Susan Louise Dunnigan

Edmonton, Canada

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Susan was introduced to karate in Halifax , Nova Scotia at age 25. Although shy and non-athletic by nature, she quickly became intrigued with the inherent practicality of the art. Susan recalls many times when she wanted to quit, but having promised herself not to do so when feeling discouraged, she stuck with it. Every time she overcame a hurdle in her training, she clearly wasn’t interested in quitting… and so here it is, almost 30 years later!  While Susan’s commitment to karate has remained strong, her track record for attendance over the years has been sporadic as other life commitments always kept taking precedence, e.g. juggling roles and responsibilities as a professional, mother, wife, advocate, community member, etc.  Susan identifies that it is her love of karate and the unwavering support from her sensei and husband, Neil Dunnigan, along with her fellow students that has always kept her coming back. In addition to her own practice, Susan teaches karate to energetic peewees, 3-5 year olds. Professionally Susan is a social work administrator, working for the Alberta government in the area of social policy for adults with developmental disabilities. 



Personal Information


Social work administration, in the area of social policy

Marital status:



Matthew () and Kate ()

Special interests:

Teaching 3-5 year olds, gardening and advocacy work for people with developmental disabilities/mental retardation and their families


Karate Information 

Current Rank


Total Years:

Years (1974 – present) with lots of disruption while juggling children, home, career, etc.

Current style:

Shohei Ryu

Current dojo:

Neil Dunnigan’s School of Karate

Dojo location:

Edmonton , Alberta , Canada

Current instructor:

Neil Dunnigan (Husband)

Association affiliation:


Karate and other martial training:

1990,  Uechi Summer Camp, Kalamazoo , Michigan

1994,  2 week karate trip to Okinawa

1995-2003,  local training koshukais with senior Uechi/Shohei teachers such as Mr. Thompson, Gustovo Gondera, Master Gushi and Master Nakahodo

Other martial arts or weapons:

Introductory classes on the bo and sai.

Karate Promotions


Certificate Number

Issue Date

Location of Promotion



Fall 1973




December 1, 1981

Halifax , Nova Scotia



June 22, 1985

Edmonton , Alberta



December 8, 1989

Edmonton , Alberta



April 3, 1994


Educational Background

St Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Maritime School of Social Work

Dalhousie University

Halifax , Nova Scotia , Canada

Bachelor of Arts


Bachelor of Social Work


At what age did you begin to study karate?

I started karate at age 25, when I was interested in an exercise regime but not interested in exercise just for exercise sake.

Why did you choose to study karate?

The opportunity to join karate fell in my lap, without it being a conscious choice. I met a couple and they were both taking karate and loving it, studying under Jim Maloney in Halifax . The combination of exercise, learning and self defense under a skilled teacher intrigued me, so my roommate and I tried it out. She lasted 8 weeks, while it got into my blood and here I am almost 30 years later.

What does this tour to Okinawa mean to you?

The importance of this trip to Okinawa is hard to express. It means returning to a hallowed place where there is an incredible opportunity to be welcomed by and learn from senior masters, who are humbly and warming willing to welcome us, share their knowledge, skills, hospitality and culture.  What makes this a trip of a lifetime is to be surrounded by women who share a unique common bond. We have all been touched by our karate and are embracing the opportunity to come together in international sisterhood. The sisterhood is unique in that the serious study of traditional karate by women is still unusual. We will celebrate our sisterhood, support each other’s learning and strengthen bonds.  To have the opportunity to work out with and get to know senior practitioners from around the globe is an incredible opportunity and honour. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. While I have no doubt that the trip will be replicated some day, this is the inaugural trip, surrounded by magic and imagination. What a standard it will set!

How has your martial arts study affected or changed your life?

Karate has led my life down a rewarding path.  As I was always non-athletic and shy, my whole family laughed at my venture into the karate world in 1974. Karate has bestowed upon me increased confidence, fitness, and skills; and last but not least it has given me my husband of 22 years and incredible friends. The friendships I have forged over the years at the dojo run extremely deep. I have friends who I’d readily trust with my life, the lives of my family and our worldly possessions, all without blinking an eye. The neat thing about sharing this comment is that I know other Uechi/Shoehei women understand exactly what I mean. No fitness club could ever come close!  


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