SEVEN young karateka from Alexandria will represent South Africa at the Goju Ryu Karate Federation World Championships in Stellenbosch next year, and shian (head coach) Tommy Mannie could not be more pleased.
In order to qualify for national honours students have to compete in the national championships, held at Stellenbosch University in October, for two successive years, and to come in the first three places each year.
The karateka who managed either gold, silver or bronze in both 2011 and 2012 are Danushka Somerset, Illuschka Jacobs, Eathyne King, Sashton King, Peter Oosthuizen – all 14 years of age, Zola Mene, 32, and Chad Prince, 18.
STARS OF THE FUTURE: Seven karateka from Alexandria will be representing South Africa in the Goju Ryu Karate
“I am so pleased with all my students, and believe they will go on to win many medals at the world championships,” said Mannie.
Added to this, both Bongweni and Alexandria Primary Schools have set up dojos (a Japanese word literally meaning the “place of the way”, where martial artists train) in order to teach their children the importance of discipline. Bongweni’s dojo is ready and set-up and Alexandria Primary’s dojo will be ready in early January.
Mannie, a retired businessman who is also a karateka with over 42 years experience, sees karate as a tool for change within his community. He does not accept money for his services and works strictly on a voluntary basis.
“I have produced over 60 Springboks and 37 world champions over the years,” said Mannie.
This is no idle boast as Alexandria is now recognised throughout the Gojo Ryu (Japanese for “hard-soft style”, one of the main traditional Okinawan styles of karate) world as a centre of excellence, and Mannie himself was recently appointed president of International Meibukan Gojo Ryu Federation in South Africa and Africa.
Having met with his Grand Master in Okinawa earlier this year Mannie, now in his 60s, said he was inspired that he was the second youngest participant in the dojo.
“Karate teaches discipline and requires dedication and commitment. It is not simply a sport, it is a way of life,” he said.
Mannie has used his own money to start dojos and instruct young karateka, and has even organised overseas trips for his students where they can participate in international championships.
As a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, Mannie sees helping disadvantaged children as a privilege, not a duty. He is delighted that the schools in the Alexandria area are beginning to understand the importance of discipline and believes karate is a perfect mechanism to keep children off the streets and out of jail.
“Some of my students have become businessmen and I have helped a lot of them get into university,” said Mannie
Asked how his interest in helping disadvantaged children in Alexandria came about, Mannie said it was all because of one “little terror” that knocked at his door virtually every day to learn karate.
“Siva Konjwayo was only nine at the time, and he was a handful for his mother. He would continually ask me to help him learn how to kick and punch. It seemed that he watched a lot of martial arts movies,” Mannie related.
“He is now one of my champion students but, at only 12 years of age, he cannot compete as yet in the world championships which only considers students 14 years and older.”
Mannie said he needed the support of the community and was very grateful that so many people in the Alexandria are had recognised the contribution karate had had on the community by donating money, time and facilities.
“As a team we would like to thank everyone who has donated toward our students going to the Africa Goju Ryu championships, especially Ndlambe municipality, Alex Butchery, the Scholtz’s, Alex Pharmacy, Dr Bolofo, the Mosterd’s, the Shearer’s and the Landman’s,” he said.
“We would also like to thank Gary Pheasant who, for the past few years, has provided his hall free of charge to train our students. Also our thanks go to Alexandria High School and Alexandria Primary School as well as Bongweni Primary School for helping us.”