Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jennifer Byrne stays safe with Karate

Jennifer Byrne (left) pic: CestheDay Photography
Continuing the series on women in Karate in Ireland .... Jennifer Byrne's love of Karate is spilling over into her college projects as she designs better protective gear.  

After 14 years of training, Jennifer Byrne, 20 says a few bumps and bruises are the most serious injuries she's had

So with no injuries to worry about, travelling abroad with the ONAKAI Senior Squad is the highlight of her year.

“It’s great to get new people to fight against, see the moves they do,” she says. “The whole adrenaline is part of how you fight, I love it. It’s just part of my life.”

So much part of life is karate that her final year project at DIT is on protective fighting gear.

Fighting Fashion 
In one corner of the hall someone has set up a stall selling gear. Byrne says karate can be expensive with body protectors costing up to 90 euro and even the mitts as much as 30 euro per pair.

The women say new protective equipment under Olympic guidelines is very restrictive, with female fighters having to wear a chest-guard under a body protector.

“It’s quite bulky really. We find the body protector so uncomfortable, we’re trying to get used to it,” says Byrne.

McCorry adds: “Your upper body balance is changed; it cuts your arm-pits and rides up as you punch. You’re trying to tie the belt as tight as you can to hold it all. It would be better to just wear one.”

Another team-mate Emily Geraghty jokes that women fighters really aren’t delicate enough for two protectors.

Training, training and training 
Byrne instructs young children now at her club in Navan, and says keeping them tied into their gi is a funny experience. Having come up through the junior system with three junior Black Belts to her name, she’s looking forward to earning her Senior belt this summer.

Summer is easier for the commute from Navan to Dublin. She sometimes stays well into the evening for karate with her mother roped in as a chauffeur when buses let her down.

Byrne says: “People don’t understand how hard training can be. There’s definitely no room for partying or student life.”

Interview with teammate Sorcha McCorry is here, with one more to follow on Emily Geraghty.


Snowcatcher said...

I've often wondered if the gear is restricting... because it looks like it might be. To hear how she describes it rubbing against what might be sensitive parts of the body... I admire them not just for their sport, but also for what protection they must endure in order to compete!

niamh said...

@Snowcatcher - it's strange isn't it? hopefully the impact of having the female protection designed by women as more get involved will affect this ...