Mary Lynn O’Neill is hoping to make history on Friday as she opens the first woman-run martial arts club in Donegal.
Mary, who is originally from Coolboy, Letterkenny, began training in karate from the age of eight alongside her parents and sister, and is still going strong 29 years on.
Mary did her first black belt grading when she was 12 and just received her third black belt Dan.
When she was 16 years old Mary travelled to England and attended an international course to receive a teaching qualification taught by some of the best karateka including Terry O’Neill, Arnold Schwarzanegger’s weapons trainer.
She passed with flying colours and obtained her teacher’s portfolio and qualification, the only person from Ireland to achieve this.
At the University of Ulster she was trained by 6th Dan Sensei Joe McCullagh, teaching her how to use full body locking, hip movement and power and where she received an Outstanding Recognition Award.
Mary has also given credit to John and Anna Wilkie, who have played a big role in coaching in her karate career and getting her to the level she is at.
Now, Mary is hoping to make local history as the first female martial arts club owner, with ‘Donegal School of Shotokan Karate’.
“I have always fought against men ever since I was young,” Mary said.
“Recently people have told me they are glad I’m setting up the club because they feel more comfortable around women trainers.
“I think that with the rise in popularity in women’s sports like camogie, Gaelic and football, it’s important, that anybody is able to do this.”
Mary also hopes that the club can offer support to single parents or people who struggle to find childcare with classes that teach both adults and kids at the same time.
“I hope to make it a family affair,” she said.
“I was brought up training with my own family and maybe I can get my mum back into it!”
Mary gave thanks to her parents Frances and Eugene, who sadly passed away, and her sisters Dolores and Antoinette for getting her to where she is today.
“Even when our car was broken down, I used to force my mum to take me to training .
“My dad was always in my corner supporting me and I know he is helping me today.”
Donegal School of Shotokan Karate (Thorn Road, Glebe, Letterkenny F92 FYP7) will open on Friday at 5.45pm, where Mary will be joined by assistant coach Brian McGlynn, 2nd Dan, for a demonstration and registration.
For more information, contact Mary on 0877178503.