Clare's inspirational journey from the brink of diabetes to stepping into the ring
From the moment Clare Barklam joined her first wrestling training session, she was hooked.
It wasn't long before the mother of two was reaping the benefits to her health and fitness and setting her sights on taking to the ring in a live show.
And in October she took the first step by making her debut as wrestling manager The High Priestess Clare-Voyant at an Alternative Wrestling World show at The Cornbow Hall in Halesowen.
“The buzz of being on the show was immense and although I was nervous I absolutely loved it, ” says Clare, who had previously attended shows with her children.
Her next goal is to wrestle on shows and her trainer says she is well on the way to achieving this dream.
It marks a huge transformation for the 38-year-old who just 16 months ago weighed 18st 10lbs, and at only 5ft tall, was classified as morbidly obese.
On the brink of diabetes, Clare had been referred for gastric bypass surgery.
"I had a stair rail put in at home and a hand rail to help me get in and out of the bath. When walking, I had to use a stick. I was really struggling to get around. My weight was really impacting on my health," she says.
But then her friend Jenny Jones, who runs Alternative Wrestling World, based in Netherton, Dudley, with her husband Gavin, suggested that she came along to training sessions, if only to do warm-ups and basic exercise.
Initially, Clare, who had competed in judo matches as a teenager, dismissed the idea, but, after giving it some more thought, she decided to give it a go.
"From the first session I was hooked," she says. "Despite the fact I couldn’t even do a rollover and struggled to keep up, I just loved the atmosphere of the place and the fact it was something completely different to going to the gym."
As the weeks went on Clare continued with wrestling training alongside healthy eating and found the weight started to drop off.
“The training started to get easier as I lost weight and of course the training helped me to lose weight so it was a snowball effect in a good way.
"A few months ago I joined a gym alongside wrestling training to give myself a further push and I could literally see the difference it was making every day.”
Clare now attends wrestling training sessions three times a week and goes to the gym five days a week to maintain her fitness.
"It has totally changed me. Everybody is so friendly, nobody is judgemental and everybody supports each other. It's a really enjoyable way to get fit," she says.
"It's a good way to let out frustrations. Wrestling helps both my mental health and physical health," explains Clare.
Each training session at the academy starts with a warm-up which will include jogging, stretching and yoga.
Participants will go on to practice different moves and sequences as well as spending time to work on developing their wrestling characters.
Each show will have 'good guys' known as faces and 'bad guys' known as heels. Clare's character is the manager of wrestler The Smiler, who is a heel.
Clare says a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes to ensure the shows are action-packed and entertaining for the audiences.
"We work on combinations of moves with our partner which include lifting, throwing and being thrown. We will have practice matches and we will be critiqued on we've done, what went well and how we can improve," explains Clare.
Gavin Jones, owner of Alternative Wrestling World, which was founded in 2003, said: “Clare is an absolute inspiration. When people say to us that they are too old, too overweight, too underweight etc. to do wrestling we tell them about Clare and her journey.
"She really is proof that anything is possible if you put the effort in”.
With Clare having lost a total of 126lbs and now weighing just 9stone 10lbs she is determined to keep up the hard work and not slip back into old habits.
“I had struggled for years to find the motivation to make changes to my life and I truly believe that when I found wrestling it gave me the boost I needed.
"It has been hard work but to see my children’s faces when I come out on stage on shows makes everything worthwhile."
To find out more about wrestling training with Alternative Wrestling World visit facebook.com/AWWAcademy.
The next Alternative Wrestling World monthly shows takes place on Saturday, February 11 and on Saturday, March 4 at the Cornbow Hall. They both start at 6pm. See facebook.com/AWWrestlingUK for ticket information.