A well deserved black belt

Five and more years of experience
Michelline Nawatises
Swakopmund • [email protected]

Shotokan Karate Academy International (SKAI) recently honoured karatekas who were successful in obtaining their black belts during a strenuous grading ceremony held at the Plaza Hotel in Swakopmund.

The karatekas who tested for their internationally accredited black belt had a minimum of five years of experience. Some of the graders have more than nine years of training experience in karate. The syllabus which they had to comply with, involved a stringent process concluding all of the training and preparation since the beginning of 2020.

Before an attempt could be made to grade, all karatekas had to pass a theoretical test on karate related matters. They also had to undergo a “gruelling” pre-grading test, where they had to display their level of skills on all technical aspects. This was closely scrutinised by four senior instructors.

A total of 12 karatekas from four training centres were graded on aspects like proficiency in basic techniques, forms, combat, fitness, etiquette and procedure, neatness and attitude, eye position, concentration and self-control.

Shodan rank

The successful karatekas convincingly demonstrated the skills, values and character traits required for the Shodan rank (first degree Black Belt). Throughout the grading, the candidates were subjected to testing of their mental toughness, perseverance, character and respect. “These world-class athletes prepared well and notwithstanding the challenging regime that they had to perform, the karate was of exemplarily standard. The grading panel, consisting of the four highest-graded SKAI karateka, were impressed with the standard displayed by them,” said sensei Willem Burger, the chief instructor of SKAI Namibia.

Karateka journey

Gabriella Diergaardt and Julian Stuurman obtained the junior black belt in the under 16 age group. Diergaardt started doing karate when she was six years old. Stuurman started when he was ten years old. “I’m quite excited as Sensei said the journey begins now only,” commented Stuurman.

Cisca Buys started doing karate when she was seven years old. She joined SKAI Namibia in 2018. “When I obtained my brown belt I stopped doing karate for a while. This bothered me so I decided that I will go for it and obtain my black belt.”

Cherné Scheepers who obtained her black belt was on the verge of throwing in the towel. She started doing karate from first grade and hated it at first before falling in love with it. “Karate taught me discipline and courage and it’s not like any other sport. Once you get going with karate you simply don’t feel the same about any other sports.”

The latest grading exercise took place over a day and SKAI Namibia with 400 karatekas intends to have future black belt gradings over a weekend.

The academy is also involved in an International Development three-day competition that takes place every year in Namibia and South Africa which caters for karatekas for as little as seven years. The last competition was hosted in 2018.