Anthony Kelly is becoming a household name and has helped to put Armidale on the world stage as one of Guinness Records’ top acts. We talk to him about his life and find out how it feels to be chosen as the 2009 Armidale Citizen of the Year.
Describe your upbringing …
I was born in Armidale in 1964 to Sam and Kitty Kelly (née Simpson, now Cooper). My family have been here for five generations. My brothers are George (deceased), Bob, Pat, Peter, Bernie and my younger sisters are Margie and Kath.
My Grandfather was George Kelly, who was a famous bushman of the district, and he was well known for his secret fox poison and his hunting skills. I grew up going shooting and hunting with Pop and learned from a young age about the ways of the bush.
I have been tested for my reflex skills by scientists in Belgium, and they say that my skills are inherited (those who knew my grandfather could attest to that).
My father Sam and his brother Edgar started Kelly’s Transport in 1948, and then Dad opened the Shell Depot, which was in Niagara Street. Most of my childhood was spent in trucks, and I thought I would grow up to be a cool truckie like my cousins.
In 1985, after travelling and working around Australia, I was on my way back to Armidale when I met my dear wife Christine Shing in Newcastle and fell in love. We have been married for 19 years and have a 17 year old son, Taylor.
Christine and I are Learning Support Officers. Christine works at Armidale High School and I work at Duval High School. We are both proud of the work we do in schools and hope that we make a difference to the children with whom we work.
> How does it feel to be voted Australia Day’s Armidale Citizen of the Year?
I’m quite overwhelmed. Look, I am just me and I don’t think that I deserve such an honour, but in saying that, this award means everything to me. I promise fellow Armidalians that I will continue working hard in the community to make this place the best place to live in the world.
> What records have you broken lately?
The last record I set was catching tennis balls from a machine doing 135 kmph in Beijing, China last November, and the record before that was in Athens, Greece during October doing 100 punches in 9.3 seconds – that’s 10.8 punches per second.
I love showing off and pushing my boundaries as far as possible, but I also understand that there are limits to my capabilities, and I certainly don’t have a death wish. My Dad died when I was young, and that impacted greatly on my life. I think a lot about how he died at a young age, and if it happens to me then I want to be able to know that I got every last ounce out of my life that I could.
I’m working on my most difficult record to date (that’s when I have the time and courage to train). The record is verging on the impossible for me. It’s extremely hard, frustrating, compelling and dangerous. It has all the hall marks to be a fantastic Guinness World Record.
> How often do you travel abroad and why?
I travel up to 10 times per year to countries all over the world to appear on TV shows. I am one of Guinness Records’ top acts and that keeps me very busy, as they have many shows around the world. I also appear on TV shows that want to display unusual skills. My displays of catching objects that fly over 200 kmph are right up there with the unusual.
I never dreamed when I was a little boy growing up in Armidale that I would see some of the world’s great wonders. It has also been unreal to meet some of the world’s tallest, shortest and hairiest people. It’s quite bizarre (but common) for me to be walking down the street in some foreign country with people like the most pierced girl in the world.
It’s very hard for me to adjust to my TV life. Staying in a country where I don’t speak the language and not understanding the customs has been a real life changing experience.
The one thing I now tell all the kids I work with is you don’t need to live in the big city to fulfill your dreams. You can fly out of Armidale and go around the other side of the world and back in a week.
> How’s your Kung Fu business going?
Excellent. The club is at full capacity; I couldn’t be happier. I have some of the nicest, most dedicated students I’ve ever had, and they are a joy to instruct. My students range from 6 years old to students in their 40s.
The classes have been so popular. Not only do you learn an authentic Kung Fu style, but you also receive a fantastic workout of mind, body and soul. The class dynamics have changed over the recent years, with a higher number of females participating now.
Last year I became the Martial Art Industry Association’s Regional Instructor. The association was developed as part of the Government Accredited Coaches Scheme. I’m pleased to see that most people in the district have become accredited coaches, but am still surprised that many people are doing martial arts without any qualifications or insurance. My advice is, always check that instructors have formal training and have some level of competency.
Plans for the future?
Well, I hope that I can teach Kung Fu for many years. After all the years I’ve put into it, I’m just starting to get some understanding of what’s going on. It is my dream that one day some of my students will teach and pass on some of my training ideas and put their own stamp on the martial arts.
In the near future I am planning a big Guinness World Record day in Armidale during November. My plan is to have Armidale’s school children participate in a large record attempt.
I will also be inviting other record holders from around the country to come and participate in breaking records. The idea I have is to generate publicity for Armidale and give our children some inspiration.
> Thank you Anthony.
Thanks Armidale for all the support you have given me.
I am, you are, we are Armidalians!
Readers can visit Anthony’s website at www.anthonykelly.com.au