Club Focus: UCD Karate

There’s more to karate than getting kicked in the face, as David Kent finds out in conversation with Lawrence de Barra[br]FANCY yourself as a mini Conor McGregor but don’t really want to do any of the grappling or mouthing off? Never fear, because UCD has a variety of mixed martial arts clubs available around campus. One of the more successful ones is UCD Karate Club.
“’The Inter College Youth Cup is between us and Trinity College... Over the past few years they’ve been giving us a bit of a kicking but we always get it back when it comes to the intervarsities.”
Don’t get it twisted – Karate isn’t just kicking or punching people really hard in the face. There are  plenty of different techniques required to be a success, as UCD KC captain Lawrence de Barra explains:‘’We’ve got different aspects of karate that we train. Our instructors start us off with an aerobic warm up and then a bit of stretching. At the start of the year in particular we try and cater the beginners a bit more, the ones that are trying something new for the first time.Obviously we have got different aspects of karate that we train. We start with the basics for newcomers and a sequence of moves called Kata, which consists of different moves in different directions (to help you stay light on your feet). Then we’ve sparring to build up combat and simulate what someone would actually face in a karate fight.’’With UCD Karate celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2017, it’s a big year and the club already has some events planned.‘’We’ve obviously got the sports expo this week and a trip to Lahinch in Clare pencilled in for I think it’s the second weekend of October. We’ll have a Freshers night coming up where’ll we head down to the Clubhouse after a Monday training session and try and integrate everyone. Just a way of getting to know people really.’’It’s not just about trips and nights out, however, as the club’s trophy haul shows. There’s potential for it to be a record-breaking year at intervarsity level as well as a colour’s clash:‘’The Inter College Youth Cup is between us and Trinity College so there’s a nice bit of rivalry. Over the past few years they’ve been giving us a bit of a kicking but we always get it back when it comes to the intervarsities. We’ve won the last six titles in a row, equalling our own record, which was set a while ago. If we take it this year it’ll be seven in a row and we’ll be re-writing the history books for the intervarsities.’’De Barra, a third year neuroscience student, has been involved with the club since 2014 but it took a bit of experimentation for him to get involved at the start.‘’I had been doing karate since I was seven and thought I’d try something new (when I got into college). I gave Olympic Handball a shot and while that was pretty good there was always a sense of stick to what you know so in semester two I joined the club and haven’t looked back since.’’Despite the success at intervarsity level, there hasn’t been much international recognition for the students in UCD KC.‘’There was something I heard last year about how if you won your personal event at the intervarsities you would go on to represent Ireland in the World University Student Games. They were held in Azerbaijan last year but I don’t think anything came of it for the UCD students.’’That was sure to be disappointing, especially after Team Ireland took in a record breaking 77 medals at the 2015 World Karate Championships. The Passage West Club in Cork was responsible for nearly 50 of those and Ireland was boosted further with the announcement that UCC’s Mardyke will host the 2017 Championships.These successes have led Sport Ireland to aim for a ‘medal haul’ from the 2020 Tokyo Games in the competitive martial arts sports, news which was bittersweet for de Barra:‘’Obviously it’s great for the club but it’s a little disappointing at the same time. Up until the end of 2015 I was told that I was going to the Olympic Games but, because of politics and the way there… (it) wasn’t really one governing organization they didn’t allow it. Now… (that it’s been reported in print) it’s going to give people something to work towards which is always a positive.’’Karate isn’t the only martial arts club in UCD however with no fewer than ten other disciplines available for students to join. But the captain is keen to point out that Karate stands alone:‘’We’re a very social club. I think, all around, Karate is the best martial art that’s adapted to every day. Other clubs might use weapons or techniques that newcomers might not be used to. All around, I think it’s easier to get the grip of.’’Students can join UCD Karate Club by signing up to it at the Sports Expo in Halls 1 and 2 of the UCD Sport Centre. Alternatively, they can come down to training on a Monday evening. There’s no set uniform, so t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms will be fine!