Mansfield News-Mirror

‘Can’t is a bad word.’ Faith, persistence guide Texan to martial arts’ highest honor

Troy Dorsey first took up karate when he was 11 years old because he was being bullied at school. Dorsey, who has multiple world titles in boxing and kickboxing, will earn a 10th degree black belt on Nov. 15.
Troy Dorsey first took up karate when he was 11 years old because he was being bullied at school. Dorsey, who has multiple world titles in boxing and kickboxing, will earn a 10th degree black belt on Nov. 15. Special to the Star-Telegram

Troy Dorsey’s resume glistens with gold belts, world titles and intense fights. From Wembley Stadium in London to Las Vegas, he’s fought under the brightest lights and taken on the best fighters of his day, including Oscar De la Hoya.

His martial arts school has been a fixture of downtown Mansfield for 20 years, teaching his brand of American Tae Kwon Do to generations of children. The school also offers adult karate classes and fitness kickboxing. Before opening the Mansfield school, he taught 18 years at a martial arts school in Dallas.

Later this year, he’ll earn the highest honor a martial artist can receive, a 10th degree black belt.

Looking at his career, it’s easy to assume Dorsey has enjoyed nonstop success since he first stepped on a mat at age 11 at Jim Choate’s karate school in downtown Mansfield.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sitting down with the 5-foot, 3/4-inch Mansfield native, he’s always humble and quick to point out his faults and failures. Much of that can be attributed to his deep faith in Jesus Christ, a tenant that’s deeply embedded in his school.

He’s the first to admit that nothing has come easy, whether it’s his business, his fighting career or his personal life.

No matter what came his way, a consistent theme through his life is that he never, ever gave up.

“Persistence is the father of success,” Dorsey said. “You’ve got to keep pushing on and don’t let anybody else tell you that you can’t do it. If I had listened to them, I wouldn’t have been a world champion. Can’t is a bad word. We use it and abuse it and we believe it sometimes.”

Before he became Troy “The Destroyer” Dorsey, he was a scared fifth-grader getting bullied by other children at school. It’s that bullying that drove him to first try karate that summer.

Long before he became the first man to hold world titles in kickboxing and boxing concurrently, Dorsey struggled to even win a single tournament fight as a child. He endured several months of defeats before he finally won as a child. His parents kept encouraging him and, eventually, he built the confidence to persevere through a fight and win.

As an adult, he would train for fights throughout the United States and Europe, while his wife Leslie Dorsey was running his school, paying the bills and raising their two daughters, Kendra and Shelly.

The commute to Dallas started taking a toll on the Dorseys in the 1990s, though.

“Then, my wife said, ‘Why don’t we try to open a school here in Mansfield?’” Dorsey said. “I actually never thought of it. It was a huge relief.”

Troy Dorsey and his father spent weekends converting an old downtown building into a karate studio and it opened in 1999.

After a lifetime of broken hands, busted noses and other serious injuries, Dorsey decided his full contact days were over and he retired in 1999.

“All the striking I’m doing has kind of taken a toll on my body,” Dorsey said. “I didn’t want to do any more beating on my body.”

But you can’t keep a good fighter down.

Dorsey took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu about 12 years ago with Travis Lutter in Fort Worth. He loves the wrestling, takedowns and submissions but even a legendary fighter like Dorsey didn’t breeze through the belts — it took him about 10 years to earn a black belt. Again, his persistence paid off.

On Aug. 26, the Mansfield City Council declared it Troy Dorsey Week in the city of Mansfield to honor their native son and recognize his school that’s been in business on Main Street for 20 years.

“In celebrating the 20th anniversary of Troy Dorsey Karate, the city of Mansfield offers a congratulations to Troy and expresses its gratitude for his commitment to the sport and to the Mansfield community as a whole,” the proclamation read.

Mayor David Cook thanked Dorsey for his commitment to the city’s youth.

“Our community is a better place because he is here each and every day,” Cook said at the Aug. 26 council meeting.

But there are still mountains to climb.

After more than 45 years in martial arts, Dorsey will earn his 10th degree black belt Nov. 15 from Grand Master Allen Steen of Dallas. The test for 10th degree black belt isn’t as much a physical test, as most people think of black belt tests, but a holistic view of the person and what they have done to advance life lessons of honor, respect and courage to their students.

“I’m reaching one of my lifelong goals,” Dorsey said. “To be able to continue to teach about respect, discipline, the dangers of drugs and alcohol and share my love of Jesus Christ.”

Walk into Dorsey’s studio on a weekday afternoon and you’ll see fists and feet flying as dozens of children work on their martial arts skills.

April Miller has been taken her son Joey, 7, to the studio at least two times a week for more than a year.

“I think this has given him a lot of confidence that he otherwise wouldn’t have had,” April said. “He likes the whole self-defense aspect and learning the techniques to help defend himself. I like that he teaches real practical things that could happen every single day … I think that’s insanely important in today’s day and age.”

Tara Quinn has been taking her son Connor Quinn, 10, to Dorsey for 2 years. Connor watches Dorsey’s fights on YouTube.

“Troy is his hero. He just thinks he hung the moon because he loves Jesus and he loves karate,” Quinn said. “We just love that he incorporates his faith and his convictions into everything he does.”

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