Taking on the world

2013-11-16 00:00

A HUMBLE Merrivale jujitsu group has taken on international fighters and emerged with their heads held high.

The small group at the Merrivale Jujitsu Club practise their moves in the N.G. Kerk hall twice a week with no fancy equipment, just battered floor mats, inadequate for the throws and scuffles that occur. But this has made their members tough.

Under the lights, the members huff and puff and grunt, and engage in mock fights using a complicated system of blocks and locks and throws. Surprisingly, they look as if they are enjoying themselves, even when they end up flattened on the floor.

This small club sent a five-member team to Johannesburg last month, where they scooped eight medals in the 22nd International Jujitsu Competition.

In their efforts to scrape together the money for the trip to Johannesburg, the team raised funds by selling raffle tickets. There was not enough money for hotels, so they had to beg for accommodation from friends and family.

But the trip was worth it as they amazed everyone with their sterling performances.

Bronwen Harvard, the club spokesperson, said: “We get a regular work-out session with our trainer, Andre Strydom, who is a brown belt. But we also get additional wisdom and experience from local jujitsu 6th Dan Reg Venter.”

Venter (70) from Karkloof, who was the undisputed KZN jujitsu champion for years until he retired, may look like an average pensioner, but anyone who thinks they can take him on as a soft target would be surprised.

He said: “I have been doing martial arts for 65 years; it becomes a part of you. When I am too old to defend myself, then I’ll get a .38 special,” he joked.

Venter knows his moves, and his input has given the team a fighting edge. He is a stickler for correct positions and safety, and he makes sure the members are disciplined — he is not shy to teach a cocky youngster a lesson on the floor.

Harvard said: “We all respect Reg and we are slightly nervous when he calls us onto the floor for a demonstration. He knows his stuff and we are not deceived by his age.”

Venter said: “The small numbers in the club allow the children to get individual training, and coach Andre Strydom has kept the standards high.”

While preparing for the competition, the group members focused strongly on their training and took on their competitors at the competition with gusto. They were the only KwaZulu-Natal club represented at the competition. The team of five students brought back eight medals in total. Harvard was placed third in her international event out of the six countries that competed  — Belgium, Germany, U.S., Great Britain and Denmark.

Tyler Peens, Dillon Harwood, Mike Pike, Ryan van Wyk and Bronwen Harvard all won medals.

The competition has made them eager to train harder and they hope that the results will persuade sponsors to invest in the club.

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za


What is Jujitsu?

It is a Japanese martial art and a method of close combat for defeating an armed and armoured opponent in which one uses no weapon.

It is about using the attacker’s force against oneself rather than confronting it. This ancient fighting sport was developed among the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for defeating attackers and neutralising them.

Jujitsu teaches how to use pins, joint locks, and throws. There are many variations of the art, which leads to a diversity of approaches. Jujitsu schools can teach a variety of defensive methods including throwing, trapping, joint locks, holds, gouging, biting, disengagements, striking, and kicking and in some schools they teach the use of weapons.

Judo is a derivative of jujitsu and it is an Olympic sport today.

In jujitsu, practitioners train in the use of many potentially fatal moves. But because students learn in a non-competitive environment, the risk is minimized. Students are taught break falling skills to allow them to safely practice otherwise dangerous throws.

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