Jon Mackey

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Background by K. Smullen.

Jon Mackey is the head coach at Red Star Sport TKD and Kickboxing. Jon started his Taekwon-Do training in 1987 under Thomas Carthy at the Irish School of Taekwon-Do. Now a fourth degree black belt, Jon teaches six days a week at the club and has to date trained national, European and World gold medalists. Jon himself has represented Ireland at national level many times as a member of the Irish men’s team. Having founded Red Star Sport Taekwon-Do (Formerly Pilsung Taekwon-Do) in 2004 he is very proud of the bunch of exceptional students training at the clubs at present – “we are very lucky to have some very dedicated kids training under us at present, I’ve no doubt they will go on to be world class fighters in the future – our clubs are continuously expanding, the pride we have in our communities and our work ethic and a love of the martial arts plays a vital role in this.

Athletes with International titles trained by Jon Mackey to date:

Lauren Bradshaw - European ITF Taekwon-Do Champion Bulgaria 2012/IUTF Open European Championships best over all junior 2011/ITF World Championships Bronze Estonia 2012/International Irish Championships Gold/ITF European Colour belt champion Croatia 2009/World Taekwon-Do Festival Korea 2010 Gold/Kickboxing Ireland National Champion 2012/ITF Ireland Open Gold/ITF Ireland Open best over all junior female 2012/Unified ITF Taekwon-Do World Champion London 2013/Over all best junior female competitor London 2013/WAKO European Champion Poland 2013. WAKO World Championships 2014 Rimini Italy Bronze. Senior and Junior National Kickboxing Champion 2015. Irish Open Champion 2015.

Brendan Kenny – National kickboxing Champion (Junior) 2014. WAKO Vice World Champion Rimini Italy 2014. Irish Open Champion 2013. Irish Open Champion 2014.

Neidin Coulahan - ITF European Gold 2009 Croatia/World Taekwon-Do Festival Goldx2 Korea 2010/ITF World Championships Bronze 2010 Korea/ IUTF Open European Championships Gold/International Irish Championships Gold/ITF Ireland Open Gold/Unified ITF Taekwon-Do World Champion London 2013 sparring/Unified Taekwon-Do World Championships team patterns Gold London 2013.

Erika Walsh - World Taekwon-Do Festival Korea 2010 Gold/IUTF Open European Championships Gold 2011/ITF Ireland Open Gold/Kickboxing Ireland National Champion 2012/Unified Taekwon-Do ITF world champion Gold in sparring silver in patterns London 2013 & Gold in female team patterns.

Laura Flynn – Unified Taekwon-Do ITF World Championships Gold in Patterns, London 2013 & Gold in female team patterns.

Donna Mackey – Unified Taekwon-Do World Championships Gold in senior female 2nd dan patterns & Gold in female team patterns.

Dylan Russell - Kickboxing Ireland National Champion 2011/Kickboxing Ireland National Champion 2012/ITF Ireland Open Gold.

Alvydas Jankauskas – World Taekwon-Do Festival Gold medalist Korea 2010

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Jon is;

  • Occupational First Aid Certified / Rescue & Emergency care (level 3) certified
  • Garda vetted & Child Protection Certified
  • International Taekwon-Do Federation Certified (life time registered member)
  • Umpire A Class Certified
  • IMAC/Sports Council Coaching (NCDP) certified
  • Registered member of the Irish Martial Arts Commission
  • Urban Combatives Instructor Level 5 certified
  • Defensive Tactics Instructor
  • Kickboxing Ireland assistant National Coach (appointed Poland 2013)

Other sporting qualifications:

  • Level 4 white water Kayak skills ICU
  • Level 3 Kayak instructor
  • RSR L1/2/3

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Jon first became interested in the martial arts after developing an admiration for the late great Bruce Lee. As a boy, Jon and his friends would spend their spare time in the local video store reading the backs of the martial arts video covers. He says;

“Back in the mid 1980’s our families had very little money. There was only one family on my road who owned a video player. Myself and a friend called Eddie (a Kenpo black belt now) would save up and hire out Bruce Lee films and run back to his house to watch them. They were good times, even though we had very little as kids, we enjoyed being pulled into a virtual world of martial arts mystery thanks to Bruce Lee!”

Jon joined the local Kenpo Karate club in the spring of 1986.

My friend Eddie was already a member, he was an orange belt and he said I should go and try it out. I joined and I loved it. I won a couple of trophies in Kenpo too. I graded to Orange belt. In 1986 I went to Canada for a month and when I returned a new and very different martial art had moved into our area. Another friend of mine had told me that he went to watch it and he said it was “deadly” or words to that effect.”

In 1986 the Irish School of Taekwon-Do had moved from Queen street into the Prussia street parish centre. Jon and his friends went to watch a class. He remembers “There was three of us, myself Paul (dotsie) and ken. We went in and sat on the table at the end of the hall. The class was huge and the instructor had a booming commanding voice. The training was very different to Kenpo. The class was doing jumping and spinning kicks that made us both dizzy and excited!

At the end of the class the instructor came over to Jon and his friends. He introduced himself as Tom Carthy, a third degree black belt.

Thomas Carthy was an impressive man. He influenced me like no other person in my life at that time. Tom instilled a belief in you that was unshakable. Even growing up in the inner city I was still unsure of my ability and confidence. Tom Carthy changed all of that, he probably doesn’t even realise. Himself, his wife June and family are still good friends to this day. Salt of the earth people.

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Without delay all three joined the Irish School of Taekwon-Do. Today, Jon is the only direct student of Tom Carthy still involved with Taekwon-Do. In 1994 Jon was promoted to 1st degree black belt at the age of 16. He performed his test in front of ITF master Trevor Nicholls then a 5th degree black belt. He recalls the test:

Master Nicholls was a tough examiner. You knew no matter what grade you were going for you would have to prove you were very capable. At 16 years of age I was supremely confident in my ability. I had just taken up boxing at Phibsboro boxing club and was training twice a day with my life long friend Stephen Kavanagh a highly decorated amateur boxer and coach. On the tournament circuit I had just won two national titles the most prestigious being that of the AITA national championships. Having all of that under my belt at 16 was a great confidence booster going into my black belt test.

Jon continued his training up until 1998 when he had to dedicate his time to study at Kevin Street college as he qualified as an electrical engineer. In 2000 he returned to his training but to his disappointment the Irish School of Taekwon-Do had closed down and his instructor Tom Carthy had retired. He dabbled about in a few Taekwon-Do clubs, and eventually threw himself in boxing training instead. In 2002 he returned to Taekwon-Do joining AIMAA for a brief period before picking up the phone to Master Nicholls in England to seek direction.

At that time there were great moves afoot in the ITF world. Master Don Dalton had just set up ITF Ireland under the ITF and Jon joined up. At this point Jon and his good friend and fellow IST student Paul O’Brien were running a very successful Taekwon-Do club in Cabra. They both agreed to join ITF Ireland. Shortly after Paul moved to Walkinstown where he now runs his own successful Taekwon-Do club.

In the years that followed Jon became heavily involved in competitive sparring. He recalls here how master Dalton opened up avenues he never had before.

Joining up with Master Dalton was a great move. I was able to reignite a passion for competition that I had experienced as a young lad.

Master Dalton was the ITF Ireland national team coach and after some intense training granted Jon his first international bout in Holland in 2005. In the years to follow Jon maintained a position on the national team. Unfortunately he missed out on a world championship gold medal in England due to injury as the men’s team went on to win the event.

That was tough to take on board at the time. Master Dalton said I should have stayed the pace, I should have listened! I was very happy that the team had won, they are all fierce warriors and deserved every bit of it. Those few short years were a whirlwind for me. Going from zero to the international stage was something. Master Dalton brought that spark back to my Taekwon-Do.

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Jon retired from competition in 2008 after fighting with the Irish team in Sardinia at the ITF European championships where he secured two bronze and a silver medal.

It was nice to fight at that level for the last time. I made a serious error in the individuals where I was disqualified for excessive contact. I went on to beat Kevin Guy, who had won the individuals when we fought England in the team semi finals. I was disappointed for sure. I was training with Aidan Walsh and Terry Donnelly in Dublin at the time and I was in great shape and moving very well. That’s life though.” (Jon made a surprise return to the ring in 2012 when he won the UTFS Scottish Taekwon-Do Championships – “for the craic.

It was in 2008 when Jon’s students excelled at the European championships, taking home a cache of gold medals.

We were all over the moon at the time. Here we were, a little club from Cabra in the middle of the Mediterranean and we were winning gold medals all over the place. It was at this point that I decided I was going to devote my time to coaching and developing our competitors. We had equal success in Croatia in 2009 when our competitors secured more gold medals than any other Irish group. We were all thrilled, we were doing something right!

Today Jon continues to teach and coach Red Star competitors at his full time training facility at The Vitality Hub on Nore Road, Glasnevin.

“We have a great atmosphere in the club, it’s a real community spirit. The guys training there at the moment are fantastic people, juniors and seniors alike. They make training at the club an absolute pleasure. We have some great parents too that always lend a hand. The guys are very well known on the tournament circuit, very well respected and are spoken highly about by all. This is very important for us. Having courtesy and respect for all is vital, many competitors become ego-maniacs and lose the run of themselves. This is unfortunate.”

In conclusion Jon says;

“I hope to be coaching now for a long time, I really enjoy it. I love learning from other good coaches and adapting their proven methods to my style of teaching. As long as there is oxygen in these lungs, there will be a dobok on!”

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Did you know??

Favourite food: – “I’m a pescatarian! I don’t eat meat only fish. I love Salmon, and any of the foods from Govindas which is lots and lots of vegetables. I love berries as well.

Favourite films: – “I love Laurel and Hardy short films and of course Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! My other favourites would include Gladiator, Brave Heart, The Mission, The Last Samurai, Enter the Dragon and The Exorcist would also be in my top ten”

Favourite music:- “I have a broad range of music that I like, anything from Metallica, Rage to Florence and the Machine, Pet Shop Boys, Chase and Status and Damien Dempsey. I’m a mood music person. However my first love would be The Beatles. I started to listen to my brothers Beatles collection when I was 11 or 12 and have had a life long love for them ever since. My favourite Beatle album would be either the White album or Abbey Road.”

Other interests: - “White water kayaking and mountain biking, the adrenal stuff ;) . I like to study the Irish language, tá gaeilge agam! The night sky  and reading and enjoying some quiet time, I like my own company. Other than that I like to spend time with real friends chatting over a coffee, and swimming in the sea.”

Best advice given: – “Good question, I’m not sure, I have received a hell of a lot of good advice over the years. I suppose the one that resonates best is – don’t be dragged down by others, keep focused on your own future, let the universe sort the nay sayers out”

Martial Arts likes: – “Open minded coaches and instructors who are willing to learn and give information. Training enthusiastic kids!”

Martial Arts dislikes:- ” fools who have little else to do except speak negative of others. Instructors who cut waiting times off their grading. Money grabbers, liars and bluffers the martial arts is full of them. I also frown at instructors who themselves don’t train, but of course there’s a good excuse as to why they don’t. I dislike moody people and people who expect you to humour their mood. If you’re in a bad mood -keep it to yourself!”

Martial Arts hero’s :- ” Bruce Lee for sure, and of course my instructor Tom Carthy. I’m a big fan of Tomaz Barada also. Lee Morrison is one inspirational guy”

Most memorable moment:- “There are many for me in Taekwon-Do, beatinging Germain Hemming in the final of the Celtic Cup in 2007, getting my 3rd degree in front of master Choi Jung Hwa in Bulgaria, getting my 4th degree in Korea and the entire Korea trip. Also winning student of the year in 1991 at the IST! Coaching the senior WAKO team at the European Championships in Slovenia 2013.

Outside of that my most memorable moment would be singing Hey Jude along side Paul McCartney – well there were about 50,000 other people as well, but an incredible experience non the less!”

Interview carried out by Karen Smullen.

In case you’re not bored already…

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