Black belt Derry woman Roisin makes judo history with Long Tower
Local woman Roisin Doherty has said she was delighted to receive her black belt at a special ceremony this week and urged other women and girls to consider taking up judo and self-defence classes.
Roisin from The Glen area of the city was one of the original members of local disability charity Destined who over a decade ago asked to learn self-defence classes and this led to members progressing to judo.
Since then Roisin has progressed under the tuition of senior coach Jim Toland through various belts to reach black belt status this week, which was conferred at a special ceremony on Monday night at Long Tower Youth Club Judo Club, attended by Russell Brown, Vice-chair of the NI Judo Federation.
Roisin’s achievement marks the first time that someone from the city who has a learning disability, autism and cerebral palsy has reached black belt status .
While Roisin - who was also one of the first women in the north to train in judo - said she knew she had reached the black belt stage, she didn’t know when it would be officially conferred and was ‘shocked’ but ‘happy’ to be called up on Monday night.
Charting her own martial arts journey, she said: “At first it was for self-confidence. Starting out as a novice you don’t know what you are getting yourself into. We did the self-defence and then Jim said do any of you want to do Judo and that’s how it all started out. Jim has been the tutor since day one, since self-defence. He is very patient.
“I’ve been going there now for ten years. You learn as you come up the belts, every time you get a knew belt you learn new skills. “
Roisin has taken part in various competitions in Derry, Dublin and Scotland with Long Tower Judo Club and enjoys mixing with the other members and getting to know judo members at other clubs across the north west. “It’s like a wee family, we all look out for each other. We missed it so much this past while.”
Urging other women and girls to try Judo, she added: “Especially out on the streets, especially at night-time you need to know how to defend yourself. I would recommend it to any woman or young girl. Touch wood, I have never been in that situation or in a fight in my life but if anybody was it’s the best thing to take up ,especially for confidence and if you are shy.
“There are some girls but it would be great if there were more girls doing it, and maybe more girls would join it if they seen their friends doing it.”
Roisin, who also co-runs the Young Person’s Group at Destined, providing support to and developing programmes for local youth members, plans to keep going in judo and will partake in future competitions and has undertaken coaching in the past.
In fact, as Roisin’s coach, Jim Toland Jim, points out: “Roisin was also the first woman in Northern Ireland with a disability to complete a Level One Coaching award and has won North West Gold Medals. She is great. She is so committed and dedicated.
“We started off doing self-defence and then went on to do judo. Roisin stuck with it and has done really well.”
Destined Chief Executive Dermot O’Hara, who is also Roisin’s father, said they were all very proud of her.
He explained that Destined evolved out of Roisin’s experiences after leaving Foyleview School at 19, and was set up to promote social inclusion given the isolation experienced by many young adults with disabilities.
As part of this the members were taken to pubs and nightclubs, and the request from members for self-defence classes led from this coupled with their having taken part in a programme with a local women’s organisation who supplied them with personal protection equipment.
“Roisin has stuck with it,” Dermot said. “Whatever happens, she is really dedicated and committed to it and very much part of the club, and accepted as such. That is part of our overarching social inclusion ethos.”
Jim said Judo and self-defence training has many benefits for everybody. He added that everyone is welcome to come along to check out the Judo Club at Long Tower Youth Club at 7pm on a Monday nights, with the seniors and older youths currently back in action.