While Fort Hare’s young squad are mainly using this weekend’s national Kyokushin championships in East London to gain experience, the possibility of representing South Africa in Japan later this year won’t be far from mind.
More than 200 karatekas will descend on Buffalo City to fight it out for top honours at the event, which is being hosted by the University of Fort Hare in collaboration with the Oyama Atado dojo.
The two-day tournament, which kicks off tomorrow, involves competitors from South Africa as well as those from neighbouring countries invited to test their skills against local opposition.
The university’s senior instructor at the Alice campus, Khanya Giwu, said it was an opportunity for their karatekas to get noticed as the national selectors would be present with an eye on the world championships in Tokyo in late-October.
He said such events gave his students good exposure as they had to prove themselves against different opponents.
The Fort Hare team consist of Asanele Lamba, Ongezile Nkalane, Thembeka Luthuli, Nosipho Mlambo and Nigel Raibva.
Giwu, who will also get his hands dirty in East London, explained that Kyokushin was a full-contact style.
“It’s a form of knockdown karate known as the ultimate truth.”
Most of the events at the nationals are based on individual participation, particularly in the knockdown style.
“But we do have a team format in kata, which is based on a choreographed pattern of martial arts movements,” Giwu said.
Although it will be the debut nationals for most of Fort Hare’s team, it is all about blooding them in a tournament of this magnitude.
But the opportunity to represent their country in the Land of the Rising Sun will undoubtedly motivate them.
“I believe we have a good chance to make the team. We have put in a lot of training and effort, so we hope we can make the tournament a success.
“There is good spirit, but we have to be on our toes. We have to be united. This is no time to break apart,” Giwu warned.
Fighting one another for places in Team SA would be a “disaster”, he said.
If one of the karatekas puts in a stellar performance at the championships, the rest will be there to support him or her.
While the competition attracted the country’s top exponents of the sport, Giwu said the team would not be intimidated by reputations.
“You never look at your opponent as someone who will take you down. We will challenge anyone put in front of us.”
The tournament carries even greater significance for Giwu as on completion of the event he will be graded for black-belt status.
He said Fort Hare boasted a proud karate tradition and the team aimed to build on this legacy. He paid tribute to the sports department for supporting the code as well as coaches past and present who had shaped the club into what it was today.