by Erica Linthorst
Tall in stature, hugely reputable as a lawyer, and a man among men in the Tae Kwon Do world: this is a thumbnail sketch of Senior Master Anto Nobilo, ITF eighth-dan of Zagreb, Croatia.
I first learned of Anto Nobilo when scrolling around the Internet. I came upon something called “Pro-Taekwon-Do.” One click led to another and a YouTube video of an amazing series of professional TKD sparring bouts with a final prize of $50,000! I was greatly excited by the prospect of meeting this promoter, when I traveled to Croatia.
Once there, I made a special trip to Zagreb to meet him, questions and camera in hand. I was prepared to meet the organizer of such a new event on the scene of so many worldwide TKD and other martial arts tournaments and championships. Instead, the man I met is truly large in his vast and astounding accomplishments, achievements, and awards.
Notably, Nobilo is a lawyer who was sent by the Croatian government to represent the country and serve as defense for one of the Croatian generals during the post-war period in the 1990s at the International Court of The Hague for eight years. This speaks to his outstanding sensitive perception and ability to communicate convincingly.
As a martial artist, he has more than 40 years of involvement in Tae Kwon Do. In addition to the many tournaments in which he has personally competed, Nobilo, parenthetically, shows his award for becoming World Champion Veteran in the over 50-year-old category. In the same display case with his many photos and trophies, he shows me two books he has written: one on sport TKD and the other on self-defense. A man of action, he springs up to illustrate some of his remarkably swift offensive and defensive moves.
Significant as well, he now sits as President of the ITF European Commission. On top of all this, he is currently a member of the Coordinating Committee of the ITF and WTF merger–the only non-Korean participant. As fans and readers, you will know about the ongoing efforts to draw the WTF and ITF closer in the hopes of developing a revised and forward-looking plan for the unified globalization of TKD. Nobilo is extremely proud to sit with such a group and continue the positive work toward this end. I can tell that his artful negotiation skills will be all-important in this endeavor.
Senior Master Anto Nobilo is a man who is both passionate about TKD and has a vision for its future. During the interview, he sits on the edge of his chair, explaining animatedly where he has come from, and his perspective and dreams.
For him, the connection begins in 1964, when Park Sun-Jae of the ITF Institute based in Rome visits Croatia to present TKD seminars. Nobilo was fascinated by “the intriguing techniques and forms” and over Park’s next few visits became an aficionado, happy to train with his youthful cohorts on their own. For the most part, they had come from kickboxing and had great admiration and affinity for the “organized and demanding traditions” of TKD.
In the 1970s-80s, Nobilo served as coach of his national team and began to seriously analyze TKD as it is was known and practiced in Croatia and especially as seen in the tournament styles around the world. As war pressed near in that region, there was little that could be done in martial arts. In fact, Nobilo remembers that many practice areas were “redirected for use by refugees and immigrants.” For the most part, the practice of martial arts and other sports virtually ground to a halt. As the strife diminished and as the country began to get back on a peaceful footing, once again TKD could flourish.
Nobilo recalls that it was about ten years ago that he began to synthesize and focus his ideas about TKD. He felt that TKD in Croatia was not coming back as strongly as he had hoped because the public had lost interest. He gave the following reasons:
Tournaments tended to be very large (too many participants) and too long
(lasting 10-12 hours). He believed that there was no way the public would
Since television covers so many professional sports (but not TKD) it
was therefore becoming more difficult to maintain a fan base.
And so he developed a plan that ultimately became Pro-Taekwon-Do and started to shop it around. Nobilo was certain that “with one of the largest amateur bases in the world, TKD can develop into a professional sport.”
Because he was so determined to make this happen, it was in 2007 that he and a group of his supporters were able to organize Croatia Round Zero, inviting eight of the best TKD and kickboxing world heavy weight fighters to compete. There was TV coverage and a $30,000 prize purse, some sponsorship and airfare and accommodations for the fighters. Seeing the positive effects from the event, planning began immediately for follow-up tournaments and elimination rounds (2008) to be held in Argentina, North Carolina, St. Petersburg, Maribor (Slovenia, EU), and Blagoevgrad (Bulgaria, EU).
In December 2008, those winners along with Andrey Krylov (‘07 champ) and Raymond Daniels (of the USA on special invitation) met in Zagreb, Croatia, at the “World Final One” all vying for the $50,000 reward money.
The true nature of Nobilo becomes evident when he relates that in these tough economic times he singly supported this professional TKD tournament with $300,000 of his own money. He modestly allows that he will do so again to guarantee success and make his vision come true. Nobilo says he is looking for greater support from the USA and hopes that when this falls into place, then the world at large will witness a truly energetic, exciting, and technique-filled event of major proportion.
On the eve of writing this article, the author was told that April 10, 2009 Senior Master Anto Nobilo will be inducted into the Tae Kwon Do Hall of Fame in New Jersey to honor all his efforts to popularize and expand the best of TKD throughout the world. It was a major honor to have met this mover and shaker and I look ahead eagerly to the growth of his vision.
For the best information on Pro-Taekwon-Do, please go to www.pro-taekwon-do.com or contact Senior Master Anto Nobilo directly at firstname.lastname@example.org