Taekwondo’s Powerful Princess Set To Become A Movie Queen! S ome people really do seem to have the World at their feet and one such star is Zara Phythian. At only 21 years of age, this multi-talented young lady has already achieved so much, including 12 World titles with four different governing bodies. A personal student of Master Vic Marke at his school of champions, this stunning athlete is now beginning to make her mark in the competitive entertainment industry, with music videos, modelling and acting. TKD caught up with this star of the future for an exclusive interview.
Zara, could you reveal to our readers a little bit about your extensive background in the Martial Arts?
Well, I began my training just over 12 years ago. I come from a very sport- orientated family, my three sisters are very talented athletes (specialising in swimming), but at the time I was a lot more reserved and quiet, and not really excelling too well on the sports side. One day, I went along to Mick Tucker’s Shotokan class with my dad, and surprisingly from then on I became hooked on the Martial Arts and haven’t looked back since. Throughout the early years of my training, and to this day, my dad has always supported my ambitions within the arts, as have the rest of my family and friends.
Around six years ago I began training with, now Personal Instructor, Master Vic Marke and began studying Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing and, as of late, Wushu at the School of Champions here in Nottingham.
I have also been very fortunate to travel Internationally to study systems such as Yi Tsung, San Ryu Do,
Kimoodo, and I have trained under Master Tim Foyster in Ho Shin Sul.
What would you say your core style is? Tae Kwon Do is my base traditional style, but yes, I cross train a lot. As you may remember I have said before, I feel that multi-style training gives me that competitive edge and develops me further as an all-round athlete. I hold a 3rd Dan (ITF Style) with Master Marke, and 3rd Dan (WTF Style) under Snr. Grand- Master J P Choi. I also hold black belts in Shotokan Karate, San Ryu Do, Freestyle Kickboxing, Yi Tsung and a black sash certification in I.C.B.A Wushu, with Sifu Glen Hallam. However, Tae kwon do is my main training system. At our school, I also study Mike Chat’s XMA Programme with Samantha Levey, Master Marke and the P.T.X Team.
And you’re a full time Instructor as well? Hahaha! Yes. I teach and manage a full time Academy in Gedling, Nottingham – a branch of the School of Champions. At present, we have around 130 students at the Gedling Academy studying Tae Kwon Do, fitness Kickboxing and Combat Sport Weaponry. In addition, of course, I work as an Indie Actress/ Screen fighter- part time, thus far.
I remember you winning in impressive style at the Combat 2003, Plus your unique all-round ability; Point fighting, Kata, Weapons etc… Back then I said I would keep an eye on your growth, and rightly so. You’ve had and amazing past 3 years-12 World Titles?
Yes. Since Combat, I’ve been fortunate to have travelled and competed all over the world with Team GBR (www.teamgbrkick.com) Mexico (twice),
Jamaica, Italy (twice). USA (four times), Germany, Spain – It’s been a real adventure over the last 3 years. I have some fantastic memories and many great new friends etc. Of course, it’s great being able to compete here now and again, home in the UK, when I get chance (he-he-he).
Training and competing with Team GBR has been a hugely influential experience and learning curve for me. I love Martial Arts and I love competing too, and to have the opportunity to meet legends like Jhoon Rhee, Eric Lee, and Snr Grand- Master Choi has been a real inspiration.
You’ve invested a lot of time and finance I would imagine in competing abroad. Why is this? I just love the International circuit! Not that there’s any-thing wrong with the circuit here, but I just love some of the events like the Arnold Schwarzenegger Games, the WOMAA Worlds, from the atmosphere to the organisation, it suits be better for what I want to achieve and be a part of. I personally think most of our tournament circuits here are much tougher in certain areas. However, for me, competing as I do in Forms, Weapons, Sports Weapons and Point fighting, I really like the opportunity to have a good go as an athlete in each of these divisions/areas.
Can you elaborate?
Sure, lets take the Arnold Games for instance. Because the forms divisions are, lets say, in the morning, I can break and then get ready for
Weapons in the afternoon, allowing the next day for me to totally focus on point fighting. I find I can make a good representation of myself, as I treat each category of competition equally. Over here I tend to not give 100% performance in one category simply because I burn out giving 100% in earlier events like forms. Most events abroad, be it a local or National event, have 2 or 3 days of tournament, so it suits me better. But as I say, we have the best here.
Three Years of International Tournaments, plus making a bit of a name for yourself in the states, you must have some favourite moments?
I have met some great people, but Shannon Lee always stands out for me. Meeting Bruce Lee’s daughter at a Hall of Fame Banquet at the Arnold’s, she was so down to earth and gave me great advice on moving into the media Industry.
You won the WOMAA Triple Grand Champion Ring last year in Germany. How did that feel? Awesome! Bringing home 3 World Champion rings is something I will always cherish. Also, my team-mate
Samantha Levey took a World Title Ring too, and my stu-dents Daniel Sanders and Jonathon Matlock took home bronze medals. It was a great event and I’m looking for-ward to the WOMAA World Games in Costa Rica this summer.
You have been venturing into movies and music videos etc as an actress. How did that come about? I was at the 2004 USA National Title Belt Championships in Cleveland, myself and top team com-petitor Kayley Marke took home 8 Title Belts between us, It was wicked! Anyway, a producer approached me after one of my performances- I was very surprised. At the time I was already involved in a project (still in development) with Alan Chan and David Grago in the states, the pro-ducer gave me his card and I thought nothing of it. Once back home he contacted me and wanted me for a small part which, after a few show reels and script re-writes turned out to be a supporting lead role in a USA Indie Sci-Fi movie called ‘Crops’.
Through this I was invited as a guest Demo at the USA Indie Film Gathering Festival, where after a good perfor-mance (it had to be! LOL) and good networking, other US projects fell my way. I also received US representation from Alan Goldberg, who is linked with Cynthia Rothrock and
Don ‘Dragon’ Wilson, and signed with producer Owen Ratliff for future projects like ‘Black Salt’ and ‘Pikie’.
So, you’ve been busy making movies? I spent 7 weeks in the
USA last year, over two production dates, com pleting ‘Crops’ and a music video called ‘Under Control’. ‘Crops’ should be released in the spring. I’ve also completed UK video ‘End of Anger’ with Rhys Hayward and by the time you read this, should have finished a UK cult horror called ‘Summer of the Massacre 2’, though I’m not sure of it’s release date. 2005 was a very busy year for me with film projects and competing abroad.
Yes, you are a very busy young woman. How is 2006 panning out for you, media wise? I am off to Pakistan to star in a Mian Film’s Lollywood Action Film, then return to the UK to shoot our own ‘Chameleon’. Hopefully, by the summer, all will be completed and I am off to USA or China to shoot a humdinger of a movie called ‘Black Salt’. I am really looking forward to all these projects, as I am still learning in this Industry, although I am making sure I enjoy every minute of it.
Can you tell us more about your involve-ment in the ‘Black Salt’ Project? Sure. ‘Black Salt’ is the brainchild of Owen Ratliff and Aries Productions. ‘It is also a very different approach to a movie’ as Owen would say, in the fact that he is producing it in reverse. ‘Black Salt’ has been in development for the last 3 years. They have developed all of the branding and merchandise first, and then started a grass-root promotion campaign to create a demand for the project, including heavy Internet marketing. Today, the script is completed (and excellent it is too!) and they are at the final Pre-production stage with Investors and major actors for lead roles. I was spotted by the ‘Black Salt’ production and marketing team at the US Indie Film Festival last Year, originally I signing as their apparel model and Demo per-r former. As things grew, and Master Marke also getting involved, I was fortunate to recently receive a supporting role in the film. I am to play ‘LEVINE’, an elite member of a US Seal – type team. The budget is a healthy one and I am really looking forward, and fortunate, to be involved.
Are you planning to compete as well, bearing all of this development in your career in mind? I have had to cut down a lot regarding competing, but for this season, I will still be competing at one of my favourite events – the WOMAA Games, this year held in Costa Rica. Also, in October, I go to Trinidad & Tobago for the Pan Caribbean Games and I am hoping to go to the US open, but that’s it. This allows me to train hard for all three events, but also concentrate on the rest of my career.
You are going to be writing for Combat soon, concerning weight training in martial arts. How did that come about?
I got in contact with Combat after a potential article for a fitness magazine, which wanted me to do a training programme on weight training
attributes for Martial Arts. It dawned on me that I get a few females in the martial arts asking me for advice about my training regime with I weights. Why not bring it to Combat rather than a fitness magazine? I know many female martial artists that are interested in this addi- tional training to complement their art.
So, you believe weight – training has a part in the conditioning of a martial artist? Oh very much so. For me, I’ve been lucky to have both Master Marke and Owen Neil (formerly a Mr Universe Competitor) advise and train me with a professional programme designed around maximising my performance, not only as a competitor in fighting and forms, but as a martial artist in general. Different methods of training pro-vide great assistance and conditioning for various Martial Art styles, or even martial athletes. A basic knowledge of training should be available to all martial artists, whether they compete or not. For me, the weights are as important as my stretching programme, forms training programme or sparring workouts. The articles I am covering are aimed at women, and will cover explosive speed enhancement and power developing techniques through weight training.
I hear you have received sponsorship recently? Oh yeah, I have received fantastic support from Quality martial arts LTD, Sport Nottingham and also Vic Marke’s Chi Media LTD.
MAR and Sport Nottingham have provided me with a personal P.R Peugeot 206, equipment among other great deals and financial support, with which
I’m so very thankful for. Vic’s Chi Media has been a solid rock for me to develop into the media industry, providing in-house training and short movies for me to work on. I am also involved with Ray Szuch and the World Stunt Association (WSA), who sponsor my WSA Screen Fighter
Without these kind sponsors, I really wouldn’t be able to do what I have done and to continue to do.