When we changed over to the year 2000, many of us never thought that we’ll see the year 2020, but here we are!
Villieria Tigers Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karate Dojo started in 1970, which makes us 50 years young this year! My own karate career started at this very dojo in 1974, at the tender age of only 13, and I eventually took over the dojo in 1991. We are in the process of planning a huge “Tiger Reunion” for later in the year, so if anyone knows someone who was a member of this dojo in the earlier years, please contact me.
The Corona virus has come suddenly and disrupted everyone’s plans for 2020. Classes have to be done on zoom and other virtual methods, camps and tournaments are cancelled, students quit because parents can’t afford it any longer and karate instructors are loosing their income gradually. The Tiger dojo is fortunate enough to still have their senior Sensei’s, conducting virtual classes, which are very well attended. This seems to be the way forward until all return to normal. We can all just pray for one another during this period and believe that this thing will go away soon!
My wish for all the Tigers (parents and students), as well as all our friends all over the world, is to have a wonderful 2020, filled with health, love and happiness.
About Sensei Riaan Coetzee
Sensei Riaan Coetzee started his karate career in 1974 at the age of 13. After practicing Judo for some years, he made the switch to Karate and joined the Villieria Tigers Dojo. At the time, it was already a strong dojo, teaching Funakoshi – a very strong style of karate in South Africa at the time. When he graded for his purple belt, he moved from Funakoshi to Kyokushin, which was a full contact style of karate.
The reason for his move from Funakoshi to Kyokushin was partly because the head Sensei of the Villieria Tigers dojo got transferred in his full-time job, and the dojo was without a Sensei for a while. Sensei Riaan’s passion for kumite led him to make his final choice to move on in order to continue to live out this passion.
In 1979, Sensei Riaan matriculated and started his two years of compulsory military training in 1980, with the Artillery Corps of the South African Defence Force. After completing his military service, he went back to the dojo, only to find out that none of the students he knew were left. The dojo was still there, but the remaining students were doing Funakoshi Karate again, under the leadership of a new Sensei. Riaan re-joined the dojo and the Funakoshi style, and graded for his first black belt (Shodan) in 1987.
While still training with the Villieria Tigers Dojo, Sensei Riaan opened his first dojo in Atteridgeville in 1991 and started training his own students. A year later, the head Sensei at the Villieria Tigers Dojo retired from Karate, and Sensei Riaan stepped in to take over the dojo where he has been a student since he started his karate career.
In 1994 most of the dojo owners resigned from Funakoshi karate and joined Shihan Claude Johnson in the newly established Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan style, which was brought into South Africa via the USA and Kyoshi Noël Smith. Sensei Riaan became Provincial Head of Northern Transvaal Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karate, reporting directly to Shihan Claude Johnson.
Sensei Riaan graded for his 5th Dan (Renshi) in Karate in 2003, and for his 2nd Dan in Kobudo in 2004, both under the supervision of Kyoshi Pat Haley from the USA. In 2006 he was awarded his 6th Dan (Shihan) in Okinawa by Grandmaster Hanshi Shugoro Nakazato, President of Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Karate worldwide.
In 2012, at the South African National training camp at Gariep, Sensei Riaan graded for his 7th Dan, and was awarded the rank of Kyoshi Nanadan by Hanshi Doug Perry (9th Dan), in the presence of numerous other Kyoshi and Renshi instructors from the USA, who all attended the camp.
As an active student of Karate, Sensei Riaan was part of the SAMAC (South African Martial Arts Commission) team in the 1980’s. He represented Shorin-Ryu South Africa twice against Botswana and was also a member of the Shorin-Ryu South Africa team that represented the country in Okinawa in 1997. He is currently the Vice President of Shourin-Ryu Shorinkan South Africa.
Representing Shorin-Ryu South Africa in Okinawa was one of the highlights in Sensei Riaan’s career, along with a training session with Hanshi Shugoro Nagazato in 1997, and a ten-day training session with Kyoshi Doug Perry in the USA in 2004. The utmost highlight of his career, however, was the day he entered the Shuri Castle through the Gate of Suri in Okinawa.
*NOTE: Sensei Riaan has been with the Villieria Tigers Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Dojo for most of its 50 years existence. Besides the four years that the dojo operated between 1970 and when he joined in 1974 as a young boy, and the two years he was in the military, Sensei Riaan has been with the dojo through it all. As the dojo turns 50 years old this year, the members of the dojo would like to acknowledge Sensei Riaan’s total of 44 years with the dojo – 28 of which he was head Sensei!