Seven-year-old Juan van Niekerk, from Bothasig, is confident that by the time he reaches the age of 17 he will have earned his black belt in karate.
The young karateka was among fellow students, some much older than him, training under the guidance of sensei Craig Paulse, from the Karate Zen dojo, at the Bothasig Community Hall, last Saturday.
They are taught to train independently as well as in a group, to combat some of life’s challenges. These include bullying at school, boosting self-esteem and deciding whether to eat a lollipop before or after training.
In December, their best efforts in the sport were recognised at the Karate Zen National Awards.
Parent Jeanette van Niekerk said Juan and Lia have been doing karate for the past year. It helps them with fitness and concentration.
“Juan’s a yellow belt, his goal is to reach his black belt in the next nine years. Lia loves it,” she said.
Aphelele said karate protects him, his family and his friends, while Leah said karate teaches her discipline, and makes her happy and confident in school.
Last month, the students participated in the Karate Zen Open Tournament.
Lia Van Niekerk won bronze in kata. Alexandra Smith won double gold in kata and kumite. Leah Swartz won gold in kata. Juan Van Niekerk won gold in kata. Leo Krige won bronze in kata and in kumite. Aphelele won silver in kata and gold in kumite. Jamie Paulse won bronze in kata and bronze in kumite.
Sensei Craig Paulse expressed how proud he was of his students’ efforts in improving their physical and mental discipline through the sport.
“I am affiliated to Karate Zen SA. Our students recently participated in the Karate Zen Open Championships where we had all stars. Out of the eight students, we had five gold medals, one silver and eleven bronze. The students also participated in the awards winning from the student of the year to the most perseverance.
Karate Zen have classes on Tuesday and Thursday, 5.30pm to 6.30pm for juniors, and 6.30pm to 8pm for seniors.
“It gives them the confidence to go out there and spend time with their peers and the confidence to be heard without being bullied. Basically it builds their experiences to do their own thing, it encourages them to be free spirited and make their own decisions,” said Paulse.
“We have students that come here and can’t do press-ups or sit-ups but after a few months you will find that their physical attributes have improved and this helps with their confidence,” he said.