by Fiona O’Brien
Alexandra Block is one of only two competitors who travelled to Russia for the first ever WAKO International University Kickboxing Championships last weekend.
The 21-year-old studies Forensic Science, which she calls ‘a bit mad’, at Sligo IT and is representing her university in the -60kg light contact division.
Born in Hayes, Middlesex, Alexandra moved to Sligo at the age of 8 so that her mother could help look after her aging parents who had moved back home in the 80s after 40 years of living in England.
Alexandra had a natural love for sport and thrived when faced with the new challenge of Gaelic football when she first moved to Ireland, but it meant that she stood out to playground bullies as the new ‘London’ girl who was doing exceptionally well at sports.
“I was sort of a confident kid anyway, and was very sport orientated. While I was playing at school, I just picked it up really quickly, and started to get trials for Connaught,” she says.
“That probably didn’t help anything with the other kids’ jealousy, I was also playing for the ladies team at Sligo Rovers, and the bullying just spanned from that really.
“I was due to start secondary school, and was just going through a really hard time so my mum suggested I take up a martial art or a self-defence class to give me a bit more confidence, and that was it I was hooked!”
Alexandra had been a keen Irish dancer throughout her childhood as well, dancing with her home Hayes club, and reaching Championship level in England as well as travelling to feises in Dublin.
“I was about to give up Irish dancing when I was getting bullied, and when Mum suggested a martial art I decided to steer away from karate, as I didn’t like the fact I wouldn’t be able to us my legs that much.
“It wasn’t for me as I couldn’t see myself not kicking, and I was always famous for my long legs – even though I’m only 5”5 I’ve been told I’ve got pretty deadly legs!
“So that’s probably the one reason that I went for it over other martial arts as I thought I’d have a good headstart, and it did help to give me a bit more confidence.”
For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World