On Saturday, March 22nd, I was invited to a seminar, at the Thurles Kickboxing Club, on a relatively new Self Defence system called “Defence Lab” delivered by founder Andy Norman. Those involved the world of combative martial arts may recognize Andy as the co-founder of the Kaysi Fight Method from a few years back – as featured in the movies “Batman Begins” and “Jack Reacher” and also studied briefly by Alex Reid in his documentary tv show in the lead up to his MMA bout with Tom “Kong” Watson.

I’ve been around a few different combative styles down through the years, some good, some bad and to be fair I wasn’t expecting anything ground breaking. Afterall, self defence has been around for so long now, what can possibly be new?

There are a lot of traps that a self defence programs can fall into with regards to what it claims to be or what it promises its students will be able to achieve – for example, defending against knives and guns or claiming that fitness levels don’t matter. Thankfully, Defence Lab stayed clear of those and on the whole, seemed to me, to be a very well thought out and a logical approach to real world violence.

A few key things stood out to me as being particularly logical.

  1. Embrace Chaos. The self defence lesson began with the warm up. Whilst most of the martial artists in attendance were used to jogging in a circle to raise their body temperature, Andy had the participants running in opposite directions, some going backwards and all encouraged to randomly change direction. As he explained, there’s no order or formations in a night club or alley way. Neither is it quiet – hence during practice drills, Andy had music playing at night club volume – adding to the chaos.
  2. Mobility on the knees or sitting. A good chunk of the earlier part of the seminar was dedicated on methods of movement while in compromised positions such as on one’s knees. The ability to move forwards, backwards and swivel whilst keeping your hands for protecting your head was high on the priority list.
  3. Learn to Grapple. Speaking with Andy during lunch, he told me about how he regularly trains with high-level grapplers and has even developed an MMA program along with BJJ World Champion Braulio Estima. He encourages all his students to put a lot of time into their ground game, if for no other reason that to be familiar with controlling a downed opponent or escaping bad positions.
  4. Always spar multiple opponents. In all the drills throughout the day, none were with a single opponent and all drills progressed to live sparring quickly after learning a technique. Andy was adamant on this point. One on one drills teach you to have tunnel vision – which is great for sport martial art – but dangerous in a chaotic scenario. At the very minimum, always practice with a flanking or blindside second opponent.
  5. Embrace natural instincts. A lot of the blocks and movements of the D-Lab system are simple progressions of natural flinch responses, which Andy says are actually quite appropriate for the most part.
  6. Violence – get used to it. This is not a sport. There’s no camaraderie. All the training in the world is null and void if you don’t desensitize yourself to pure unadulterated violence and constantly expose yourself to it.
  7. Be physically prepared. If you’re out of shape, you’re an easier target. Don’t expect technique to be enough to get you out of trouble. Get fit, stay fit. There are no shortcuts.

While all the above points seem logical, I can absolutely say that Andy implemented all of these elements into his system.

On a whole other subject, I spoke with Andy on the business of martial arts. D-Lab is un-apologetically set up as a Worldwide Franchise. He intends to grow the brand, and to profit handsomely from his years of accumulated knowledge and practice. Andy spoke about how the concept of profit was something he felt he needed to justify in the past; How teaching just for the passion of the sport was something to be proud of; And that anybody seen to make a profitable business out of their knowledge was accused of selling out. And of course, martial arts is one of the very few industries where this true. If somebody goes to university to study for 7 years to be a doctor, they don’t treat patients simply for the passion of it. Not on your Nelly. They charge and nobody questions it. Why? Because the value of their study is recognized and understood. Meanwhile, a martial artist can study for 20 or 30 years (albeit part time), spend thousands on training fees, seminar fees, travelling to competitions, accumulating experience and skill but for the most part, we’re expected to pass that on for the ‘passion’ of the sport. Going on to make a very interesting point, Andy explained how he had done quite well for himself in recent years and yet he’s still as passionate about martial arts as he ever was. The difference is that now he can provide for his family on a much better scale. He presented a challenge to me: “Try paying your mortgage with passion… see how that works out for ya”.  Yet another challenge was added: “Try walking out of here without paying for the soup… surely the chef is passionate about food… he won’t mind…. See how far you get”.

Overall, I felt a great value out of being part of the seminar. I felt confident in the thought that went into the D-lab system from a physical martial art point of view. And because Andy was so up front about the business end, I felt confident that the cloak and dagger, mystique and magic of blind loyalty based systems had no part to play here

Combatives or Self Defence as a training method is not my cup of tea personally but I recognize and acknowledge a good product when I see it and I’d have no problem recommending Defence Lab to anyone looking to learn how to handle themselves.

For anybody looking for more information on Defence Lab, visit

Thanks to PJ for the invite and to Andy for his time to chat to me about his system.



In recent months, I’ve begun writing for the Evening Echo on all things related to Cork Martial Arts. To date I’ve covered MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, Karate, Judo, Sambo and Pro Wrestling. As time goes on, I hope to get around to more disciplines as events occur.

So far, the response has been very positive. A lot of instructors have recognised the positive step forward for all Cork Martial Arts to have a regular consistent column on the most read newspaper in the County. I hope the positivity continues and to help it along, I’m setting out a short list of ground rules that I’ll be applying to the articles I submit. This should prevent any confusion about what I’m prepared to report on and the manner in which I’ll be reporting it. Please don’t ask me to submit anything that’s outside of this as I will just politely refuse.

If you disagree with any of the following or if you want to suggest other rules, please comment below.

  • Balanced Coverage

As weeks/months go by, some styles are more active than others. I’ll be making it priority to get coverage for as many different clubs/styles as I can. I don’t care what association or affiliation a group has. As long as it’s a Cork group, I’ll do my best to get coverage.

Naturally, the most active groups will get proportionally more exposure. For large scale events, I’ll push for extra pages or more photographs whenever I can.

  • Cork Events and Athletes take priority

Each week, there’s a limit to how much I can submit. If it’s the case I have to choose, Cork Events will take priority unless the event outside of Cork is of major significance for Cork Athletes.

  • Accurate information 

I’ll do my utmost to make sure I have accurate details for each article. For anybody sending me info, please include correct title names and organisation names. As you all know, there are many different associations and each have their World titles, championships, open tournaments etc. As a community, we lose credibility if we claim that everyone and anyone is the World Champion. By including the correct name of the title, we earn back our credibility and at the same time, we acknowledge other groups and their titles.

  • No supernatural claims

I WILL NOT print articles that include claims of super human ability. Claims like “This master can knock a man with the little finger on his right hand” or “these techniques can help defend an attack with a machine gun” etc make us all look silly and it makes a mockery of the athletes who train hard to achieve real results.

If there’s not a scientific proof that something works or if it hasn’t been tested in live competitive competition, then it’s theoretical. It may or may not work. So any claim to secret techniques makes the martial arts community seem unreasonable and therefore I won’t print it.

  • No negative comments/remarks to other styles or clubs

We’ve all got people that we don’t get along with and styles that we don’t agree with. However, when we bicker amongst each other publicly or try to talk down at other styles, the general public loses respect for us all and as a result we all suffer. In my opinion, we can all recognise each other achievements for what they are while staying focussed on our own goals. Live and let live and let people make up their own mind which style they want to follow.

I’m more than happy to submit articles that follow the above guidelines so please keep me in the loop with any events you’re organising or attending.

If you feel I’ve left something out in the list above, let me know.


Best of luck to the member of Taekwondo Ireland heading off to the Swindon today for the PUMA Open World Championships. Thanks to Steven Nyhan for the following information. Give em hell lads/ladies.

There is great excitement in Taekwondo Irelands Carrigaline club as some of the students have been preparing to travel to Swindon in the United Kingdom to compete in the 3rd PUMA open World Taekwondo Championships.

The organizers have informed us that there are over six hundred competitors from all over Europe already registered for the coming weekend.

Carrigaline Taekwondo club have seven junior students traveling, who are competing in both Patterns and Sparring. They have been training very hard all year for this competition and putting in extra classes during the week and squad training at the weekend.

Two of the black belts, Amy O’Sullivan and Rebecca McGrath competed in this competition two years ago and had some great success taking places in both the patterns and sparring sections. While this will be a first for the remaining five students, Eoghan Harrington, Pierre Morcos, Luke O Donovan, Megan Austin and Chloe McGrath, they have all been regularly placed in the medals on the Taekwondo Ireland competition trail which has helped them to build up their confidence and experience for the bigger circuits.

Great sport was had at one of the clubs fundraising events, a kick-a-thon held on 15th March with all the club juniors getting involved to create a fun day and to support their team mates.

Club Instructors,6th Degree Mr Michael Burke and 2nd Degree Ms Angela Burke  would like to thank all of the parents and students and local sponsors’ who made a huge effort for fundraising for this event

Deborah O’Donnell and daughter Aine have shared a dojo floor for the passed 10 years in their pursuit of excellence in Shotokan karate. Last weekend, both members of Curam De Cara Academy of martial arts were promoted to the rank of 3rd Dan Black Belt by a panel consisting of Liam Griffin Snr (6th Dan), Pat Rockett (6th Dan) and Teresa Griffin (5th Dan). Although two 3rd Dans in one family is tough, be warned Nollaig and Rebecca – Deborah’s other two daughters are also Black Belts so if you’re looking for a house to break into, choose somewhere else. Also promoted to 3rd Dan on the day was William Browne and to 1st Dan were Aoife Hegarty and Aoife Burke.


The Curam de Cara squad is affiliated to WUKF International Karate Federation and other team members include Siofra Ryan, Rebecca O’Donnell, Victoria Kingston and Ciara Wyse. They are all training hard for the upcoming WUKF UKF International Invitational Tournament in Donegal on April 5th and then Szczecin, Poland in October for the WUKF World Championships.

Search for “CdC – Curam de Cara” on Facebook or contact Liam Snr at 085 860 9308 if you want to find out more about the squad, their training times and training progress.

Meanwhile another Cork man was undergoing testing for 5th Dan Black Belt in Dublin. Stephen Collins who runs “The Karate Dojo” in Donnybrook Commercial Center took part in a grade examination overseen by Scott Langley (6th Dan) and Richard Amos (6th Dan) of the WTKO (World Traditional Karate Organisation). I was actually present at Stephen’s last grade examination 10 years ago when he went for his 5th Dan so this promotion was well overdue. Speaking with Stephen, he recalled a grueling high-pressured examination in which 2 other Dublin based candidates were also taking part. They each fought the other two in a traditional freestyle sparring match which included kicks, punches, knees and elbows and by all accounts, no love was lost. Afterwards, Stephen performed “Chinte” and “Bassai Dai” for his kata examination and was interrogated with great detail on his understanding of the finer details of both. After a full hour, Stephen was awarded his new rank and without too much time to recover, he was summonsed to the adjacent community center to take part in a follow seminar under Richard Amos.


The WTKO is a relatively new organization to Ireland but now boasts a membership of over 1400 as former JKS GB & Ireland head instructor Scott Langley has transitioned across. Both Richard and Scott are in the exclusive club of non-Japanese instructors to have completed the infamous JKA Instructors Course in Japan.

For more information on Stephen Collins and his class times, search for “The Karate Dojo” on Facebook.


I’ve written articles about 5 different martial arts styles this week. Only a few years ago, the only martial artists I would have know were karate-ka. Two things that have opened my eyes to be able to appreciate what else is going on out there. Firstly, the explosion of MMA – which showed all styles that no one discipline is enough to be a complete fighter. Secondly, taking part in a demonstration event with CMAP – Cork Martial Arts Promotions in Ballincollig in July 2010 which gave my first introduction to many of the instructors from other disciplines I’ve come to be familiar with.

Now that I get the opportunity to write weekly for the Echo, I appreciate more than ever, that “Cork Martial Arts” as a unit is far greater than the sum of its parts. As individual clubs and styles, we go un-noticed and un-recognised but when you combine all achievements and efforts, not even the sports editor will deny that we deserve our spot alongside the pages of GAA, rugby, Soccer and Horse-racing.

If you’re a martial arts club/gym/instructor/athlete, get over to CMAP and like the page and then send me any and all info you have on events and achievements and I’ll do my very best to get you coverage.

Here’s an article I wrote in July 2010 when the concept of CMAP first became clear to me.

484871_760457620649474_1708635406_nLast weekend the Spartan Muay Thai Club in Ballincollig held one of their regular inter-club tournaments. While it might not be Neptune Stadium with international pro fighters, these smaller inter-club shows where juniors and novice fighters cut their teeth are a major part of the success of Cork Muay Thai. Seamus Cogan and John Kelly welcomed fighters from all over the city and gave young stars of the future a great opportunity to apply their skills in front of family and friends. Check out Spartan Thai on Facebook to find out about getting involved in Muay Thai in Ballincollig.


Members of the Cork IUTF Taekwondo Group travelled to Scotland on Sunday to take part in the IUTF Scottish Open. Among the competitors were Darren Healy, Danny Long, Scott Healy, Michael O’Riordan, Trevor Healy, Diarmuid McSweeney, Calvin Thomas, Olan Kinsella and head coach Master Don Dalton. The Corkmen took team Gold beating the Scottish team 4-1 in the finals. Clubs involved included Coachford, Ballyvourney, Churchfield, Farranree, Charleville, Ballincollig and Mayfield.

1724626_508010632652793_1173700030_nSiam Warriors Muay Thai Fighter Sean Clancy is currently training in Thailand. Over the weekend, he took on a tough British fighter – Matt Sheedy – at 65Kg in the World renowned Lumpini Stadium. Clancy finished the job in round two delivering knees and elbows in the clinch opening a 3-inch cut on his opponent’s forehead. I spoke with Sean’s training partner Aaron O’Callaghan on Saturday who said Sean is one of the hardest working athletes in Cork and well deserving of every success. As this was the last event in the current Lumpini Stadium before it moves to a new location, Sean has the rare honour of being one of the last European to fight in that legendary venue. Next up is Chaweng Stadium on 25th February. Sean wishes to thank his coaches at both Kiatphontips and Yodyut gym for coaching him in Thailand.


On Saturday evening, February 1st, at the Gresham Metropole Hotel, an assembly of some of the top martial artists in Cork came together to honour 8 award winners recognized by the their peers for their outstanding achievements in 2013.

555327_725486840802507_463946703_nCork Martial Arts Promotions is a non-profit organization that has charged itself with the mission of highlighting the hard work of the scores of Cork clubs and hundreds of martial arts competitors who don’t necessarily get the exposure they deserve. CMAP was founded by Leonard Coughlan in 2009, who himself runs the Mahon and Bandon Taekwondo Academy. He stumbled across a fellow martial arts instructor in Ian Kingston of the West Cork Kickboxing Academy and was blown away when he realized just how much one small club in Bantry had been achieving for many years with multiple W.A.K.O. European & World Champion Kickboxers and dozens of international level athletes. Yet, despite the caliber and quality of the West Cork Kickboxers, hardly anybody in Cork even knew they existed. As Leonard himself says, he didn’t even know the West Cork Kickboxing Club existed and he’s heavily involved in the martial arts scene so what hope did the general public have of knowing.

Originally, there was just the CMAP Coach of the Year Award, inspired by the epic obscurity of one of Cork’s finest coaches – Ian Kingston but in 2012, the awards were expanded to include 7 more categories. In 5 years, Leonard would himself have expected to discover every single martial arts club in Cork, but to this day, he is still finding out about clubs and instructors whom he didn’t know existed and some that have been around for decades. It’s almost shameful that so many athletes are studying and training in mutual isolation, and their achievements being forgotten simply because no single group is large enough to garner the spotlight for its members.

My first involvement in CMAP was at the Cork Summer Show in 2009. Leonard took it upon himself to organize a collection of Martial Arts demonstrations by a range of different styles in one marquise for a full day. Although he himself had a very strong Taekwondo demonstration team, he understood that a collaboration of different disciplines spread throughout the day would appeal to a wider audience. On that day, I was there to represent my own style – karate – and met for the first time Seamus Cogan – a Muay Thai European Champion and coach of the Spartan Thai Club in Ballincollig. When we discussed how unusual it was to have the different styles of martial arts display side by side, he came out with a phrase that to this day resonates with me as essence of what CMAP is all about – “A rising tide lifts all boats equally”. As individual clubs, we may have held a small audience for perhaps 20 minutes. However, when presented as a unit of Cork Martial Arts, 8 clubs held the attention of hundreds spectators for a whole 8 hours. In one day, those clubs got more credit and exposure than they had gotten in the previous 5 years and that was all thanks to the concept of Cork Martial Arts Promotions.

8 awards were presented on Saturday evening by 8 special guests who were all genuinely blown away when they discovered the accolades accumulated by the winners.

The Junior Female Competitor of the Year Award was presented by Dep Lord Mayor Cllr Lorraine Kingston to Coachford based Kickboxer Ms Emma Flanagan. Emma trains under Coach Don Dalton in the Coachford Taekwondo/Kickboxing Club and this year she became the first Irish athlete to win Gold in all three sparring divisions at the WKU World Championships – full contact, continuous and team divisions.


The Junior Male Competitor of the Year Award was presented by Cllr Kenneth O’Flynn to John McAteer from West Cork Kickboxing Club. Coached by the aforementioned Ian Kingston, John has won 3 titles this year including Gold at the WAKO European Kickboxing Championships in Poland. He also won a novice Irish Boxing title at the National Stadium in Dublin.


The senior Female Competitor of the Year Award was presented by internationally renowned opera singer Amanda Nerl to Orla O’Brien – a kickboxer from Bushido Martial Arts under coach Colin Shaughnessy. Orla had a tremendous year culminating in a bronze medal in the Full Contact division at the W.A.K.O. World Championships. She was also awarded as the Evening Echo Female Sports Start of the month in December.


The Senior Male Competitor of the Year Award was presented by Seargent Tony Crockett to Dylan Fitzgibbon of Turners Cross Taekwondo and the Elite Martial Arts Academy Douglas. Dylan won his 3rd consecutive World TKD title this year and has also had great success in coaching other competitors to Gold.


The Coach of the Year Award was presented by Cllr Kieran McCarthy to Master Pat Barry of North Mon and Carrigaline Taekwondo. Pat is one of the most senior ranked Taekwondo instructors in the country and has produced multiple European and World Champions under the ITA banner and it’s worldwide counterpart the ITF.


The CMAP Club of the Year Award was presented by Entertainment journalist and TV presenter Colum McCormack Crowe to the Cork MMA Clinic. Coaches Kieran O’Brien Snr, Kieran O’Brien Jnr and Sean Tobin collected the award which recognized a tremendous year of MMA achievements for a group celebrating just its 4th year in existence with 3 of its home grown fighters turning pro this year alone.


The CMAP Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Hall of Famer Ian Kingstong to Anthony Corkery of Cork Thai. Anthony is unanimously accepted as the man who got Muay Thai going in Cork. The audience was treated to a special presentation of a VHS videotape of one of Anthony’s fights in the early 80’s. He has since gone on to coach European and World Champions such as Martin Horgan, Craig O’Flynn, Seamus Cogan, Andy Gray and loads more.


The Hall of Fame Inductee for 2013 was presented by CMAP Founder Leonard Coughlan to Martin Horgan of Siam Warriors. Martin is former 2 time European Muay Thai Champion with over 60 professional bouts. He has gone on to coach European and World title holders including Shane Cadogan and Aaron O’Callaghan and numerous Irish, UK and 4 nations titles such as Darren Cashman and Sean Clancy. Martin is more recently known as one of the top event promoters in the country.


Overall, the positive vibe in the room was amazing. MC for the Evening and Sports Editor of the Evening Echo John McHale spoke on how up to now, martial arts hasn’t gotten the exposure it’s deserved but with the hard work of Cork Martial Arts Promotions collecting the relevant information and pulling the various clubs and disciplines together, the future is bright for Cork Martial Artists in terms of public recognition.

A huge congratulations is due to Leonard Coughlan of Bandon and Mahon Taekwondo Club who had the vision and work ethic to bring CMAP to where it is today. All Cork Martial Arts Clubs and instructors should row in behind this great organization. There’s strength in numbers and this herd is growing fast.




In a huge weekend for Cork Taekwondo, no less that 3 competitions were contested by dozen of clubs and hundreds of competitors. Facebook was overloaded with a stream of photographs of medal winners from the various Cork Clubs. Proud parents were thanking instructors for providing their children with the opportunity to compete in a fun, positive environment promoting fitness and discipline.

In Ballincollig, the Taekwondo Ireland group held their annual tournament at Gaelscoil Ui Riordan. This tournament has been running strong for the last 10 years and this year it hosted over 250 competitors with 6 arenas in motion all day long. From the 4-7 year old Little Ninjas right up to the adults, clubs from areas such as Bandon, Ballincollig, Blackrock, Carrigaline, Crosshaven, Frankfield, Innishannon, Macroom, Midleton and Wilton were represented. Catherine O’Boyle (4th Degree Black Belt) and coach of Ballincollig Taekwondo School was the organizer and she expressed her gratitude to all the parents, competitors and coaches who supported the event on their club Facebook page.

Meanwhile in Tralee, members of the IUTF had their Munster Championships organized by Master John Riordan (7th Degree Black Belt). Competitors from Cork clubs in Rathpeacon, Farranree, Churchfield, Coachford, Charleville, Ballincollig and Mallow were in attendance. 9 arenas were set up in the very impressive Tralee Sports Center. Various members of the IUTF clubs sent me a list of their medal winners but too many to mention. Needless to say, the Cork clubs did very well and had a huge haul to bring back Leeside.


In Little Island, Scion Taekwondo under Liam Corkery (5th Degree Black Belt), part of the ITF Eireann Group ran a huge competition also, the 12th year of the tournament. Club instructors from Bandon, Mahon, Whitechurch, Rathcormac, Glasheen, Bishopstown, Blarney, Mallow, Mayfield, Turners Cross, Douglas, Carrigtwohill, Donnybrook, UCC and Cork City all messaged me to let me know they were involved. Once again, there are too many winners to mention but the positive vibes about the tournament were very clear. Speaking with the organizer on the phone, he was proud to tell me that there were over 340 competitors from age 4 to 55, with 6 arenas running from 10am to 4pm. Competitors from Dublin, Wicklow, Carlow, Tipperary, Waterford and UK were also in attendance. Highlights of the day included Dylan Fitzgibbon (CMAP male competitor of the year) winning the senior Black Belt sparring, Sarah Sheehan from Cork ITF winning the patterns division and Donncha O’Connell from Scion Taekwondo winning the Black Belt Veteran point sparring division.

On February 15th & 16th, Cork ITA (under Mark Buckley) will be hosting an Open tournament in Neptune Stadium so for anybody who missed out on all the action this weekend and wants to know what the fuss is all about, make sure you pop along and cheer on the competitors from all over Ireland.

For anyone involved in the martial arts world, they’d be familiar with unfortunate reality of politics, interclub rivalries and organizational splits. With a weekend of competitions bringing clubs together from so many towns and suburbs in Cork, it’s clear how impressive collaborative efforts can be. There’s strength in numbers and by the looks of it, Taekwondo is booming at the moment. Personally, I’d love to see the various tournaments spread out so that all competitors could attend all tournaments but coming from a karate background, I’m already impressed and slightly jealous of the tournament opportunities for taekwondo competitors in Cork.