Imagine this scene: At a local karate tournament in 1976, Mr. Dillard is waiting for his chance to compete. He is a tall young man with blonde hair, wearing a traditional gi tied neatly with a black belt. As the color indicates, he is a skilled competitor. An Oklahoma City native, he began wrestling in his teens before being introduced to Korean martial arts and karate.
Mr. Dillard, called Mike by nearly everyone who knows him, is attending this tournament with more than one goal in mind. Sure, he’d love to collect another first-place ranking. However, his trip here today was a business venture as well as an athletic one. With him, in the back of his van, are dozens of karate uniforms as well as belts of all colors to sell.
Forty years later, Mr. Dillard’s business has gone from the back of a van, to a 650,000 square foot complex. His company, which he named Century Martial Arts, now houses an on-site warehouse, showroom, corporate offices, and a manufacturing facility. It serves customers all across the globe and offers more than 11,000 products.
“Century exists to serve you, the thousands of instructors who pour your heart and soul out each day into instilling life values and martial skills into your students young and old,” says Mr. Dillard. “You are the heroes of our story and it has been, and remains, our greatest honor to serve you these past forty years.”
PRE-1976 – Born and raised in Oklahoma, Century owner and founder Mr. Dillard began training as a wrestler in his teens before being introduced to Korean martial arts. He would later travel to places like India and South Korea to train. In 1973, he graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in accounting.
1976 – Mr. Dillard — then a first-degree black belt and regional karate champion — begins selling quality uniforms out of his garage.
1976 – Century moves into a small shopping center located in south Oklahoma City.
1977 – Century is incorporated; becoming an official
1977 – Bill “Superfoot” Wallace becomes a Century endorser. Mr. Wallace held the Professional Karate Association (PKA) Middleweight Champion title in full-contact kickboxing for nearly six years before retiring with an undefeated record in 1980.
1978 – The company is moved to a 5,000-square-foot facility in Del City, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City.
1982 – Century moves into its current location just west of Oklahoma City in Midwest City. The facility was originally 50,000 square feet but has since expanded more than tenfold.
1985 – The Century Quality Assurance Program continues to expand. Century products continually undergo rigorous testing to ensure quality and consistency.
1989 – Mr. Dillard wins his first National Championship as a black belt. He would win his second in 1991.
1989 – Custom screen printing options become available through Century.
1990 – The Ironman Uniform is introduced. Developed with the help of World Champion judo and sambo practitioner Ron Tripp, the Ironman was one of the first upscale, ultra-heavyweight uniforms.
1992 – Mr. Dillard is promoted to 5th degree black belt by United Fighting Arts Federation (UFAF).
1994 – Century opens an in-house martial arts studio for employees to train martial arts while at the same time testing and developing products.
1995 – Century launches the world’s first freestanding bag, the Wavemaster® , and revolutionizes the training bag industry.
1995 – With a newly launched website, Century is an “internet leader”, offering online resources, articles, and the ability to order products.
1998 – The first training bag mannequin, BOB® Body Opponent Bag, was created to make training workouts more realistic. BOB has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies, making it Century’s most famous product.
1999 – Century announces their partnership with the popular fitness system Tae-Bo. The partnership would continue until around 2003.
2000 – Century expands its headquarters to more than 650,000 square feet, comprised of manufacturing and warehouse space, offices, and a showroom.
2001 – The Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA) is formed, which aims to educate school owners and instructors in building the business of martial arts.
2001 – The first issue of MASuccess Magazine is published in November. It is the official publication of MAIA.
2002 – MAIA holds the inaugural Martial Arts SuperShow in Las Vegas. The annual show has become the largest martial arts tradeshow in the world.
2005 – The Martial Arts International Federation promotes Mr. Dillard to 6th dan in taekwondo.
2006 – Century partners with the UFC® (Ultimate Fighting Championship® ) to produce branded fight gear, including the Official Fight Gloves worn in the Octagon® .
2006 – Century partners with fight gear brand TapouT® .
2007 – A partnership with Adidas makes Century the U.S. and Canadian distributor of an exclusive line of boxing gear and apparel.
2009 – Century participates for the first time in the UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas. Century continues its presence at annual UFC Fan Expos across the country today.
2011 – Mr. Dillard is named “Man of the Year” in the August issue of Black Belt magazine.
2012 – Legendary MMA coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn partner with Century to work on product testing and innovation.
2013 – Century partners with PHIT America (Personal Heath Investment Today) to increase physical activity in local communities and schools, and to educate Americans on the benefits of fitness.
2013 – The Versys™ line is launched, consisting of five new fight simulator bags (two of which are made especially for youth). The most versatile training bag system on the market, Versys is ideal for stand-up techniques, ground work, grappling, group exercises, and more.
2014 – Partnering with IMMAF (International Mixed Martial Arts Federation) for its first-ever World Championships, Century provides the official fight gloves and uniforms for each IMMAF fighter.
2014 – Century Women’s Professional Fit gloves are released, designed specifically for the longer, narrower female fist. The gloves create a more comfortable and efficient training experience for women in martial arts.
2014 – After years of research and development, Century releases the revolutionary Tegu Headgear, featuring an innovative design never before seen in martial arts training gear.
2014 – Mr. Dillard is inducted into the Masters Hall of Fame and given the Golden Lifetime Achievement Award.
2015 – Century partners with Team Paul Mitchell Karate, becoming the organization’s official equipment and apparel provider. Members of Team Paul Mitchell Karate vary in age and discipline, demonstrating their elite skills in sport karate competition individually and as a team around the world.
2015 – Century teams up with Brazilian-born martial artist and American Top Team co-founder Ricardo Liborio, becoming his official equipment and apparel provider.
Over the years, Century has developed relationships with countless martial artists from around the globe. Here are just some of the many who have been sponsors and endorsers of Century products.
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