The First Irish Martial Arts Exhibition
By Martina Downey

The First Annual Irish Martial Arts Exhibition was held in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght. The Event was organised by Celbridge A.K.K.S. Parents Committee and produced by a team of volunteers from this popular Kenpo Association. Over 25 demonstration teams from all over Ireland displayed an amazing variety of styles to over fifteen hundred enthralled spectators. The event was sponsored by Tennents Ireland and Caffery's Irish Ale and was opened by Mr. Patrick Byrnes, Group Sales Manager of Tennents Ireland.

The event opened with two-times European Champion Robert Devane who gave a vigorous and energetic display with his musical form "Fire". Mr. Devane's "Hitmen Martial Arts Team" displayed their skills in grappling, self-defence and an amazing kicking sequence. Uyi Ighodaro finished off the display with a gymnastic back flip.

Next up was the Ju Jitsu Ireland demonstration team led by Kancho Johnny Lupton, a thirty-five year martial arts veteran. As usual the Ju Jitsu Ireland demonstration was highly polished and skilled and the rope techniques amused and surprised the audience. The Ju Jitsu Ireland team used a full range of martial art skills including unarmed weapon attacks and defences and displayed the joint manipulation skills for which the Ju Jitsu styles is well renowned.

The Filipino arts of Escrima and Kali were next on show by the W.E.K.A.F. under the direction of Guru Joyce from Galway. The Escrima demonstration featured single and double stick attacks and defences and also gave a display of the sporting side of Escrima which looks like a very dynamic and interesting fighting system.

The Master Nick Smart's Pro-Am Wing Chun Association demonstrated the style made famous by Bruce Lee and featured the compact fighting style of this famous Chinese martial art.

Loreto College Kenpo Karate Club featured next with demonstrations from Alan Corrigan, Freda Roberts and Dermot O'Reilly and a guest appearance by Professor Barney Coleman. The demonstration included forms, self-defence, musical forms and tile breaking, which pleased the audience.

Mr. John Ward's Kenpo Karate School opened with Barry Ward doing Kenpo long 4 as "The half Monty" and to the music from the hit film. The Ward family continued their display with Barry's older brother Ian and father John and their students performing the Kenpo co-ordination set's 1 & 2, following by a demonstration of the applications of these movements.

Brendan Dowling's Irish Aikido Association Demonstration Team used a Celtic theme for their display of their non-violent approach to Martial Arts. The fluency of the Aikido team's techniques was an example of art in motion.

The Letterkenny Shotokan Karate led by Black Belt Anna Wilkie performed team kata, self-defence and individual kata in a flawless display of this popular Japanese martial art. Ms Wilkie brought a twenty-five strong team to participate in the exhibition and this included many children who were very impressive.

The Dundalk Cobra Kan Martial Arts club gave one of the evening's most popular demonstrations and Wajne Rutherford & Jerry Duffy performed acrobatic kicking techniques followed by a specially choreographed fighting sequence which saw young Thomas Duffy outwit and defeat two very intimidating opponents to the delight of the audience.

The Yang Style of Tai Chi Chuan was represented by Mr. Neil Drew and his demonstration team gave the audience a very pleasant experience by the beautiful movements and graceful style of Tai Chi. Mr. Drew also demonstrated the more practical application of Tai Chi which included self-defence and techniques and also some Tai Chi sword forms.

The American Kenpo Karate Systems demonstration team opened with a musical form & Bo form from two time European Champion Aran Sadlier of Celbridge Kenpo Academy and this was followed by Clondalkin Kenpo Mr. Anthony Taylor who put together a very well thought out and amusing arrangement to the James Bond Theme which had to be rated as one of the evening's most original and entertaining demonstrations. The A.K.K.S. demo continued with Aran Sadlier performing Kenpo long form 6. Mr. Alan Norris gave a weapons and self defence technique demonstration with students from his Trinity College Kenpo academy and produced a very effective demonstration of the art of Kenpo. A team of forty American Kenpo students from Celbridge in Co. Kildare completed the A.K.K.S. Ireland demonstration with a choreographed display of Kenpo forms requirements from white to black belt. Their timing was perfect, the children ranged in age from six to thirteen years.

A visiting Professor from Peking University called Mr. Ho gave an impressive performance of the Chen style of Tai Chi Chuan.

The style of Wado Ryu karate was represented by Mr. Robert McGrath, a 4th Dan Black Belt under Wado Ryu Master T. Suzuki and is based near Dublin. The Wado demonstration reflected the style well with very crisp and powerful movements and was particularly impressive in the team kata display.

Next came Sifu Sam Lee with his Hung Sing Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu demonstration team. Sifu Lee extended great courtesy to the other demonstration teams by allowing them to perform their routines ahead his scheduled position in the Exhibition. Sifu Lee's demonstration added great colour to the arena and his display included the numerous exotic weapons of Chinese marital arts and a very interesting form designed to suit a person with only one arm.

Muay Thai, the national sport of Thailand was represented by Mr. Brendan Donnelly of Dundalk. Spectators were mesmerised by the opening ceremony of the ritual Thai dance. Then followed a demonstration of the conditioning drills of Muay Thai which included pad work and full contact Thai sparring. The audience was left in no doubt of the extremely high levels of fitness and skills from Mr. Donnelly's excellent demonstration team.

Next came the second American Kenpo demonstration, which had Mr. Paddy Kennedy demonstrate an entertaining routine to the sound team of beauty and the beast. Mr. Kennedy portrayed an old man with a walking who was abused by a young scoundrel. Mr. Kennedy promptly demonstrated some interesting cane techniques, which amused and entertained the audience.

Mr. Mark Holland of the Elite Martial Arts Academy gave a rare demonstration of the art of Kendo, which is the Japanese art of sword fighting. Mr. Holland's demonstration team equipped themselves with the familiar Kendo body armour and using the Bamboo shinai proceeded to attack and counter attack with lethal efficiency, Mr. Holland's demonstration was very well received.

Mr. Massan Ghorbani demonstrated Sin Moo Hapkido and his Zarbat style of freestyle Karate. Hapkido techniques include many close range grappling skills and numerous weapons including Nunchaku and sword. Mr. Ghorbani's kicking techniques were very acrobatic and impressive. To conclude his demonstration, Mr. Ghorbanni performed his dynamic musical double Nunchaku form, which was very entertaining to watch.

The Irish Martial Arts Exhibition will be held annually and will be moving to new a time slot next year to facilitate more family participation in the Exhibition and to make the event more accessible to all martial arts styles throughout Ireland.

The next Irish Martial Arts Exhibition will be held on Sunday 18th April 1999 at 4.00 p.m. in the National Basketball Arena and Comprehensive details of the event will be published in Irish Fighter and on this web site nearer the date.