On Saturday 15 September, the newly formed United Shotokan-Ryu (USR) held their first brown and black belt (dan) grading in Grahamstown (Makhanda). The grading panel included Kenny Tawse (Sixth Dan), Gary Grapentin (Sixth Dan), Rockey Lamastra (Fifth Dan), Albertus Swanepoel (Fourth Dan), Mzwandile Matebese (Fourth Dan), Tommie Adlam (Fourth Dan) and Maureen De Jager (Third Dan).
According to Grapentin, the candidates underwent a gruelling examination which comprised the demonstration of kihon (basic techniques), kata (forms), bunkai (application), kumite (fighting) and fitness. Unlike competition point fighting during which karateka are awarded points for delivering controlled and decisive techniques, fighting at dan gradings is continuous and permits the use of full contact kicks, punches and strikes to the body.
For the candidates, the grading was the culmination of years of dedication and effort. Wesley Nell (Port Elizabeth), Juanne Van Zyl (Port Elizabeth), Kayle Olivier (ECSR Grahamstown), Morgan Collins (ECSR Port Alfred) and Anne Hartley (ECSR Port Alfred) achieved their first kyu brown belt which puts them on course to attempt the shodan (first dan black belt) grading in 2019. Megan Spriggs (Port Elizabeth) and Derrick Lottering (ECSR Grahamstown) both achieved shodan. Lottering achieved this coveted grading after having started his karate journey five and a half years ago.
Kevin Aitchison (ECSR Port Alfred), Lutho Singata (Rhodes University Shotokan Karate Club), Murray Millin (Rhodes University Shotokan Karate Club), Brent Smith (ECSR Grahamstown), Linolonwabo Makana (Joza Karate Club) and Thanduxolo Royi (Joza Karate Club) all achieved nidan (second dan black belt). A minimum training period of two years is required between first dan and second dan black belt. Singata and Millin are the first Rhodes University Shotokan Karate Club members to attain second dan black belt, while Makana and Royi are the first Joza Karate Club students to achieve this grade. In ECSR’s twenty-three year history, Smith is the first karateka to attain second dan black belt while still at secondary school.
A fitting end to the grading weekend was the coastal gashuku (outdoor training) which was held on Kariega Beach in Kenton on Sea on Sunday in perfect weather conditions. The three hour training session was attended by seventy-five karateka of all ages and belt levels.
United Shotokan Ryu was established earlier this year, with the primary purpose of providing greater opportunity to its members. The Union’s working committee is well-represented by local karateka including Grapentin (chairperson), Mzwandile Matebese (vice chairperson), Maureen De Jager (championship convenor) and Alan Kirkaldy (treasurer). Since its establishment, the Union has grown to include over six hundred members with dojos in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the Western Cape. The Union has also been accepted as a member of the World Union of Karate Federations (WUKF) and has already lined-up a number of top international guest instructors to visit South Africa in 2018 and 2019. The first of these international guests is Pascal Lecourt (France) who will arrive in Grahamstown for a seminar in late October. André Bertel (Japan) and George Best (England) will follow in 2019.