Moving forward in style at forty

Galway’s longest running karate club, based in Shantalla in the city, celebrates four decades this year, having been founded by Greg and Mary Cotter in 1984, They remain at the heart of the organisation which nurtures respect, discipline and good humour, not to mention physical fitness. JUDY MURPHY went along to a training session with Galway Shotokan Karate Club to learn more.

“Karate begins and ends with respect,” says Laura O’Connor, a longtime member of the Galway Shotokan Karate Club, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this weekend.

A visit to the club’s training facilities at St Joseph’s Community Centre in Shantalla demonstrates that.

It’s 5pm on a Thursday and the noise levels are impressive as the school’s founder Greg Cotter and fellow instructor (or sensei) Roberto Martin lead about 30 children aged between six and 12 in a training session.

They warm up together before Greg brings the older group to one end of the hall and Roberto focuses on the smaller ones, working on different movements as they build up to longer sequences.

Some are wearing white karate suits and belts that display their level of proficiency. Others are in colourful t-shirts and leggings. All are having fun but it’s clear that this practice requires energy and concentration. Respect too, as the youngsters are taught how to move and interact, learning how to protect themselves from attack. And they’re all roaring fearsomely as they do the martial shout.

A banner at one end of the training hall (dojo) has five phrases that define the ethos of Shotokan Karate.

“Seek perfection of Character;

Be faithful;

Always endeavour;

Respect others;

Refrain from violent behaviour.”

They are central, says Greg Cotter, who with his wife Mary has been at the core of Galway’s Shotokan Karate Club since 1984. He’s from Shantalla and she’s from Bohermore and both are also highly-respected musicians, familiar to fans of folk, country and trad.

Greg’s interest in karate began when he lived in Boston in the late 1970s and early 1980s and spent three years learning it from a Japanese teacher there. When he returned to Galway, he brought it with him.

Playing music in pubs, it would have been too easy to get into a drinking habit, which Greg didn’t want.

“I realised, having an awareness of some of the casualties in music, that I needed a balance,” he explains. Team sports were tricky because of his music commitments, so karate made sense on various levels.

“I like the contact of it,” he says. “When I was doing it first, in the 1970s, there was more connection and it was more physical.”

Such was his passion and talent that he became involved with the national karate squad, travelling to Dublin for regular training. That meant “turning down a lot of gigs because, back then, all the gigs were at the weekend”.

However, it paid off and he represented Ireland at the 1989 European Championships in Athens.

“Controlled aggression” is required for competitions, he says.

“You have to be aggressive or you’d be walked all over in competitive bouts. ‘Spirited’, the Japanese would call it.”

It was important to be sharp and focused, because Ireland’s squad had a small pool to draw from, compared to a country like Germany

Pictured: Darren Curran, who began training with Galway Shotokan Karate Club when he was 10, is now a Sensei (instructor) with the group.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

More like this:

Sign Up To get Weekly Sports UPDATES

Go Up