Suzie Gray


I started my Karate journey in October 2009 after a flyer came home with my children about a beginner’s class for Karate at our local school. I had been thinking of taking something up for myself and this seemed like a challenge.


I trained under Shihan McClagish at Clapham Club. The first lessons were strange, I wasn’t a very confident and coordinated person and found it hard to get my body to get into stances and positions, and I even found it hard to Kiai. Learning the first Kata was a mission and watching higher grades do so many other Katas seemed unimaginable that I would be able to learn that many more Kata.


I graded every 3 months at first and then 6 monthly, learning more and enjoying it more as I went along. When I graded to 3rd Kyu it felt like such an achievement and it was at that point I know I had the Karate bug and would never give up. After my 3rd Kyu grading I started staying to the later senior grade class which in many occasions was just myself and half a dozen male black belts. This was very daunting as I was often paired up with them, who were bigger, stronger and much more experienced but I feel this time really helped me and my confidence grow and I learned so much from them.


After my 1st Kyu grading I started looking at the theory side and gathered lots of information about the History. I found it hard to retain a lot of the information as my memory is not what it used to be so I started learning as soon as possible. The Oral part of the grading was one of the parts I was most worried about so from the moment I was invited to grade every spare moment I was learning more and more and constantly going over body parts and stances. (even in my dreams!!!!)


In the months leading up to the grading I was also training at Kempston under Renshi Kidby twice a month which helped plan for grading in a different Dojo and under a different instructor. I was also running in what spare time to build up my stamina in the hope it would help with the long grading.


On the morning of the grading I was extremely nervous and didn’t sleep very well. I wanted to do well and make Shihan McClagish, Sensei Saunders, myself and my family proud. The grading lasted 3 hours and although I was physically exhausted by the end the adrenalin helps you through. The wait to find out if you have passed seemed like forever and I was so pleased when I was told I had passed and was awarded Shodan.


Karate has changed me as a person, I’m not just a mum, a wife, an accountant, I’m a Karateka and I hope I can help to aspire to other students to push themselves too.