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WATCH Hayleigh Kiely returns as ISKA World Champion to Hub Martial Arts

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Hayleigh Kiely, a kickboxer crowned the ISKA World Champion trains at the Learning Hub in Limerick, where she was honoured with a homecoming event. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

Hayleigh Kiely receives a hero’s welcome from her peers at Hub Martial Arts as she was welcomed back as the newly crowned ISKA World Champion

Hayleigh Kiely, a kickboxer crowned the ISKA World Champion trains at James Blake, CEO Learning Hub, Hayleigh and her proud trainer Paul O'Brien, coordinator Martial Arts Hub. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick
Hayleigh Kiely, a kickboxer crowned the ISKA World Champion trains at James Blake, CEO Learning Hub, Hayleigh and her proud trainer Paul O’Brien, coordinator Martial Arts Hub. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

Hayleigh Kiely received a hero’s welcome from her peers at Hub Martial Arts as she was welcomed back to the gym as the newly crowned ISKA World Champion on Tuesday, April 23.

Although Hayleigh had been training behind closed doors for three months building up to her bout with Marisha Christie at the Cannock Chase Centre, UK on Saturday, April 13, it is an achievement she had aimed for since she began training at seven years of age.

Now aged 24, Hayleigh can proudly carry the ISKA World Championship belt and has secured her long-term goal of becoming the World’s Number 1 kickboxer.


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During the homecoming, Hayleigh told I Love Limerick, “It still feels mad to hear someone say that I’m world champion. I think me, Paul, and everyone at the gym just visualised it for so long that even though we knew it was going to happen, now hearing everyone saying it in its real life, it’s insane. I like it.”

Hayleigh spoke about her martial arts journey which began almost 16 years ago when she met her current trainer, Pual O’Brien while training under the late PJ Bennis who was very influential in the martial arts scene in Limerick.

“I think I was eight when I first started doing martial arts with PJ Bennis and Paul would have been training under PJ as well,” Hayleigh told I Love Limerick.

She spoke very highly of her experience at Hub Martial Arts, saying, “I suppose when PJ passed away, I found here Hub Martial Arts and I’ve never turned back since. This is an amazing club with amazing people. And everyone that walks through the doors, we’re all one big family.”

It was a proud moment for her parents, Mike and Karen,  with Mike saying “The whole family are super proud of Hayleigh for what she’s achieved, it’s incredible, from a young age she dreamt of this and she’s 24 now, all those dreams have come true.”

Hayleigh is an inspiration to younger members of Hub Martial Arts who now have a world champion to look up to.

“A role model, big time,” Mike told Richard Lynch, he continued, “And that’s what it’s about for the future, she’d tell you herself. The next generation are Looking up, idolising her, and we couldn’t be prouder.”

A proud Moyross native, Hayleigh said being from the area has made the achievement “even more special”.

Hayleigh with her proud parents Mike and Karen and her brother Zack. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

She told Richard Lynch of I Love Limerick, “I’m still living in Cosgrave Park in Moyross, and I’m very proud of where I come from. I think that’s what makes this story even more special, is that everything wasn’t just handed to us. We grafted from the absolute bottom to the top. And this is still only the start.”

Seven Hub Martial Arts students have qualified to compete in the ISKA World Championships taking place in Vienna, Austria this October, and the club has organised a fundraiser to help with the cost of attending the competition.

Writing on GoFundMe, the group says, “As you can imagine, this comes at a substantial cost to our students, and we are hoping that our supporters can help us out in any way possible.

“We are trying to raise funds to help give our students the opportunity to represent their country in one of the world’s most prestigious kickboxing tournaments.”

Speaking about the clubs humble beginnings, Paul O’Brien told I Love Limerick about how it all began while he showed off some football skills outside the Learning Hub building, and it puts into perspective the incredible achievement in a short space of time.

He said, “This was an old sewing room, and I asked my boss at the time, Jennifer Maroney Ward, if could I move some of the sewing machines and teach the two young lads.

“So I started there, two lads really enjoyed it and started telling their friends about it and we’ve been from two people to currently 150 to 200 people now at the gym.”

Hub Martial Arts are currently fundraising to compete at the world championships in Vienna this year, you can donate here
Read more Hub Martial Arts stories

Pictures: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the ilovelimerick.com concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.