UFH - Karate

Two Fort Hare karateka who graduated to brown belts are living proof of how far the sport has come at the Eastern Cape tertiary institution that is the mainstay of the student village of Alice.

It was a proud moment for Lunga Nobetsiki and Anele Gqumayo, who both made the cut at a grading ceremony for the Goju-Kai style in Gqeberha recently.

However, no one was prouder than senpai Thobela Ntsonkota who has been working with them ever since they first set foot in his brand-new dojo almost six years ago.

“Lunga [Nobetsiki] was my first student when I opened the club in 2017,” he recalled. “He has been dedicated since day one and always wants to learn more.”

Gqumayo, who joined later that year, also found solace within the doctrines of the sport.

“After his third class he came up to me and said, ‘Senpai, I have been looking for a place and a sport like this for a long time’,” said Ntsonkota, who himself is a second-dan black belt in what is deemed a semi-contact offshoot of the sporting discipline.

Nobetsiki, a native of the Eastern Cape village of Lusikisiki, is grateful for the opportunities that the Japanese martial art has flung his way.

“For me it is more than just a sport,” he explained. “It’s a lifetime journey that makes you understand more about yourself.”

UFH - Karate

University of Fort Hare karateka Anele Gqumayo (left) and Lunga Nobetsiki (right) graduated to brown belts after attending a grading ceremony in Gqeberha recently. With them is senpai Thobela Ntsonkota, who started the club at the Alice university in 2017. Photo: Supplied

The master’s student in agricultural economics said the club felt like home and was adamant that he would not have achieved what he had were it not for Thobela’s teachings and mentorship.

The sport has opened Gqumayo’s eyes in more ways than one, too.

“For me, it is something nobody else can imagine,” said the BSc student. “Under the guidance of an instructor like ours, everything is possible.”

Apart from the physical skills, he said Ntsonkota had taught them about dedication, commitment and spirit.

However, he acknowledged that their journey would have been a short one had they not enjoyed the support of their fellow students and the sports department at Fort Hare.

Karate proved a hit among the Fort Hare students as soon as the cornerstone of Ntsonkota’s dojo was laid. Within weeks, around 30 pioneers signed up without realising what impact their decision would have on them and the university.

Last year, every member of its 18-strong contingent returned from the University Sport South Africa tournament with at least one medal. The team collected a total of 27, the most by any institution at the competition, with the vast majority being golds.

Ntsonkota hoped that the success of his students would inspire their peers to follow in their footsteps and he invited them to experience first-hand what the club offered.

“In Goju-Kai karate, we are a family and we welcome anyone who wishes to practice a sports discipline that teaches life lessons and prepares you for the outside world.”

It was by no means a slam dunk to master karate, but he was confident that anyone who joined “with their heart” could be successful.