The founder of a judo club which is marking its 50th anniversary has been looking back ahead of a special reunion later this month.

The Comet: A group shot of Stevenage Judo Club taken in 1976.A group shot of Stevenage Judo Club taken in 1976. (Image: Archant)

Bill Stroud was a keen boxer in his youth, but was told by his wife-to-be that he would have to give up the sport if he wanted to get married.

He stumbled across judo and immediately took to the sport, but had a dilemma when he moved to Stevenage in 1963.

“When I moved there was only one judo club at the time and that was packing up,” said Bill.

“So I thought I’d start my own – and in 1965 Stevenage Judo Club was born. I used to charge sixpence a night!”

The Comet: Stevenage Judo Club founder Bill Stroud in 1975.Stevenage Judo Club founder Bill Stroud in 1975. (Image: Archant)

The club spent its first four years at Broadhall Community Centre before outgrowing the venue and moving to Barnwell School.

Another school, Camps Hill, became its home in 1980 through to 2012, when the club moved to Marriotts Sports Centre.

Throughout the decades players have incredibly come home with a medal at every single competition they have entered, with members going on to represent their country many times.

Bill spent 15 years as chairman before Tim Larder took over, but is still very much involved with the club today.

The Comet: Members of Stevenage Judo Club on a float for a town carnival in 1975.Members of Stevenage Judo Club on a float for a town carnival in 1975. (Image: Archant)

But the 79-year-old, of Faraday Road in Stevenage, admitted: “If it wasn’t for Tim I would’ve have packed it in.

“Since then I’ve tried to retire three times but they keep asking me back and I always accept – it’s been my life for so long.

“There must have been hundreds and hundreds I have coached through the club in my time, and people still stop me in the street to say hello.

“It’s not what you do it for, but it’s still nice.

The Comet: Members of Stevenage Judo Club take on the Tough Mudder challenge in 2013 for charity.Members of Stevenage Judo Club take on the Tough Mudder challenge in 2013 for charity. (Image: Archant)

“For example, I remember when I started teaching current coach Mark Varty he was a little timid thing – but he’s not now!”

Bill, who revealed that his ‘Mr Judo’ nickname came from the Comet, added: “Judo teaches self-control and self-discipline, but what really stands out is that it is a gentleman’s sport.

“The future looks strong – we could do with getting a few more senior players but I’m sure they will come.”

A party is being held on Saturday, October 25, to mark the golden anniversary, and current chairman Andrew Murray believes it will be a very special occasion for a number of reasons.

The Comet: Stevenage Judo Club founder Bill Stroud.Stevenage Judo Club founder Bill Stroud. (Image: Archant)

“The reunion is really about getting people back together to reminisce,” said the 42-year-old, who lives in Weston Heights.

“There’s been so many changes over the years which have seen people come and go, but they all have kids and grandchildren so it’s also a chance to promote the family side of the club and get familiar faces back.”

Andrew highlighted initiatives like the British Judo Association’s Yellow Belt Challenge, which provides free membership, a judo suit and gradings for those aged 11 to 25 who qualify, as playing an important role in getting more young people into the sport.

“We cater for everyone,” he said. “Young Louie Titre, who was born blind, has been a brilliant addition and we also have members with autism and similar conditions.

The Comet: Stevenage Judo Club's 50th anniversary logo.Stevenage Judo Club's 50th anniversary logo. (Image: Archant)

“Ultimately we want to encourage more people to try judo – it teaches self-discipline, conditioning and control, but it also gives people confidence.”

To find out more about Stevenage Judo Club or the reunion – which takes place at The Forum, based above the Ibis hotel in Stevenage town centre – call Andrew on 07766 567868 or visit the website at