A Brief History of the UKF

The Ulster Karate-do Federation (UKF) has a history dating from the first Karate club in Derry City, Northern Ireland in the mid 1950s which was opened by Sensei George McBride. Initially, Sensei McBride was taught Karate by Japanese instructors who visited Derry for work reasons at the time. George opened a club in Pump Street, in Derry and these Japanese Instructors taught there on occasions. Other people who trained with George at that time included Mr Charlie Morton and also Mr. Michael Doherty (Former manager of Brooke Park Leisure Centre). Unconfirmed reports indicate that Sensei McBride organised and held a Karate Demonstration Event in the Guildhall in Derry in 1956.

It was through Michael Doherty that Sensei McBride, who was then 4th Kyu, opened a Karate Club in the newly opened Brooke Park Leisure Centre in Rosemount in Derry City during October 1973. In January of 1974 there were 90 members and a 2nd club was opened in the Ann Street Activity Centre, in the Brandywell area of Derry. Members could then choose which club they could train in. This division created a friendly rivalry that produced excellent tournaments in the years thereafter.

Sensei George McBride 1st Dan (right) with student Columba McLaughlin 2nd Kyu (April 1976 in Buncrana Youth Club)

During the 1970s, karate clubs proliferated in the north west of Ireland, as they did elsewhere. This was the beginning of organised Karate-Do in the north west of Ireland. Sensei McBride established links with Sensei George Canning in Dublin and with Sensei Tatsuo Suzuki and also Sensei Meiji Suzuki in Great Britain. These links were strengthened with our membership of the Irish Karate-Do Federation (IKF) and Karate expanded through out the Island of Ireland. In 1982, the Brooke Park club resigned from the IKF and under the leadership of Gavin Duffy, Terry Boyle and Paul Garnon they formed their own organisation called the Ulster Karate Association (UKA).

Sensei George Canning (2nd Dan) demonstrating Mawashigeri Jodan on student Columba McLaughlin 1st Kyu (December 1976)

However, in March 1983 many of remaining senior graded karate enthusiasts decided to become independent of the Irish Karate-Do Federation. In doing so they formed the Ulster Karate-Do Federation (UKF). The initial Founding Members of the UKF were John Cooper, Paul Bell, Rob Collins, Tony Ward, Olly Redden, Frankie McGlinchey, Danny Sherrin, Noel McLaughlin and Columba McLaughlin. In 1984 these senior members invited Shihan Ritchie Noblett 5th Dan to Ireland to take courses for the UKF. Over the years the advice and help provided by Shihan Ritchie Noblett helped the UKF and its senior grades to develop and grow.

April 1984 - Shihan Ritchie with the Founding Members of the Ulster Karate-Do Federation

L - R: Danny Sheerin, Columba McLaughlin, Shihan Noblett, Olly Redden, Rob Collins, Tony Ward, Noel McLaughlin, Frankie McGlinchey, John Cooper, and Paul Bell (front centre).

July 1985 - Shihan Ritchie 5th Dan and Columba after grading 3rd Dan

JShihan Noblett 8th Dan demonstrating Sokuto Jodan

Shihan Ritchie Noblett 8th Dan demonstrating Gyakuzuki on Shawn Barron

Members of the UKF practice the traditional martial art of Wado Ryu Karate-Do and they also participate in Sport Karate by competing in Local, National and international competitions. Since it’s beginning the UKF has grown from strength to strength and currently it is the most successful organisation in the North West of Ireland. Also, the UKF has been at the forefront in developing the martial art and the sport of karate – do throughout the ancient province of Ulster in Ireland. For instance, it was a founder member of the Ulster Karate Council (UKC) and the UKF has been instrumental in assisting both the Ulster Karate Council and the Northern Ireland Karate Board (NIKB) to develop and grow. In 2012 - 2013 the Ulster Karate-Do Federation has helped Karate Northern Ireland to develop.

In early 2007, the UKF decided to expand its lines of communication and it has now forged very strong links with like minded Karate-ka in the Republic of Ireland and in Great Britain. Also, in May 2007, the UKF attained membership of the World Union of Karate – Do Organizations (WUKO). This enabled Dr. Columba McLaughlin 6th Dan and President of the UKF to attend and officiate in the WUKO Senior world championships in Valencia in 2007. At this event, Columba was awarded World Judge status.

In April 2008, the UKF held the 1st UKF Invitation Tournament. This event was run under the then WUKO rules of refereeing. In May 2008, Shawn Barron and Mary Doherty competed in the WUKO European Championships in Belgium for Seniors and Veterans. Along with Columba, both Mary and Shawn also completed the Referees' Course and Shawn gained WUKO Judge status.

In October 2008, at the World Childrens, Cadets and Juniors championships in Jesolo (Italy) all of the UKF Technical Committee took part in the WUKO Referees' Course and UKF Squad members competed. Columba was awarded World Refereeing status and Brian, Mary, and Denis were awarded World Judge status. Chris McFeeley, Gerry Smullan and Dermott McLaughlin were awarded World Kata Judge status. However, throughout 2007 and 2008 there were difficulties within WUKO and in December 2008 the majority of organisations decided to reform as the World Union of Karate-Do Federations (WUKF). The Ulster Karate-Do Federation is now a full member of the WUKF.

In April 2009, the UKF held its 2nd UKF Invitation Tournament in the Aileach Youth and Community Centre in Burnfoot, Inishowen, Co. Donegal. Teams from Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and from England took part. Also, at this event the new WUKF rules of competition were used.

In June 2009 the UKF Squad (including Competitors and Officials) participated in the WUKF World Seniors and Veterans championships in Odessa, Ukraine. Shawn Barron came home with a Silver medal in the Male Veterans Team and a Bronze medal in the Male Veterans Rotation team. Mary Doherty took a Bronze medal in the Individual Female Veteran Wado Ryu Kata. Also, both Mary and Denise Donaghey along with teammate Aoife Smith took Bronze in the Senior Female Wado Ryu Kata team event.

In September 2009, the UKF participated in the WUKF European Championships for Children, Cadets and Juniors in Constanta, Romania. Columba was awarded the status of Chief Referee by the WUKF Refereeing Commission. The cadet team (Dermot McFeeley, Padraig Kerlin, Glen Barron and Sean Campbell took Silver in the Teams and Denise Donaghey took Silver in the Junior Female Wado Ryu Kata and she also took Bronze in the Junior Female Kumite. These competitors have set the standards for others to follow. Unfortunately, our celebrations were tempered with the untimely death of Shihan Ritchie Noblett in November 2009. He was such an influence and inspiration for all the UKF. He will be sadly missed but his legacy will live on.

2009 - Columba McLaughlin after being awarded WUKF World Chief Referee Status

In April 2010, at the WUKF European Championships for Seniors and Veterans, Shawn Barron took Bronze in Veteran Kata and Kumite, Mary Doherty took a Silver Medal in the Veteran Female Kata and Denise Donaghey took Gold and became the WUKF Senior Female Kumite Champion. This was the icing on the cake and showed that all the hard work and perseverance paid off

2010 - Denise Donaghey - European Senior Female Kumite Champion in Santarem, Portugal

However, more was to come and in May 2011 Mary Dohertytook Gold and won the World Veteran Female Kata at the World Championships in Lignano, Italy.

2011 - Mary Doherty World Champion in Female Veteran Kata, in Lignano, Italy

Also, in June 2013 the UKF veteran Kata team of Shawn Barron, Martin McCole and Captain Paul Taylor won Gold and became the World Champions in Male veteran Team Kata.

2013 - UKF Veteran Kata Team - World Champions in Bucharest, Romania

From very small, humble and local beginnings the UKF has grown to national and international recognition. We think that Sensei George McBride would have been proud that his initial local endeavors over 50 years ago would have expanded to international status and such achievements. While Sensei George McBride and Sensei George Canning started the ball rolling, it was with Shihan Ritchie Noblett that the UKF made progress. He knew that we had fire in our bellies. It is up to us to keep that fire lit.