Frank Brandon is emphatic about the power of karate as a unifying force in South Africa. He is heading a 300-strong squad from the rainbow nation for the 6th Gojukai World Karate Championships (sponsored by Tatas) at the NSCI. “Through the art of karate, we hope to uplift kids from the townships who have nothing. This sport is about honour, respect and ability, not about how much money you have, what colour you are or religion you follow.”

He added: “In the townships, a black child who has nothing can rise through the ranks via karate and become a Sensei. Even though he may still be living in a hut, a white child learning karate will bow before him. That gives him a sense of achievement and boosts his confidence. Confidence is everything.”

South Africa is the defending champion, having bagged the honour in front of home crowds at Cape Town in 2009 during the previous Gojukai World Championships. “Hosting such a huge event was a privilege for us. Children from the townships could attend a World Championship without incurring huge costs. Every child who made the South African team competed at a world level,” said Frank, whose father Peter Brandon is considered a pioneer in the sport.

Frank revealed that father Peter taught karate in 1968, at a time when SA was wracked by racial issues. “He was put in jail just for teaching karate to black people. When the police used to come to our dojo to check, my father had to hide on the roof.” Peter Brandon is now president of SA Gojukai Karate and the team mix in Mumbai is a reflection of the rainbow nation, inspired by the late Nelson Mandela. “The squad has participants of all colours, from uddhists,

Hindus, Jews to Muslims.”

Madiba, as Nelson Mandela is reverently called, is an inspiration. “Madiba had once said that never again in South Africa will one group of people hold absolute power. He meant both black or white. Our team reflects that unity in thinking. We have come here to win for Madiba. We are the defending champions and so hopefully can win not on home soil, but away,” quipped Frank, who started karate at four years and is now a full-time coach.

About 1000 karatekas from 32 nations will take part in the five-day event from December 11-15 at the National Sports Club of India.

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