Shi Guan. During this time, T.J. became the Elder Brother (group leader) for the Traditional Shaolin Group and the Meditation Group. As the “elder”, T.J. was responsible for instructing his fellow students.
T.J. spent the next few years travelling back and forth between Asia and Canada, training and saving for extended periods of study in China and Thailand. During that time, he studied a variety of martial arts; however, focused on study within the Traditional Shaolin, Yang Tai Ji, San Da (Chinese kickboxing), Muay Thai, Bare Knuckle Boxing and various forms of grappling and wrestling. T.J. eventually concentrated on Baji which earned him the moniker “Bodyguard Style”. This sub-style of Baji was from the Huo Branch under Master Li Shun Xiao, descending from Huo Dian Ge, who was the bodyguard of the last emperor of China.
During T.J.’s last period of study, he became the Elder Brother of the Academy, and acted as the student liaison and coach in the Northern China Si Ping City Martial Arts Academy. Here he instructed Baji, kickboxing, and standing grappling.
As Elder Brother, it was a requirement that T.J. represent the Academy in competition; however, as he was a foreigner, he was not allowed to compete in San Da events. However, T.J. earned three gold medals in Talou (form) for the three provincial level competitions in which he was entered.
T.J. attained his 4th Duan Wei in Baji (degree black belt) in 2014.
T.J. returned to Canada in 2015 and found employment as a security professional in the Vancouver area. His position required him to provide security for festivals, special events and night clubs. He eventually transitioned into Film; working on props and set decoration. T.J.’s goal is to one day; pass down his wealth of knowledge and incredible skills in martial arts to the next generation.
T.J. is a very talented athlete whose skills and accomplishments will be talked about and praised by local residents for years to come.
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Written by Wanda Zenner
Information provided by T.J. Antonio
Interview with Mary Antonio – mother
Photos by T.J. Antonio