Can You Spot the Black Belt on Our Team?

Helen Suwannawongse, 365Playground’s resident Strategic Human Resources and Cultural Awareness Specialist, is more than an expert in people and culture. In fact, you may not want to cross her — Helen is also our own resident karate black belt.

In Nepal in 1996, a single woman working and traveling alone, she looked to karate to lend her confidence and security in what was often male environments. Her journey began in Kathmandu, learning the Kyokushin style of karate, quickly achieving blue belt status. When Helen returned to the UK in 2006, she enrolled her eldest son in Wado Ryu style karate (as Kyokushin was not available). As she had found karate had given her confidence, discipline and focus, she hoped it would give those same solid foundations and an inner confidence to her children — a hope that has been realized! After watching her son learn this new style of karate, Helen’s eagerness to continue her education returned, and after the birth of her second child, she began training in the practice of Wado Ryu. While different styles of karate require starting training from the beginning, Helen quickly progressed with the practice, training with her sensei three times a week.

Along with her recent advancement to black belt, Danai, Helen’s 11-year-old son, has also just achieved his second Dan black belt status. Plus, there is more to come for this family — with their recent move to Bangkok, Helen hopes her family will continue to progress within the practice of Wado Ryu (her youngest son, Louis, age 5, is now a yellow belt). Not only for the sport, but more importantly for the focus, discipline confidence and respect the practice endows on each practitioner.

Impressive accomplishments aside, we asked Helen who finds her the most frightening, especially considering the likeliest contenders, her sons, are impressive in their own right: “In my brown/black belt grading I had to fight two black belts together as part of the sparring section; one black belt aged 14, and the other aged 17. Well, the 17-year-old caught one of my back kicks and he fell to the floor! He’s been a little wary of me ever since!”

Now that is one amazing woman!

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