Martial arts athletes from across Africa compete for World Champs spot

By Julian Kiewietz Time of article published Oct 5, 2019

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CAPE TOWN - Have you ever watched a Bruce Lee movie?

Those movies where the cameras pan across a courtyard displaying hundreds of disciplined martial artists testing their skills in formation or combat.

Well that is what last weekend felt like to me when I entered the Coetzenburg Sports Centre in Stellenbosch.

It was of course the Destiny - NMA-ISKA South African Sport Martial Arts Championships 2019.

The event which runs over two days caters for all divisions in Sport Martial Arts and is the qualifying process for the world championships in Orlando, Florida in June and July every year.

Athletes from across Africa come to Stellenbosch to compete in their respective disciplines which includes grappling, MMA-light, points and continuous, high kick, kata traditional and breaking to name a few.

The standouts then get chosen to represent their respective countries, be it South Africa, Namibia or Botswana.

Children from as young as eight to adults compete at the the competition, which is governed by the National Martial Arts Academy (NMA) in association with the International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) branding.

All these students fight under the ISKA rules within an elimination process, which then decides who is the ultimate winner.

“The beauty of ISKA is that it gives the lower grades the opportunity to compete, whereas most other organisations only allow black belts to compete internationally,” says event organiser Shihan Karel van der Merwe.

“So in terms of black belts we choose the Proteas team, then we have a President’s team which is your mid-level (second-placed competitors) and then the rest can qualify for our Development team. So it doesn't matter if you’re a beginner white belt or yellow belt, you can still gain the experience on that level - not against black belts - at the world champions. So that is what makes this event so glorious. As long as you’re NMA-ISKA-affilliated.”

The team is yet to be announced, as it is a filtering process. Obviously not all winners can go the world championships because it is a self-funded trip.

Shihan Karel said last weekend’s event was a massive success and that they can only build on this one for 2020.

Julian Kiewietz

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