Kenpo Women’s Symposium
Helping Women Find Community and Grow


Helene Meade started her martial arts training in her mid-20s and learned Kenpo in Navan, Ireland. She was working as a fitness instructor in a local gym and wanted extra fitness training for herself, so she got interested in the self-defense side of things. She received her green belt at that time and took part in many competitions nationally. Then, she took a break for a number of years.

Helene returned at the age of 46 and started training again – this time in Trim Kenpo Karate Academy. Although it was similar, it was different enough from her previous Karate system that she decided to start again from the beginning. She tested for and was promoted to 1st Degree Black Belt three and a half years later, which she felt was a huge achievement for her at that age. 

Now, as a 3rd Degree Black Belt Instructor, Helene loves teaching young girls and women this fantastic self-defense art. She also attends classes in Celbridge once a week with her instructor Master Ed Downey, a 9th Degree Black Belt and President of the European Kenpo Karate Association.

Helene’s background is in fitness, martial arts, sports therapy, and reflexology. She has over 35 years in the fitness industry. She is also an Emergency Medical Technician and works with the ambulance service in Ireland.  Because of this, she feels all her experience blends together and is interrelated.

Helene’s other interests are in aviation, film production, music, writing, languages, and gardening. She has attained a pilot’s license and has produced a few movies. She has been teaching music for over 40 years and plays trumpet, guitar, and piano. Helene has written and published many poems and short stories. Additionally, she teaches French and English.

Helene still teaches exercise classes for mature women, for women’s self-defense groups, and for students from many schools in her area, along with instructing three days per week in her studio. She finds this very rewarding work. Kenpo is also very special to her in another way. Through Kenpo, she met her husband Gerry (Jerry) Shanahan, who owns Trim Kenpo Karate Academy, and they are still running the studio together.

Being the first female black belt in the town of Trim, Helene feels the discipline of training can be a huge benefit to women. She says that it’s great to see so many young women come through studio doors and train for many years to become proficient in the art of Kenpo.