The Cape's karate kids shine in Japan

A group of 46 karate students received their black belt grading in Japan two weeks ago. Picture: IAN LANDSBERG. African News Agency (ANA)

A group of 46 karate students received their black belt grading in Japan two weeks ago. Picture: IAN LANDSBERG. African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 23, 2022


Sheer grit and dedication paid off for a group of 46 karate students from Cape Town who recently travelled to Japan where they were graded for the martial art’s coveted black belt.

They all returned home having achieved the auspicious honour.

The students, aged 12 to 17, spent 10 days in Japan earlier this month where they were graded. They also spent time exploring the country.

The students are members of the All Africa Karate - Do Goju Kai Dojo. They train twice a week, after school for two hours per session.

Proud student, Joshua Matthee, 15, said the hard work paid off. It took him nine years to get his black belt.

“I was very nervous, but I am glad I was able to obtain it in the end. I felt like my efforts had paid off. It was incredible to see so many senseis wearing their black belts,” he said.

Joshua said he was excited as it was his first trip abroad.

“I was nervous and thrilled at the same time. It was lovely to visit a Japanese temple.

“I was surprised by how much safer and cleaner Japan was than South Africa. The streets, public transportation, and hotel were all secure and well-kept.”

For Benjamin Brandon,12, receiving his black belt was a special honour after he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps. His grandfather Peter Brandon is the president of the All Africa Karate studio.

Benjamin who began training when he was 4-years-old said: “It has been a hard journey to get to the black belt, but it has been a lot of fun as well.”

“I enjoy doing it with my friends and travelling around the world to compete in the sport.”

The young karate enthusiast enjoyed his adventure in Japan.

“It was fun but also nerve-racking as you received your grading in front of many important people in karate. It was cool to see the history of karate and spend time with my friends.”

Benjamin was proud what he has accomplished at such a young age.

“It felt amazing, and I felt so proud of myself,” he said.

Goju Kai Karate is an international karate school established in more than 70 countries.

South African students first travelled to Japan to be graded in 1979 which was facilitated by Brandon. Since then more than 600 students have made the trip.

The trip was a full circle moment for senseis Frank Brandon and Craig Kansley who both travelled to Japan 30 years ago to receive their black belt grading. For Frank it was extra special watching his son Benjamin received his belt.

Frank said students must pass their different colour belt grading before they can go for black belt grading which can take anywhere from five years upward.

“Children typically begin at age five and can acquire the belt by the time they are 12-years-old. They are taught a syllabus that they must master to receive the highest ranking,” he said.

“Once you reach your brown belt, the level before the black belt, you have to receive a recommendation from your instructor to receive your black belt grading,” he added.

To receive their grading in Japan, each student had to pay R45 000, which covered flights, accommodation, transport and meals.

“The students received a great Japanese experience, showing them that the culture of Japan honours loyalty, kindness and respect,” he said.

“They got to see the Japanese way of life that prioritises mindfulness of others,” he added.

Goju Kai hosts fundraising events through the African Warriors of Light, an NPO founded by Brandon. The NPO was created to assist students financially with cultural exchanges.

Frank said seeing his students achieve their black belts was a testament to the legacy of Goju Kai.

“It’s amazing to see where we have come from ... to see the pride on their faces,” he said.

“They had a renewed energy when they walked into training once they were back home, wearing their black belts,” he said.

“There is a new vitality that races through their blood when they put on their black belt, looking back at where they started with a white belt.”

Weekend Argus

Keshia Africa