Jordan Doran (left) is one of Ireland's most talented kickboxers (photo by Seán Kelly/Seán's Shots).

'Growing up, I was told that kickboxing isn't a female sport'

Ireland’s teen sensation Jordan Doran chats to The42 about her many impressive achievements.

MOST IRISH SPORTS fans, aside from kickboxing aficionados, will likely be unfamiliar with the name Jordan Doran.

However, a list of the 17-year-old fighter’s achievements to date gives a stark insight into her talent and potential for the future.

Having started out at six, the Kildare native’s succession of titles has shown little sign of abating since triumphing for the first time at the age of eight. Her accolades so far include:

  • 14 Irish National Titles in the last six years which include: point-fighting, light contact and kick light
  • 2014 WAKO World Champion in Points fighting 13-15
  • 2014 WAKO World Championships Female points fighter of the tournament
  • 2015 WAKO European Champion in Light-Contact 13-15
  • 2015 WAKO European Silver medallist in Points-fighting 13-15 +
  • 2015 – part of the first-ever team to win a WAKO team event for Ireland in the WAKO European Championships
  • 2016 WAKO World Champion Light-contact 13-15
  • 2016 WAKO World silver medallist in Kick-light 13-15 and it was my first time competing in Kick-light
  • 2016 WAKO Bronze Medallist in Point-fighting 13-15
  • 2017 Bristol Open Champion in Junior 16-18 Open weight
  • 2017 Bristol Open silver medallist in Women’s Light-Contact
  • 2018 WAKO World Champion in Light Contact
  • 2018 Double WAKO World silver medallist
  • First-ever Irish athlete (senior or junior) to qualify for three WAKO Finals.

Given this prodigious success, it won’t surprise you to learn Doran comes from a sporting family. Her father was a keen soccer and GAA player, while her mother excelled at camogie, representing Ardclough and Kildare at club and intercounty level respectively.

Her 13-year-old sister Shannan lines out for Edenderry Rugby Club, while seven-year-old brother Shawn might well emulate his siblings’ sporting prowess once he grows older.

Doran initially took up kickboxing “as a way to learn self-defence” and soon found herself immersed in the sport. At the age of around 10, she followed in her mother’s footsteps by trying out GAA, but gave it up after three or four months, when it started to clash with her primary sporting pursuit.

The youngster’s talent for kickboxing was very quickly apparent. Medals and spectacular success increasingly became commonplace as her career developed. 2018 was no exception to the consistent stream of accolades. Last September, she returned home from Jesolo, Italy a world champion.

Upon arrival back in Dublin with her coaches and team-mates at the Red Star Kickboxing club, she received a hero’s welcome from friends and family.

Yet before Doran can dream of building on this success and potentially surpassing it, there are more prosaic immediate matters to attend to.

Next month, along with fellow final-year students at Oatlands Community College in Edenderry, County Offaly, she will sit her Mock Exam Papers, before the Leaving Cert in June.

Yet rather than feeling overwhelmed by these two very different challenges in her life, Doran believes sport and study in fact complement one another. Kickboxing is perceived as an outlet for relieving the stress that comes from schoolwork.

“If I didn’t have kickboxing, I’d be in a pile of books all day,” she explains. “It’s a way for me to get over that for a few hours.”

Doran would normally train five-six days a week, but this number has been reduced to just two of late on account of her looming exams.

Once she finishes her mocks, Doran’s practice schedule will intensify in preparation for the Irish Open — an international competition with over 4,000 competitors that runs on the first week of March over four days every year in Citywest, Dublin. 

jd2 Doran celebrates victory with an Irish flag (photo by Liz White).

(Photo by Liz White)

There is also the Irish National Championships in Monaghan later that month, with coveted places up for grabs for the World Championships, which take place in Antalya, Turkey this year and run from 23 November to 1 December.

Before then though, the Leaving Cert must be navigated. Doran is considering a number of options including an English and Geography Arts Degree coupled with a sports scholarship in Maynooth University.

Aside from kickboxing, Doran’s other big passion is art and it represents another potential post-secondary-school path, as she prepares to submit a portfolio with a view to getting into the National College of Art and Design.

Any spare time I get I dedicate to art,” she says. “I really enjoy drawing, expressing myself artistically, so that to me is kind of an escape from reality on the side.”

She continues: “When it comes to kickboxing, I’m open to learning new things and learning how other people do things and trying to implement it. In kickboxing, it’s all about trying to help each other develop, whereas in art, there’s a certain style that I use that suits me. But in kickboxing, you learn to develop in several different ways and there’s not one way of doing something, so they’re actually very different.”

Despite having achieved plenty at such a young age, Doran is nowhere near done and plans to compete “as long as I possibly can,” having already trained for the past 11 years.

One extra source of motivation was the recent news that, after years of trying, kickboxing has finally been awarded Olympic recognition. While it does not guarantee participation at future Games, this boost greatly increases the likelihood that the sport will be part of the event at some point down the line.

Should kickboxing be confirmed as one of the sports in future Olympics, it would certainly be a positive development from an Irish perspective, given the consistently impressive achievements of athletes from this country for a number of years now. Alongside similarly accomplished nations such as Italy, Russia and Hungary, Ireland has regularly punched well above its weight in the sport.

“After hearing the news now, it’s become that little bit closer,” Doran, who grew up idolising Irish boxing star and Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor, adds. “That’s what we’ve all been training and working hard for. Not just me but everyone else in the sport all across the country.

When we heard the news, everyone was ecstatic and we were all delighted, because people my age and even the younger generation — there’s hope for us to travel with Olympic teams, to qualify and to come home with Olympic medals.”

Doran dreams of being the kickboxing equivalent of Taylor one day, as do many others.

“Last Saturday, we were at the Kickboxing Ireland awards night. We were actually told that 41% of kickboxers were female. That’s risen so much over the last couple of years. You see all the younger people coming up, mainly girls and everyone my age, competing alongside guys. It’s amazing to see how women are becoming more confident in doing combat sports.”

It represents quite a turnaround in a relatively short space of time. In fact, Doran says, she was actively discouraged from participating earlier in her career on account of her gender. Yet wisely, she ignored these unhelpful suggestions and remained steadfast in her pursuit of stardom.

“Once you love doing something, there’s no one else that can stop you,” she concludes. “Once you’re comfortable and love every second of it, there’s no reason why you can’t or shouldn’t do it.

Growing up, I was told that kickboxing isn’t a female sport and girls shouldn’t be doing kickboxing. But I disregarded what everyone else said, because it was a sport that I absolutely loved and I’ve been quite successful as well.

“I always was of the positive mindset to keep doing it. You’re always going to have them few negative people, but my parents, coaches and team-mates were always supportive and encouraging me to do my best and telling me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. Hearing that from them was more important than hearing negative comments off other people.”

Just over a week out from the 2019 Six Nations openers, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey are joined by Bernard Jackman to look at Ireland’s bid for another Grand Slam:

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