Mzansi’s senior sports citizens

2011-09-24 17:58

Shihan Peter “Poison” Thage of the Kyokushin kaikan full-contact martial arts style has been a devout practitioner of the art since 1969.

His hard work, sweat and tears eventually paid off when he was awarded by sports minister Fikile Mbalula at the SA Sports Awards
last month.

“This is the first award I have received since I started,” gushed the 58-year-old fifth dan black belt Shihan (master) with tears welling up in his eyes.

Thage was trained by by the late Shihan Arthur Bartman in Cape Town and later opened his dojo at the DH Williams Hall, Katlehong, Ekurhuleni in 1970.

“The premises were given to me by the then East Rand Board,” he reminisced.

Thus Thage became the first ­­full-contact Gauteng-based practitioner and trainer.

His first attempt to visit Japan and meet Masutatsu Oyama, the founder of the style known as Kyokushin kaikan, in 1977 was blocked by the government as he was said to be a Bophuthatswana citizen.

His chance eventually came in 1979, and he counts himself lucky to have spent three months being trained by Oyama, the man who spent endless hours on the hills of Japan developing Kyokushin kaikan after years of practising semi-contact martial arts. Kyokushin kaikan, which is Japanese for “the society of the ultimate truth” – is a style rooted in the philosophy of ­self-improvement, discipline and hard training.

During his stay in Japan Thage, who obtained his black belt in 1976, was trained to specialise in the art of balancing a kombi on his stomach while the late then Durban-based Sensei Raymond Mkhize was drilled in jumping over a car approaching at a high speed.

 The pair became a hit in the late 70s as they performed these stunts to packed stadiums around country.

This led to them being television and film stars, with Thage eventually graduating to being a film director, something he still dabbles in.

This has seen him meet and work with a number of international movie stars such as Sean Connery, James Earl Jones and Louis Gossett Jr, as well as producers including Spike Lee.

Thage was forced to stop his act of balancing kombis on his stomach when he broke two ribs in 1999 “after losing concentration”.

His dojo that he runs with his younger brother, Shihan Eddie “The Rock” Thage, continues to produce top karateka who win local and international competitions.

Some of them have gone on to open their own dojos.

Thage also played a key role in the unification of the sport in South Africa.

He attributes his success to being grounded and coming from a sporting family.

His father Wellington “Bra Noise” Thage who lives in Brits, North-West with his wife Jessie, was a judo practitioner while all his siblings from a family of eight boys and three girls have practised karate and participated in other sports, including soccer.

“I really want to thank that ‘Mr Razzmatazz’ (Mbalula) for eventually recognising me,” he said.

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