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Eastern influence as Taekwondo thrives

Wednesday, 10th July, 2019 12:53pm
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Eastern influence as Taekwondo thrives

World Taekwondo Association members Noel Boyle and David Morrissey do the Punch & Block move during a session in the centre located at Borrisokane Road Nenagh. Photo: Bridget Delaney

Eastern influence as Taekwondo thrives

World Taekwondo Association members Noel Boyle and David Morrissey do the Punch & Block move during a session in the centre located at Borrisokane Road Nenagh. Photo: Bridget Delaney

 

Winter, 1972.

Relations between East and West have reached a tipping point, as the Cold War edges through a period of détente, and the conflict in Vietnam begins to defuse. The world is witnessing a clash of civilisations, the Occident versus the Orient, and who better to symbolise that fight than Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee, battling each other atop the Colosseum – an ancient arena which had little sympathy for those who suffered defeat.

When Lee’s martial arts action-comedy The Way of the Dragon was released at the end 1972, that iconic scene featuring him and Norris transfixed audiences around the world. It’s hard not to feel a little inspired watching that famous duo, but for Sheamus O’Neill, the sight of them in action was quite literally a formative experience. It was the Nenagh man’s first introduction to martial arts, which would shape the course of his life from that moment on.

Well, I’ll tell you. I remember when I was younger, we had a black and white television – there was no colour television when I was young. And I remember the first person I ever saw on television was Chuck Norris, and the second person was Bruce Lee. And I said at home – my mum still remembers me saying this – I said, I want to do this. And that’s where it all started, it all stemmed from there,” said the director of World Taekwondo Association in Nenagh.

As luck, or perhaps fate, would have it, Taekwondo appeared in Nenagh a short time after Sheamus had got his first hit of martial arts on the television. One or two evenings each week, the ball-room of the old Ormond Hotel became a sanctuary of learning and discipline, hosting Sheamus’ first experience of practicing Taekwondo. Eventually, that sanctuary of learning and discipline evolved into a night-club, but not before one Nenagh man had found a life-long vocation. From there, Sheamus went global, travelling and training across continents before returning to his native land.

 

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