OFFENSIVE and defensive blows rained down on the competitors at the World Union of Karate-do Federations (WUKF) Invitational and the South African Shotokan Karate Academy (Saska) National Championships from Thursday to Saturday last week, held at the Fish River Sun.
Hundreds ofcompetitors in different age and gender groupings, together with a team from Argentina, came together at the hotel to prove themselves the best in their respective categories. The Championship was preceded by a training seminar with Saska style-head, Shihan Koos Burger and 2013 WUKF Veteran World Kata Champion, Paul Fourie. A comprehensive training course was also conducted for all judges and referees by WUKF chief referee, Alta Venter.
Kata events were held on Friday while all kumite events took place on Saturday. With many of the participants having just returned from the WUKF World Championship in Ireland, as well as places at stake in the team that will represent SASKA at the 2018 World Championship in Scotland, the categories were extremely competitive.
The atmosphere is always electric at these events, and the halls fill with hundreds of people shouting for their team or individuals as they take to the mat.
But, contrary to popular belief, the combatants do not try to hurt each other, and their blows are intended to be controlled. However, sometimes a blow does land in a sensitive spot, and paramedics are always at hand to lend medical assistance, when required.
There is also the more artistic side of karate, kata, where competitors fight in a predetermined set of moves against an imaginary opponent.
Ilze van d er Merwe (Helderberg, Western Cape) and Nicholas Gaston-Bellegarde (Cobras, Gauteng) were the respective winners of the Ladies and Men’s Open Black Belt Kata Categories.
In the Men’s Open Black Belt Shobu Sanbon Kumite Category, Nicholas Gaston-Bellegarde (Cobras, Gauteng) won gold while Jacques Bardenhorst (Dragons, Gauteng) placed first in the Men’s Open Shobu Ippon Kumite Category. Andrea Kolkenbubeck-Ruh (Cobras, Gauteng) won the Ladies’ Open Black Belt Shobu Sanbon Kumite Category with Marelize Howard (Cobras, Gauteng) clinching victory in the Ladies Open Shobu Ippon Kumite Category.
Eastern Cape karateka also put in a number of good performances with Mzwandile Matebese (Joza, Grahamstown) winning the Veteran Men’s Black Belt Shobu Sanbon Kumite Category and Shaun O’Connell (Shotokan Circle, East London) winning the Veteran Men’s Black Belt Shobu Ippon Kumite Category. Brent Smith (ECSR, Grahamstown) won gold in both the Cadet Boys (15-17 years) Red to Black Belt Kata and Shobu Sanbon kumite Categories while Lutho Singata (Rhodes University Shotokan Karate Club) won silver in the Junior Men’s Red to Black Belt Shobu Sanbon Kumite Category. Smith and Singata also placed second and third respectively in the Best of the Best Black Belt Kata Category. Thanduxolo Royi (Joza, Grahamstown) placed second and third in the Junior Men’s Red to Black Belt and Open Men’s Black Belt Kata Categories.
The championship concluded with a three hour beach training session led by Shihan Koos Burger and Sensei Damian Bidabehere from Argentina, in which over 100 karateka participated. According to organiser, Gary Grapentin, the championship was a resounding success and many of the participants have declared the Fish River Sun Hotel and the Eastern Cape to be a favourite destination for the championship.