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Ambika Suneesh with her daughter Devna. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: A homemaker, 35, who got herself enrolled in a karate centre with her 11-year-old daughter last year, has punched her way to become a winner herself in an inter-club championship in the UAE.

It was around this time last year that Indian expatriate Ambika Suneesh took her daughter Devna to a karate centre in Dubai. “I used to wait for an hour for the class to finish and then bring her back home,” she said during an interaction with Gulf News. After a few days, Ambika got bored with waiting at the karate class and decided to join the class with her daughter. “There was no point in me wasting my time. I was already a fitness enthusiast and I found karate very fascinating. I thought, why not give it a try instead of wasting my time waiting outside the class.”

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Ambika Suneesh started learning karate herself because she was bored waiting for her daughter to finish class. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Thus, Ambika became the only adult student in Devna’s karate class. The mother-daughter duo started learning the punches and kicks together. “It was fun and tough at the same time. Initially, I faced some challenges as well,” she said. “Some people made fun of me. They would ask if I was learning karate to thrash my hubby,” she recollected. She said she brushed aside the mockeries with the support of her husband Suneesh and son Darshan.

Yet, it was initially embarrassing for her to wear the karate uniform. “I was hesitant to go in the uniform, but gradually I started liking the uniform itself. Now I wear it with pride and confidence.”

She said she did not want to be a typical homemaker confined to kitchen-based tasks, like many women back in her village.

Confidence grows

Though her daily gym sessions and aerobic classes had already helped her reduce weight and stay fit, learning the martial art has made Ambika more confident and brave. “In four years, I had reduced my weight from 87kg to 64kg. Gym and aerobics had really helped, but karate has not only helped improve my fitness, but it has also boosted my confidence. Karate has helped me shed many inhibitions and conquer my fears.”

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Ambika Suneesh with her family. Image Credit: Supplied

While Devna missed many karate classes due to her studies, Ambika said she hardly missed attending her karate class. “Even if I had to skip a class for some reason, I would make up for it later.”

Her passion and hard work saw Ambika grab karate belts one after another in just a few months. She has so far received the white, yellow, orange and green belts. “I will get the blue belt anytime soon. Devna has got the orange belt,” she said.

Winning competition

Ambika’s quick learning skills and expertise were appreciated by her trainer Sensei Saroj Nrioula, who later encouraged her to take part in an inter-club karate tournament in Dubai. “I was a little worried initially when my Sensei said I could compete. Though it was an inter-club competition, it was an international competition for us as there were people of various nationalities representing several karate centres and there was a panel of five judges.”

Ambika said there were hardly any women of her age in the competition. “Most of them were below 20. The youngsters are more energetic. Thankfully, I managed to beat my opponent who was much younger to me,” said Ambika. The winner’s trophy is a big treasure for her and she is all set to win more in the future.

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Ambika Suneesh: A proud mum and champion. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Having proved that age is not a barrier in learning karate, Ambika now wants to encourage more women to benefit from learning martial arts, which is also an art of self-defence. “I learnt it for my happiness, but my wish now is to start a ladies-only gym and karate centre. I want to encourage more women to get fit and learn karate.”

To realise her dream, Ambika is now pursuing an advanced personal trainer certification course in fitness. “I am also learning Arabic online. I hope it will help me train women who speak Arabic only,” said Ambika who also dabbles into modelling and Vastu Shastra in her free time. “I am glad that I can pursue all my interests and that is because I am in Dubai. I am so grateful to this country for the security and freedom we enjoy here. I am also grateful to my parents, Raveendran and Usha, who taught me to be discipline in life,” she added.