Sydney’s “Fightin’ Father Dave” – Church Scene, 25th October 1996

by Charles Sherlock

THE REVD DAVID SMITH was named Fightin’ Father Dave five years ago by a local newspaper, when he took up kickboxing. Recently he fought for the NSW light middleweight title – “my own personal goal”. He lost, but says “I did myself proud”.

October 11 saw FFD turn professional, taking on Jimmy Pat in a straight boxing match, hoping to raise $1000 for the Holy Trinity Youth Fitness Centre in Dulwich Hill, Sydney.

The event pulled in $1500 – enough to keep the centre open until the next fundraiser, the annual Boxing Day “Christians vs the Lions” stoush. Level 1 accredited fights (“the real thing”), they raise about $2500 each. Marrickville deanery put in $5,000 last year, but costs were still more than could be met. So FFD rolled up his sleeves and put on the gloves.

Sydney’s media turned a struggle story into a blazing success. The Sydney Morning Herald gave strong pre-match coverage, Channel 7 interviewed FFD, and brought up-dates on the fight, and the event even made the 7.30 Report. The result – over $10,000 in donations, securing the club’s future for the next year!

THERE IS MUCH MORE to this story than money, however.

David Smith grew up in a home where theology was in the air – his father Bruce taught Ethics at Moore College. With family difficulties emerging, David took to a leather-jacket and flick knife at 17, and began to learn Hapkido (a Korean martial art similar to Tae Kwon Do).

A year later, he was converted, and took up philosophy (Sydney BA (Hons)) and then theology’ (Moore College BTh and DipA), before ordination in 1988.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Dulwich Hill is a once-lovely inner suburb of Sydnev, now full of stately homes divided into flats. It is tough area, with lots of teenage males running high on testosterone but with not a lot to do.

The Revd David Smith went there as Rector in 1991 – and then faced a family break-up of his own. “Archbishop Goodhew and Bishop Ray Smith were very supportive,” he told Church Scene.

But the divorce experience hurt. David took up kick-boxing and gym work to ease the pain. It led to a growing ministry with men, then starting the club in 1994 for the local teenage males.

Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill is not short of property, but its people resources are limited. “I thought – why not put the properties to work?” The club he started is an interface between the church and the “fighting world”.

They have had their troubles, and learnt a lot. “We had problems with drug trafficking and stolen goods – we now charge $1 admittance, and had to tighten things up a bit.”

A full weight gym, boxing ring, punching bags and basketball rings are now available, and a drop-in centre is part of the site. A youth worker, Paul Green, who trained with the Cornerstone Community, survives on a

living allowance, while David’s wife Angela is a kick-boxing instructor. The club is open 10 to 6 Monday-Friday

Fight The Good Fight

Sundays arc special. The “Christian Fighters’ Fellowship” meets at 4.30, with an hour or so spent sparring, a barbeque, then a prayer and chat time.

“A lot of guys in the fight game have spiritual ideas,” says David, “but few connect with the church. A lot are involved in custody cases, and find wrestling helps them work through things.”Regular congregation members are “terrific, particularly the older ones,” he says – “they are just glad to see some young life around, not that many of the fighters come to church yet!

The Ethics Of Violence

FFD has his ideas about violence well worked out. The ring may be a place of heavy contact, but it also brings a bond between two men. “This is not real violence,” FFD told SMH’s Jeff Wells.

‘Now sticking a knife at the throat of an old lady and rolling her – that’s real violence.”

FFD has read what he can find about men’s spirituality – Robert Bly’s Iron John and all – but it is Jesus whom he seeks to follow, and for whom he fights.

AND THE BOUT? It was a draw. Jimmy Pat and the Revd David Smith both kept their honour and health.


Church Scene
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About Father Dave

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four
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