This article formed part of a major set of rural drought reporting that the Grocott’s Mail team did throughout early 2019. While only a small part of the team, mainly there as a photographer, I managed to identify this particular aspect of the Alicedale community that only I could tackle as part of the drought reporting team.
Despite no longer being the popular railway junction that it used to be, Alicedale is still an important and thriving town, around 50km outside of Makhanda (Grahamstown). The lack of trade due to the loss of the railway junction and the deteriorating road into town has hurt the town economically; however this has not dampened the spirits of the residents, as evident by the thriving karate project.
East Cape Shotokan-Ryu (ECSR) introduced the Alicedale Karate Project in 2015, as a way to promote healthy living, discipline and a balanced lifestyle among the struggling town, and it has been well met by the members of the community. Every Monday, during usual school term, Elvis Sinam, an instructor from Makhanda, travels to Alicedale to teach and mentor the group of young karateka, with the assistance of supportive residents Eli Konstant, John Bateson and Sybel Peterson.
The children are completely subsidised for all of their expenses, which include class fees, equipment, gradings, affiliation fees and selected competitions, by the ECSR and their members. This has allowed as many as eight karateka to grade successfully at the most recent grading in 2018, with two of the original karateka achieving the rank of purple belt at that grading. Gary Grapentin, of the ECSR, is hopeful that they will be able to achieve the rank of black belt in the near future.
“Karate encourages a healthy way of life – both physically and mentally,” said Grapentin. “Karate improves and develops self-discipline and is a practical and effective form of self-defence.”
Trainees have the opportunity to interact with members from other communities through the practice of karate as a sport, and Grapentin believes that successful trainees will become positive role models within their community.
This initiative would not have been possible, however, without the support of the Siyakubonga Funeral Services, which provides transport to Sinam every Monday in order to teach the classes. Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, is also in strong support of the project, showing great interest in the future development of the karateka in Alicedale.