To escape societal ills, youngsters from Galeshewe Township in the Northern Cape are learning martial arts. The athletes are expected to represent the province at the Kanazawa national tournament in Durban this weekend. Some have already bagged gold and silver medals from previous tournaments.
The striking art of karate is an incredible way to instill self-discipline. Some of the children say karate has helped them deal with bullying.
“They bullied me, so my mother said I must come. My mother went to the child at the tuck shop, and she asked her where she attends karate. Karate helped me, I was scared before, but I am not anymore,” says Busi Buffel, karate athlete.
“It was fun for me because all I could do and see from those people is that it teaches you discipline and respect. And it helps with your education. It helps you physically and mentally,” says karate athlete, Dineo August.
Many of the youngsters are from disadvantaged communities. But kicking their circumstances to the side is their aim. With the country battling the scourge of gender-based violence, boys in this club say more women must equip themselves with self-protection skills.
“These days men drink and go home and abuse their wives. And their wives don’t deserve to be abused. Karate can defend them and their kids. And they can defend themselves. They must avoid as much fight as they possibly can, but if they have a chance to get out of the house they must do it,” says karate athlete, Kabelo Shoba.
Karate athlete, Lerato Nkosi had a word of encouragement to those hesitant to join a karate club.
“It motivates me and shows me that I am more disciplined than my peers. There is nothing wrong with being scared because we all are. And joining karate for self-defense will help you in the streets. Especially as a young person nowadays,” says Nkosi.
Athletes, who are due to travel to Durban for a tournament this weekend are marred by financial challenges and might miss the event despite reaching out to government departments for assistance.
“I mean we applied last year for funding from sports, arts and culture. They never came back to us. On the 5th of January, we went back again. And we were taken from pillar to post. In the end, they gave us two kombis. We are forty kids that must leave here. No one has paid for the hotel. We are still struggling and looking around who can pay for the hotel,” says Chairman: Zen Karate Club, Samuel Nkosi.
The Northern Cape Sports, Arts & Culture says they have budget constraints.
“As the department, we have limited funding; therefore, when we do assist our sporting clubs from the various sectors…we normally do it according to our budget that is available. It’s not always that we can assist 100 % of the funding that is needed from clubs. And in this case, we have made a vehicle available and would like to ensure they reach their destination,” says Conrad Fortune from Northern Cape Sports, Arts & Culture department.
Despite their difficult circumstance, athletes are hopeful their kicks and punches will secure them a roundhouse kick in bringing back gold to the Diamond City.