Michelle Hogan teaching her skills to youngsters from the Irish Taekwondo Tigers

Taekwondo Master Michelle Hogan will next week begin a free four-week self-defence course specifically tailored for those who suffer from chronic pain conditions.

The classes will take place over four Monday evenings, beginning at 8pm on November 18 at Rockford Manor School in Blackrock, and run through to December 9.

There will be no charge for the course, however those in a position to do so can make an optional donation to a chronic pain and/or Multiple Sclerosis charity.

Hogan has been involved in martial arts for 20 years and for the past 15 years has taught taekwondo to children of all ages and ability.

She, herself, suffers from a chronic pain condition and it was while attending pain management at St Vincent’s Hospital that she devised an idea to adapt her course for people who endure chronic pain.

“Last year. my pain intensified and I considered maybe stopping teaching taekwondo,” Hogan tells the Dublin Gazette.

“My condition was not caused by taekwondo – it’s a nervous system issue. I actually would be a lot worse if I didn’t do martial arts.

“As I went on in the programme, I was helping a lot of people with the physical sessions because they were finding it very difficult.

“We were in one of the sessions and one of the medical practitioners asked would I mind doing a demonstration of martial arts for the group.

“I said, I don’t know if me doing spinning kicks would be very good for group morale as they were really struggling with different aspects.

“I thought about five or six moves that anybody could do whether you’re wheelchair-bound, have a really bad back problem, have MS. I take my experience and teach those self-defence techniques.

“A couple of them said they really wish they could do classes like that but, because of the physical intensity involved in a lot of martial arts classes, they can’t join in.

“I put it to the group to do a specialised course that was feasible to do if you have limitations and issues, and they all jumped at it. I then said, ‘why don’t I open it to other people?’”

As well as the physical benefits taekwondo can have for some people with pain conditions, there are also social and mental health benefits too.

She adds: “Everybody that has certain levels of pain, they can go into themselves and be reluctant to do any kind of physical activity.

“I want to get people over that fear because I’m in pain every single day, but if I don’t do any exercise and don’t do certain things, it intensifies and you can get depressed.

“Not everybody is going to be able to come in and do spinning back reverse kids, jumping back kicks, double-turn kicks, but they can come in, get some physical activity and learn life-saving techniques.

“If you’re in pain, you’re full of fear and are worried about things happening, so it’s to empower people, teach them to throw a couple of punches and kicks and some locks and holds you can do.

“I wouldn’t be a big build or anything, but these techniques are joint manipulation and pressure points. You do things in a certain way so you don’t need to be muscle-bound or strong.”