Grandmaster Francis Barrett

Grand Master Barrett felt honoured when he first heard of the news of his grading in 2000. At the RITA Christmas party, he was formally presented with the certificate by Grand Master Robert Howard, RITA president, and congratulated by Ireland's two other senior practitioners - Master Anthony Phelan and Master Liam Dandy. "It's a highlight of my life although I felt that I didn't do enough to get it," Master Barret says. "I felt I was doing it for the love of the art and because I liked doing it, not for the glory of it." What Master Barrett has done is establish and promote RITA schools in the south of the country for years after he developed in Taekwon-Do under the tuition of Grand Master Phelan, RITA vice-president. "To receive the same grade as my instructor is kind of ironic. It's the highest compliment any student can pay an instructor," he says.

Master barrett performs two directional kick

It is perhaps a more difficult task than looking after Dublin schools where instructors can regularly support one another and where "the world revolves", as Grand Master Barrett says. He describes the award as a coming of age although, he jokingly adds, it shows that he is pushing on in years. His development in the Korean art dates back to 1973, when a Taekwon-Do school was opened in Waterford and which was maintained by Grand Master Phelan, who travelled from Dublin to share his knowledge and skills. After introductions to Judo and Karate, Grand Master Barrett turned to Taekwon-Do almost by accident. The other martial arts schools had failed and he saw "the peculiar" name advertised in the local newspaper. The rest is 29 years of history, of practice, tuition and clocking up the miles as he regularly drives to schools as far away as Limerick, but also taking in Cork and Carrick-on-Suir. Starting off, he remembers the strangeness of the Korean martial art's moves. Now he believes he has practised more than 2,500 of the 3,500 techniques in Taekwon-Do. Even as a beginner, though, he was taken with the variety of techniques on offer.

Master Barrett (2nd on right), the 1982 World Championship winning team

Grand Master Barrett was not only a successful International Competitor, winning Gold with the Irish Team in the 1982 World Championships, but he was also one of Irelands most successful Team Coaches repeating his Gold at the 1990 World Championships. He has also been Ireland's Chief Umpire at World and European Championships.


The tenets of Taekwon-Do - courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit - he believes are applicable in everyday life. Do not set yourself a time limit, he advises students, but a goal, whether it is to get into the next grading, or to become a Master or a champion. He is a firm believer in the "magic of the mind", in the value of positive thinking in achieving goals. "I would say to any student, to set yourself a goal and stay at it until you reach it. Don't take no for an answer. Refuse to give up. Persevere." Unlike his Dublin-based peers, Grand Master Barrett lives in glorious isolation the countryside, in Ballyloughmore, Co Waterford, with a view of the whole south east around him. "Have dobok (a Taekwon-Do suit) will travel, that's my favourite saying." It's either dedication or it's madness, he adds. "I am still trying to figure it out. Maybe it's a bit of both." With all that travel, it's perhaps not surprising that cars are a hobby of his. Restoring vintage cars, that is, and currently he is working on a 1950s Ford Popular and a 1960s Ford Anglia. It's a hobby where perseverance comes in. He remembers thinking that 'Master' status "was totally out of reach and only for orientals" but all the way along, he wanted to push himself. "I wanted to test myself to the limit. How far could I go and how long could I stick it. I looked on every grade and every move as a challenge and a test for me." As he points out, after 27 years he has also passed a test of time.

Master Barrett was promoted to Grand Master 9th Degree Black Belt at the World Championships in DPR Korea 2017.


First published in 'Irish Fighter' - Ireland's top selling martial arts magazine. You can contact the publication at: PO Box 3827, Dublin 7, Ireland. Tel. (++353) 86 247 2030

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