Taekwondo lessons are helping to build a bond of respect between Ann Leahy and her young grandson, writes Arlene Harris
ANN LEAHY is 62-years-old. Like many women of her age, she has grown up children and grandchildren who she enjoys spending time with. But the knowledge she shares with her 10-year-old grandson, Conor, is somewhat unusual — this Kilkenny grandmother-of-four spends her spare time sparring with her grandson and showing him her martial art skills.
She always loved sport and keeping fit so ten years ago she joined a local Taekwondo group and has worked her way up through the ranks to become a red belt.
“Ever since I can remember I was interested in sport and used to do a lot of running and basketball when I was younger,” she says. “I had done some damage to my knees from running on concrete so was looking for a different way to keep fit when Guy Jones came into our local fitness centre and said he was setting up a Taekwondo group.
“I’m always up for a challenge so decided straight away to join up — and while initially it was fairly easy as he got a handle on how able we all were, over time it got more challenging and we were doing a lot of sparring and learning how to protect ourselves.”
The main aim of Taekwondo is self-defence and Ann, who is married to William, really got into her stride and before long was able to kick and spar like a pro.
“Before every lesson we have a warm-up which involves stretching muscles I didn’t even know I had,” she laughs. “Then we got started with learning how to do a basic instep kick. Once we had mastered that, we were taught the round kick and then went onto a spinning back kick.
The mother of three (Wayne, Yvonne and Edwin) says apart from the fitness element of Taekwondo, it is also a fantastic way to learn self-discipline and respect which is one of the reasons why she introduced her grandson to the sport.
“I encouraged my grandson to join for a number of reasons; firstly because it is a great way for him to get exercise and secondly because he has learned about being patient, always looking his best and respecting those around him.
“Now whenever he comes over, we practice different moves and he asks my advice on kicks that he isn’t sure of — it’s a great thing for us to have in common and I would say it’s quite unusual as well.”
Ann says Taekwondo has given her a lease for life and feels that other people of her age would benefit from taking it up.
“I would definitely say that Taekwondo has kept me feeling younger,” she says.
“You only have one life and I firmly believe that we must do everything we can to make the most of it while we are still able to.”
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