“IT is in my blood, I will never give it up,” said 55-year-old Anthea Rowe-Wilson who recently became the first woman in South Africa to receive her fifth dan in the karate style of Shorin-Ryu.
“It is exciting, not many reach this level in their lifetime. It is a huge award,” she said.
Rowe-Wilson started karate in 1976 when she was 19. Thirty-six years later she has progressed through 14 belts to reach fifth dan status.
The woman who achieved a fifth dan before her was given an honorary award, and did not physically complete the exam as she had back problems.
A fifth dan, explains the Walmer resident, is five levels above a black belt.
There are nine belts before a black belt and the wait between belts can be extensive.
“It has taken years and years of karate to get there,” she said.
On December 10 last year Rowe-Wilson completed her three-hour grading, which consisted of a physical and oral test, earning her the title of renshi and the coveted red and white belt.
“It was intense,” she said. “I waited seven years between this belt and my last.”
The grandmother and single mother of two grew up in East London, and has achieved her Border and Eastern Province colours in the sport.
Her interest in karate was sparked after watching Bruce Lee movies as a teenager.
“On Sunday evenings they would show karate movies in town and I would accompany my uncle who was the projectionist. Bruce Lee inspired me,” she said.
She was soon hooked and joined a dojo.
“I no longer watch karate movies, though,” said Rowe- Wilson.
Her full schedule keeps her very busy.
On Mondays and Wednesdays she teaches karate at Elsen Academy in the mornings, and at Sunridge Primary School in the evenings. After that she trains.
“It is a long day,” she said.
Rowe-Wilson also runs a self-defence course, and exercises at home to keep fit.
All of this has counted for her as one has to wait to get invited to a grading. One of the requirements is to be actively involved in the sport. “You have got to give,” she said.
Rowe-Wilson’s sensei, Claude Johnson, said he is really proud of her.
Johnson is the president of Sharin-Ryu in South Africa and runs several dojos in the Bay. He is a seventh dan.
“She has done fantastically. Very few ladies have done what she has done at her age.
“She is strong and has a wonderful samurai spirit.”
Rowe-Wilson stopped competing 10 years ago and has been concentrating on teaching.
She said it is the pleasure of teaching children, and the fact you are learning all the time that keeps her going.
“It also keeps me mentally fit,” she added.
To add to her arsenal of skills, the renshi also has a brown belt in weapons.
“I enjoy weapons because they are exciting. This year I am going to get my black belt.”
What lies ahead for the karate master?
“I am going to carry on with teaching and, if I’m still alive and capable, I will go for another grade,” she laughs.