Five women who started judo during a ladies taster session are celebrating achieving their 1st Kyu and being awarded a brown belt grading after much encouragement from Get Inspired BBC Unsung Hero of the Year for the London Area Dave Dunsford at United Judo Club in Sidcup.
As Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign continues to go from strength to strength, Sarah Goss, Alison Rufus, Sarah Legge, Alice Moore and Georginna Summers, who is the club welfare officer, all began judo at the same time after starting a ladies taster session at the United Judo Club in Sidcup. The age range of the team is between 17 to 52.
Of the original 10 ladies who attended the original taster session in 2012; five of them passed their grading and they were all thrilled to get their brown belts together.
Sarah Goss, 49, said: “I’ve always wanted to learn a martial art but my sporting path went the way of football, volleyball, hockey and netball. Then in 2012 I saw an advert in our local paper for ten judo lessons at a local sports centre, Being 47 I wondered if it was a bit late for me but I phoned my niece to see if she fancied coming and that was the start.
“We had a great group of ladies who lasted the course but having enjoyed it a lot we fancied carrying on. Our coach Dave Dunsford was more than happy for us to continue at his Tuesday class, we were made most welcome and were looked after by everybody. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that nearly three years later we would be brown belts! It’s all down to the encouragement of Dave and the other members of United Judo.”
Georginna Summers, 43, added: “Having watched my son train with Dave Dunsford from the edge of the mat for close to four years, my first step onto the mat was one of the most terrifying feelings ever. Do not think it has yet sunk in that almost three years later I have my brown belt. Our “ladies team” have been brilliant to train with and very supportive and of course, we could never have done it without Dave, Stuart and Louise, our brilliant coaches.”
Alison Rufus, 29, commented: “I remember watching Olympic judo on television as a child and wanting to try it but never getting round to it. Then three years ago my aunt told me about an advert she had seen for 10 ladies only taster lessons with grading for a first belt, so I decided it was a good opportunity to give it a try. After those initial 10 lessons, with support and encouragement from our coach Dave Dunsford, the other ladies and the other members of the club, I joined the senior class. Now three years later it feels great to have achieved gaining my brown belt and starting to work towards the black.”
Alice Moore, 17, one of the juniors who came up through the performance programme to join the senior session also graded with them, She said: “I have worked hard for this belt and am really pleased to have achieved it. It has been great working with Dave, Stuart and the United Judo (Sidcup) ladies group.”
Sarah Legge added: “The great thing about the club is not just the very high technical standard of coaching from Dave and Stuart but also the friendly welcoming atmosphere of everyone there. I wouldn’t have kept going if that wasn’t the case. At my age I’m not going to be an Olympic hopeful, but that doesn’t matter there. What everyone is working towards is being the best judoka they can. We all work hard but also have a laugh while we are doing it.”
Words by Donna Richardson.