Cork Taekwondo 40 years on – an Opportunity in Waiting

If you were to visit Cork right now, today you simply could not miss the sea of Red and White Cork flags, bunting, silly hats and even people’s cars all in Red.

Because Cork will play in the Hurling Final tomorrow every man, woman and child, all the schools national and second level will take advantage of boasting about this proud City and the achievements of its citizens. An atmosphere that is unique to Corkonians.

This city is known for its beauty and the uniqueness of its people, and to say that Taekwon-Do is firmly established here is a gross understatement.

Master Aiden Walsh at one of Cork's early Taekwondo Gradings with Frank Murphy

Master Aiden Walsh at one of Cork’s early Taekwondo Gradings with Frank Murphy

Back in 1974, forty years ago, a young twenty something Taekwondo Black Belt, Aiden Walsh travelled on the Dublin to Cork train every Saturday and did so for almost ten years on and off.

He did not have to travel far once he alighted from the train, as he just crossed the road and set up the first Taekwon-Do club in the Arcadia ball room on the Lower road, which was opposite the train station.

Just come back from an ITF tournament in Turkey, his marketing of the new venture was made all the easier, thanks to the Bruce Lee phenomenon that was to wake the world up to the martial arts.

Those first classes were jammed. A sea of white dobuks all with the large words TAEKWON-DO and R.I.T.A (Republic of Ireland Taekwon-Do Association) sewn on the back of the suit in tough black leatherette. Dobuks lasted a long time back then, but student retention did not fare so well because of the harshness of the lessons and the limited amount of techniques that we were shown with painful repetition.

Classes started at 11am and usually finished around 2pm. Three hours used to go fast when you did “Bunny Hops” (Knees bent, squat down hands behind the back and bounce or hop in this squatting position around the gym) and we also did ‘PPS’ (Painful Partner Stretching) and were stood for ages on the spot, in long walking stances, going over low and rising blocks, using hip twist and knee spring until it hurt.

He was brilliant at Yop Chagi side kick and what looked really good was when he showed us Knife hand strike in an L Stance.

The day he showed us this combination we stayed at this for a few weeks until we got it right. Just that one technique. He used to call it something like “Who-gall Sogi” and not Niunja Sogi. So this must have been when some Japanese terminology still remained in Taekwondo, as it was only 19 years old then.

One day Master Walsh could not make it down, but sent a blue belt down to teach us instead. It was a real treat as we stared at the embroidery on his blue belt. A blue belt in Ireland in 1974 was so rare, not only was it embroidered but only awarded by Master Rhee himself.

Some of us hung around with Master Walsh and walked with him the short distance to the train station, exploiting every possible chance to gather any snippet of information he was willing to share with us. Once he was on the train, we would walk back to the city center, some of us banging our young knuckles off any surface to conditition our hands for Knuckle press-ups. Saturday afternoon meant going back up to “Paa-Naa” (Cork slang for Patrick’s Street) to Easons Bookshop and try to see if we could buy “Karate and the Oriental Arts” which was the only magazine available at the time. It was written by Paul H. Crompton. The only reason we would remember his name is that we would read the entire 20 page magazine from cover to cover.

Today we are exposed to the best education, facilities and tuition in relation to martial arts. It’s reported that the dropout rate from most on-line academic courses is a massive 90%. It’s so easy now to obtain the information but so hard to actually learn. Mere access to education isn’t sufficient, we need to realise that we learn better when we learn together. Learning together serves a crucial function, because it makes learning happen. We have a chance to learn together next year if we are all in agreement.

Cork Taekwondo 40 years (600 x 450)Many of you support this 40 year celebration of Cork Taekwondo. Got even a few guys from the UK say they would come over. I certainly can’t do much on my own; we need to set up a separate platform if we are to charge ahead. If we did each of us would be able to send in any story regarding Cork and Taekwondo. No politics, egos or threats of seventies themes.

So far ideas were to have everyone walk around Cork in their dobuks, hold a generic Dan Gun class in a wide space like Fitzgerald’s Park, as he was the founder of Korea. Have Master Walsh as guest of honour in a huge generic class and perhaps have some dinner presentation. Get the full Cork media on board.

Does anybody know a good contact in the City Hall, preferably with a Taekwondo connection and involved in Sport? The same goes for the Radio and The Examiner office? I am sure we will have the support of those guys who are organising the Cork Gathering in October see their link here

Other suggestions were have a Family Tree set up for a Cork Taekwondo Lineage. It will be a day long celebration of Taekwondo friendship, hospitality and of course cork culture.

Unless we all hang around until 2024, this reunion won’t come round every year. While a facebook style arm’s length relationship is perfect for some, I am certain now that we are on to something here.

That is just another blog aimed to spike interest. Please share if you think getting together for one day next year, to celebrate 40 years of Cork Taekwondo and don’t hesitate to comment and send feedback.


Frank Murphy

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