Brown belts set for Italy

Miengaah Hendricks, Tharwah Hendricks and Rania Gambieldien will be jetting of to Italy in September. PHOTO: KAYLYNNE BANTOM

Two Kensington teens are part of the RSA Gojy Ryu Karate team that will be competing in the 6th World Goju Ryu Karate Federation (WGKF) in Foligno, Italy in September.

The event, which brings together Goju-Ryu practitioners from around the world a single competition, will take place from Thursday 8 to Sunday 11 September.

Tharwa Hendricks, instructor at Kensington Karate School, says she is elated that the duo qualified for what she describes as a “tough competition”.

Hendricks, who was student of the Dojo in 2004, has been an instructor since 2011.

She says because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the girls had to enter the competition virtually.

“I am proud of them. We haven’t been able to train during Covid-19 and now we have come back. We only had online competitions for the past two years. We needed to enter them via videos, we had a table set up with a camera. But they still qualified.”

Hendricks says this is not their first rodeo as the teens also qualified for the 5th WGKF held in Malaysia in 2019.

“It is exciting that they both got into the team again. It is quite a big deal for our federation this is the 6th world championships and these girls have been to two of them. It was quite tough, they will never put themselves amongst the best, but for me they are. I know how hard they train.”

Hendricks, who also competed in 2010 and refereed in at the WGKF in 2019, says their biggest challenge currently is finance.

She says while they have managed through fundraising to pay for half of their plane tickets, they still need about R45 000 to cover their other expenses.

“They are both still minors, so they need a parent with which makes it double. So, we need more sponsorships and support.”

Hendricks says they hope to get more children involved as the sport offers many opportunities.

“We have a lot of children from the community that need extra help. This is our dream to get the community involved and to send the children overseas. We have a lot of potential in our area, and it doesn’t come forth because karate is a self-funded sport. So, finance is always an issue.”

Hendricks says she has full confidence in the pair.

“We are excited. The girls still can’t believe it. I am excited to see them out there again and I know that they have been putting in so much training.”

The 16-year-old Miengaah Hendricks (brown belt) says she is both “nervous and excited”.

She says entering the competition was tough because they had to do it virtually.

“There wasn’t the feeling of having supporters and people to watch you so it was different.”

The 16-year-old has her eyes set on the big prize. “The goal is to get a medal, but it’s a tough competition. I am looking forward to seeing other places and other cultures and other people’s way of doing karate.”

Miengaah says to prepare they must put in many extra hours of training.

“We have extra karate classes. There are fittings that we have to go for. There is also squad training with the rest of the South African team.”

Rania Gambieldien (brown belt) says she is excited to travel again and elated that she qualified for the competition.

“I am excited and nervous, I only decided recently that I was going.”

Gambieldien (16) says they are currently doing extensive training in preparation for the event.

“The squad training is hectic, whenever we get home our bodies are sore.”

The teen says karate is more than just “fighting”.

“I initially got into karate to fight my brother and I just never stopped. It teaches you discipline, time management. People see it as fighting but it’s not. For small kids it’s a way to get their energy out. We hope this will inspire other young people. Sometimes they think we are doing boring stuff but they don’t know what you can achieve from doing this.”

The trio and the rest of the South African team will be jetting off to Italy on Saturday 3 September.

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