PERSONAL: All about Karate, but Karate was not what it was all about.


This post has got nothing to do with technology, but it has everything to do with the children we work with every day.

This past weekend my son participated in the Japanese Karate Association’s SA Championships in Johannesburg, as a member of the Western Province team. He has a purple belt, and he achieved a bronze medal in his age group for Kata, and a silver medal for his Kumite. He was hoping for a Gold medal (he has already promised his Sensei, Debbie Evans, that he will be back for double Gold next year), but he has learnt that as he gets older and progresses to higher belts, the competition gets tougher and more challenging. As his parents, his Dad and I could not be prouder. It was an intense weekend of karate, with excellent results for the WP team and our dojo, Blaauwberg JKA Karate, in particular.


However, yesterday, at the conclusion of the tournament, it struck me that Karate was certainly not all that this weekend had been about. It was about so much more.

It was about seeing a profoundly disabled wheelchair-bound member of the Western Province team, a member of our dojo, participate and win a Gold medal; experiencing the moment as all our children, young and old stood, and shouted his name and cheered him on; witnessing the incredible love of his brother as he embraced him and kissed him on his forehead, celebrating his medal and so much more – celebrating life! It was the shedding of tears of happiness and the sobering thoughts of how we take life for granted.


Ryan proudly showing off his medal. Photo credit: Shane McConnachie (brother).

It was about the interaction between older, more experienced karateka (teenagers) with the young and inexperienced newbies (some as young as six), holding their hands as they led them down into the stadium for their events. It was about the whispered words of encouragement on the floor and the looks of guidance as the little ones sought reassurance. Their patience seemed infinite. It was about folded hands and prayers said at the beginning of each round, not for the win, but to be the best that they could be. These were poignant moments.

It was about the loud shouts of encouragement from the stands down to the team mates participating below; the loud applause when a team-mate won a round; the ecstatic cheers for a win and rounds of congratulations when a team member returned to the stands with medals; the words of encouragement and sympathy, embraces and hugs when the results weren’t as favourable.

It was about the selfless behaviour of a much-loved and respected team member, himself only sixteen years old, who stood between two floors, toggling between encouraging and coaching a team-mate who was engaged in a particularly difficult kumite final, and participating in his own competition on the adjacent floor.

It was about that same young man being knocked out of his own competition in a somewhat questionable manner, yet rising above it with an amazing attitude to encourage his team mates to persevere and push through as they qualified for the All African Cup in September.

It was about the anguish of a young girl who faced huge disappointment when she did not achieve the Gold medal she was hoping for, and truly deserved; the tears she shed and the strength of character she showed in going back down onto the floor, pulling herself together and showing steely determination as she qualified for the All African Cup. What a comeback!

It was about the patience shown for a keen, (over-) enthusiastic 12-year old who wanted to help, to be involved, to feel important; the tolerance for his exuberant nature and for including him as a member of the support team and for “creating” a job for him which kept him busy throughout the long 12-hour day. That boy was my son, and he almost enjoyed the second day more than his competition day because he felt important, he felt appreciated and he felt that he had made a valuable contribution to the team. This will stay with him for a long time.

So, while it was Karate that brought us all together, it was so much more than Karate that determined the success of the weekend. Life lessons were learnt, life skills were entrenched. These are skills children should be learning, should be exposed to. Sport offers this for our children and is the exact reason why children should participate in sport.

It is not about the medals, it is about life. See the bigger picture.


About Karen Stadler

A teacher with 28-odd years' experience, who is passionate about ICT and all things technological! I am very interested in global classrooms, blogging, iPads and ICT integration. Always looking for new ideas, I am a lifelong learner!

Posted on June 8, 2015, in Personal and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. My daughters took part too (12 years girls yellow belt and 10 years girls yellow belt). In fact so did my husband and I (also yellow belt). Fantastic event and your blog post is great. I was also very touched by the disabled participants and the courage that they showed in taking part. My family has been doing Karate for less than a year, we are loving it and it is benefiting us all in different ways.

  2. My reaction on “All about karate, but karate was not what it was all about”
    As a senior and experienced karate instructor of SAJKA being intensively involved with karate in South Africa in general and with this proud organisation (SAJKA) for now more than 37 years it is letters like this that makes me even more proud of my organisation and it confirms and strengthen my believe and understanding of what teaching karate (and sport in general) is all about and inspires me to keep doing what we do.

    Not to blow my own whistle but to put my remarks in the right perspective, I need to mention that as karate coach me and my small team of assistant coaches produce top level sport results in karate on national and international level from a relative small pool of karate students which is a clear indication of how important I consider the teaching of and participation in competitive (sport) karate. However as is so clearly and accurately indicated by this proud parent it is definitely about much more than winning medals. I strive throughout all my teaching and mentoring to encourage karateka, their parents and also younger coaches with whom I have the honour to share my teaching approach and methods with, that being involved with karate is all about the total development of not only our students but all involved. Karate students, parents and instructors alike must constantly strive towards obtaining to achieve what the great master Funakoshi meant when he said “The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants ” ― Gichin Funakoshi

    A mouthful to take serious cognisance of by all involved in our great sport. Unfortunately so often my observation is that the egos of parents and also instructors becomes our biggest obstacle in striving to do what the great master Funakoshi meant. The need, greed, passion and drive to win a medal (and nothing else than gold is good enough) becomes so overwhelming that we miss the purpose of why we really do this!!…and sad to say then so often lots of medals is the result but with it comes a serious lack of the development of character of the participants.

    Although I could detect a hint of disappointment in results in the article of this proud parent, I want to congratulate him/her in that it is clear to me that he/she appreciate the important things that his/her child are exposed to in karate which contribute to the development of character. Also a great word of congratulations and inspiration to continue to do so to the instructor/instructors involved with this dojo for the fact that your parents have an appreciation for the right values that you clearly strive to nurture during your teaching. Well done and keep up the good work!!

    May we all continue to practise and participate in this noble sport of ours and while doing so keep our eye on the ball as indicated by the late Gichin Funakoshi.

    Congratulations to SAJKA for the history making event for athletes with special needs and congratulations to all five athletes that participated and achieved. You are STARS!!…Keep it up and we hope to see more entries next year!!!


    A proud JKA Instructor (Sensei Ian Le Roux)

  3. Dear Sensei Ian,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog post. It is much appreciated.

    There was no disappointment on my part at all, but there are certainly lessons for us as parents at such competitions to help our children deal with their own disappointment. Our amazing Sensei, Debbie Evans, made sure to instil in her students that they need to do the best they could and that they had to do it for themselves! The pressures children face when they try and live out their parents dreams are incredible – and provide me with a whole lot of content for a future blog post! As a teacher I have often been faced with this, but that is a topic for another day.

    Thank you again for your commentry.


    Karen Stadler

  4. I just love your karate blog. Being a karate mom for 11years I can relate. Keep up the good work.

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