A 24 hour gym and training complex is set to open in the old apple shed adjacent to the carwash north of the Huonville town centre, with former Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) contender Shaw ‘Almighty’ Dean and his wife Kirrilee Dean working hard with Huon Valley Council (HVC) to complete the appropriate permits to allow construction to get underway.
Shaw is well-known in mixed martial arts (MMA) circles, an early adopter of the sport in Tasmania after starting out in kung fu as a teenager, going on to compete internationally in South Africa’s EFC competition, still ranked highly amongst Australian MMA fighters.
Shaw and Kirrilee together ran Hybrid Training Centre in Hobart for three years and are local fight promoters through their company Tasmanian Fighting Championships (TFC).
After an 18-month stint in Sydney for work, the couple returned to Tasmania looking for opportunities in the Huon Valley where Shaw grew up.
“I’ve always loved martial arts, but they didn’t really have much going on down here back when I was growing up,” said Shaw.
“So, I have always wanted to bring it back here.”
“And we’ve got five kids,” adds Kirilee.
“Torvi’s our youngest and we have four older sons and we want them to grow up here.”
After successfully promoting three TFC events in 2019, showcasing amateur and professional kickboxers, MMA fighters and super grapplers, and opening a small workout gym in the Huon Arcade in early 2020, COVID pulled the rug from under the Dean family.
“We only had quite a small space, which put people off a bit,” said Kirilee.
“And then we were forced, through COVID, to close six weeks after opening, so that was tough.”
In typical fighting fashion, the Deans are ready to come back bigger and better, and have secured a 500 square metre space at 49 Main Street, Huonville, 300 square metres of which will be dedicated to a 24 hour access gym, there will also be a space dedicated to running fitness classes and a matted area for martial arts training.
“We’ll also have a hexagon, a martial arts cage, like a caged boxing ring, which will look great,” said Shaw.
“It’s something that a lot of people down here might not have seen, it’s very niche, but it’s going to be really good.”
In Hobart Shaw and Kirrilee spent a lot of time working with women and children, teaching self-defence and bully proof classes with the assistance of Tasmania Police, and running Colts (teenage martial arts) classes.
“Kids classes are just great and it’s good to work with women and the community,” said Kirrilee.
“We did a lot of that in Hobart.
“It was really successful and the community responded well, so we want to do that again down here.”
Community response to the couple’s plans has been very positive, and Shaw says it is surprising that the franchised 24 hour gyms have not already moved into the Valley.
“It’s actually amazing that there is not a 24 hour gym already,” said Shaw.
“The fact that a Zap or an Anytime hasn’t come here, I know that they did try, but they got knocked back because of congestion for parking in the area they wanted to go.
“But that’s good for us, now we can start a business that is family owned, local people who have children growing up and going to school here.”
Shaw and Kirrilee are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as HVC requirements go, with change of use, soil testing, traffic and noise studies all part of the process.
“To get the building up to a commercial standard so that it’s an elite level facility for people in the Huon Valley, it’s a lot of hoops to jump through,” said Kirrilee.
“But Council has been working with us to make it happen.
“We now have a really good engineering company that’s working with us, so it’s coming along.”
Kirrilee and Shaw hope to have the gym up and running within three months - fingers crossed!