The power of an empty hand

untitled0-29

Sensei Solly Said (standing second from the right) with the great Kaicho Nakamura (sitting on the left)

Solly Said has walked the hard road of karate for 21 years. He has found the real power of karate not in his punch, but in his spirit.

Solly is a teacher of karate. He is called ‘Sensei’ by his students. The word ‘Sensei’ is a Japanese word. It is a respectful way of saying ‘teacher’. You are called ‘Sensei’ when you get your fourth black belt.

Karate began in Japan many hundreds of years ago. The sport was started by the poor people who worked the land. They were not allowed to have weapons in those days. Only their masters, the Samurai warriors, were allowed to carry weapons.

But the people had their hands for weapons. Their hands were enough. The word ‘karate’ means ’empty hands’.

“NO FIRST ATTACK”
True karate students believe that karate should only be used for self defence. Sensei Solly could be more dangerous than a leopard in a fight. But he does not want to fight anyone.
“There are rules in karate,” says Solly. “One of the rules is ‘no first attack’.”

This rule means that karate students must try not to get into fights. The true karate student only fights when he or she is training. Solly explains: “Karate should be used only for self defence. And to uphold truth and justice, and to help people who need it.”

“People think karate is about violence. But it is really about non-violence. The most important thing about karate is that it builds strength of spirit. It helps you to grow and become a better person.”

A PEACEFUL SPIRIT
It is the peaceful spirit of karate that makes it so different from other sports. Solly tells a story to show how a karate student should build his spirit.

“Long ago in Japan, a great karate master was riding home on a riksha (a light cart). It was at night, and a group of thugs tried to attack him. But he jumped off the riksha and ran home.

“The next day he was teaching at his dojo. (A dojo is the place where karate students train). Some people came to see him. They were the thugs who attacked him the night before. They had come to say they were sorry — and to thank him for not fighting them.

“They only found out who he was after they attacked him. And they knew that he could have hurt them very badly . But he chose not to fight. He was true to the spirit of Karate.”

UNDER ATTACK
But sometimes you do have to fight. Solly was once attacked by two tsotsis as he was walking with his wife. One of the thugs stabbed him with a long Okapi knife.

Solly could not use his left arm because of the knife wound. But he dropped the first thug with a kick. Then he turned, fast as a whip. Another hard kick from Solly knocked the other tsotsi down. They ran off, leaving Solly to bandage his wounds.

Solly is glad that he was able to chase his attackers off with his karate skills. “But the best fight,” he says, “is the one which is not fought at all.”

untitled0-30

Solly fights mostly with empty hands – but he can handle weapons too!

FINDING THE WAY
Solly has made karate his life. It started for him in 1967. Then he was a young boy who loved sport. He played soccer, and he played the game with all his heart. But he lived in a rough area in Johannesburg. This area was called ‘Chinatown’. The people who lived here were poor — and they were tough.

Young Solly Said played a good game of soccer. But he was small and thin. He bounced around almost as much as the soccer ball when the game got rough. And he ended up in fights too.

“I needed to do something to protect myself,” Solly remembers. “I started looking around — there were only two or three karate schools in Johannesburg then. But they were for whites only. Karate was banned for blacks at that time.”

Maybe the whites in those days thought blacks who knew karate would not only break bricks, as karate people can — they might knock down houses too!

But the young Solly Said did not give up easily. He joined a youth group. One of the sports the youth group did was karate.

LIKE A ROCKET!
“Once I started, it just took off like a rocket!” says Solly. “I couldn’t think about anything but karate. My schoolwork suffered because of it!”

When Solly’s father saw his school marks go down, he was angry. “He gave me three days to decide if I was going to do karate or play soccer,” laughs Solly. “I took karate — and I’ve never looked back.”

Solly had a dream. And that dream was karate. He trained hard with the youth club’s karate team. They had to practise in secret because of the ban on blacks doing karate.

They trained on the mine-dumps. And they trained in schools after everyone else had gone home. They had to be careful that the night- watchmen did not catch them there!

But Solly was young. He wanted more than just mine-dumps and back-yards. He wanted adventure.

THE ROAD TO JAPAN
“When I finished matric, I planned to hitch-hike to Cape Town. I was going to get work on a ship, to go to Japan.”

It is the dream of every karate student to go to Japan. It was Solly’s greatest wish to go there. But things happened differently for him.

The Japanese government would not give him a permit to enter the country. So he saved all his money and he caught an aeroplane to the other side of the world — New York, USA!

Solly heard that a great karate teacher was in New York. His name was Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura. The word ‘Kaicho’ means ‘grand master’. Solly had heard strange things about this man, Nakamura. That he could fight 100 men at once. That he could catch arrows out of the air. Solly went to New York to see for himself.

A MAN OF FEW WORDS
Kaicho Nakamura is a man of few words. He says little — but Solly learned much in the time he spent as Kaicho’s student. Solly trained hard during the day. And he trained hard again at night.

Solly has painful memories of New York. “The training there is very, very tough,” he says. “Each class lasted about two hours. The last 30 minutes were left for fighting (called ‘kumite’). You had to stand up and fight anyone in the class.”

“Many times I remember walking to the dojo, and just praying I would live to the end of the class!”

But the biggest test was still to come. At last it was time for Solly to go for his black belt. It was a time that Solly will never forget.

untitled0-31

Black belts can fly too – but they can’t get past Solly!

THE TEST
To get a black belt, you must prove you are good enough. So you have to fight against students who are black belts themselves.

As Solly walked past the other black belts for his test, he heard one of them say, “We’re dealing death — is this punk going for black belt?” Solly was scared. But he knew he had “the best teacher in the world” — Kaicho Nakamura.

After the test, Solly was black and blue with bruises. His friends had to help him to walk out of the dojo. Solly did not know how long he had been fighting that day. The kumite had started at 3 o’clock. And it ended at 6 o’clock. Solly felt like a worn-out punching bag. But he had passed the test.

A DOJO AT HOME
Since that time, Solly has gone back many times to New York. And he has trained in Japan too. He has opened his own dojo in Johannesburg. His karate club is called Seido karate.
The head of Seido is Kaicho Nakamura.

Now Solly trains his own students in the Seido style of karate — just as Kaicho Nakamura trained him. Solly’s dojo is non-racial. His students are of all races.

This non-racialism caused some problems when the dojo opened in 1976. The police visited the dojo a number of times. At that time, South Africa was thrown out of world sport because of apartheid. So the government could not close the Seido dojo. This would have made South Africa stink even more.

untitled0-32

Kiaaaaai! Seido students shout the power of their punch

LIKE A FAMILY
“We are like a family here at Seido,” says Solly proudly. “We have 19 black belts now. The black belts teach the other students. They must listen to their problems and show them the way.”

Nesan Naidoo is one of the Seido black belts. He is still young — but his body is tough and hard from the long years of karate training. He started karate when he was five years old.
“Karate is more than a sport,” he says. “It is something you do because you have a love of it.”

Another black belt, Kalil Koor, agrees with Nesan. “I find karate is good for the mind, the body and the spirit. It is for people of any age. It is not like other sports which have an age limit.”

A SPORT FOR LIFE
Jerry Mothlabane is 44 years old. He has been doing karate with Solly for 14 years. Jerry tells how he started karate. “I was working with Sensei Solly,” Jerry remembers. “He said I should train too — so I thought I would give it a try.

“I found it was not just self-defence. It has changed my life completely. Now I understand more about people, and about life too. I learned that you have to understand yourself before you can understand others.”

How long will Jerry carry on doing karate?

“As long as I live!” he replies.

Solly, Nesan and the others all nod their heads in agreement. They have found a sport for life. They have discovered the power in an empty hand!

NEW WORDS
self defence — to protect yourself
thug — tsotsi
non-racialism — when people are not judged by the colour of their skin
age limit — when only people of a certain age can do something

The fastest man in Africa

img23On the 1st May this year Vincent Rakabaele won a 42 kilometre race in Port Elizabeth. He won the race in 2 hours 11 minutes and 44 seconds. So now he is the fastest runner in Africa in this race.

Learn and Teach went to speak to Vincent Rakabaele at Bracken mine in the Eastern Trans­vaal. “I ran well on that day” Vincent told Learn and Teach. “I passed Bernard Rose after 34 kilometres. Then I knew I was going to be the fastest man in Africa. I also run better at the sea. The air is much better at the sea.”

Vincent Rakabaele was born far away from the sea. He was born in the mountains of the Sefekaneng District in Lesotho 33 years ago. He was the oldest child in a family of four boys and three girls.

In 1960 the Rakabaele family suffered a terrible hardship. Vincent’s father was killed. “My father was working in Germiston” says Vincent. “One day some tsotsis attacked him. Then they tied him on a railway line.”

After Vincent’s father died, the family was short of money. Vincent’s mother sold most of the family cattle to look after her children. In 1969 Vincent left school to help his mother. He only spent six years at school.

img24Vincent went to work in the mines in South Africa. He got a job at the Marievale mine near Nigel. He worked underground for a while. But underground work frightened him. He asked for another job. He got another job in the mine hospital.

One day in 1972 Vincent watched some men running at the Marievale mine. He enjoyed watching the runners. He decided he also wanted to run.

“I trained with the other runners” says Vincent. “My first race was over 100 yards. I came last.”

Some other runners told Vincent to try a longer race. He ran in a race over a mile. He finished fourth. But Vincent was not happy.

Vincent then ran in a three mile race. In this race he finished second. Vincent was still not happy.

Vincent decided to try a longer race. He ran in a marathon. A marathon is a 42 kilometre race. Vincent won the race.

Since that time Vincent has won many more races. He has run for Lesotho in New Zealand, Algeria and Canada. And in 1980 he ran in the Olympic Games in Moscow.

“The Olympic Games were very exciting,” says Vincent. “We stayed in a big village with sportsmen from all over the world. Everybody spoke different languages. We spoke to each other with our hands.

“I did not run well in Moscow. I came 23rd in the marathon. I was sick before the race. I had stomach trouble. And I did not like the weather. One day was hot and the next day was cold. But I will run better in the next Olympic Games in America in 1984.”

Vincent has one big wish. “I want to run the fastest marathon in the world” says Vincent. “But I must still train very hard. And I must run against more runners from other countries.

“I must say one last thing. I like winning races. But winning isn’t everything. I love running. When I run I feel like I’m flying. I feel so free.”

img25

Vincent Rakabaele with his mother, his daughter Lerato and his son Koni

Stop racist sport!

An Interview with Krish Naidoo, General Secretary of the National Sports Congress (NSC)

IN 1960, South Africa took part in the Olympic Games for the last time. Soon afterwards, the African countries got together and made a resolution calling for an international boycott of South African sports. The Resolution was adopted. Since then, any tours to South Africa have been rebel tours.

This year, Mike Gatting and his British cricket team have come here to play cricket. Everywhere the cricketers go, they meet with thousands of people telling them to go home. In restaurants and hotels, the staff have downed tools and refused to serve the rebels. And on the playing fields, the applause of the few spectators is drowned out by the steady hum of freedom songs from those outside the stadium gates.

Untitled0-47

Nconde Balfour, chairperson of the NSC, announces the Anti-Cricket Tour Campaign at a press conference in January this year

Learn and Teach spoke to Krish Naidoo, the General Secretary of the National Sports Congress (NSC), the organisation that has spearheaded the Anti-Cricket Tour Campaign.

Learn and Teach: Could you please give us some background to the National Sports Congress (NSC). How and when did it start?

Untitled0-48

Krish Naidoo, General Secretary of the NSC

Krish Naidoo: The UDF began to be concerned with sports and culture in 1985. In the same year, it campaigned against the New Zealand All Blacks rugby tour. The UDF made it clear to the team they couldn’t play in a country where apartheid is felt in each and every aspect of life, even sport. The tour was cancelled.

In 1986, the UDF established its Sports Desk, with the aim of working with UDF affiliates. In April 1988, we decided to form a broader sports organisation, called the National Sports Congress. Today, we have both regional and national structures and our membership has been open to all local sports clubs since December last year.

Learn and Teach: What are the NSC’s aims?

Krish Naidoo: Our policy is based on three legs. The first one is unity — we believe that in a post-apartheid South Africa there will be only one sports movement. The second leg is the development of sport — in Africa, too little attention is given to sports. We are trying to develop sports people for a post-apartheid South Africa.

The last leg is preparation — we are preparing our sports people to play a meaningful role in the new non-racial democratic society we are building.

As part of our programme of action we have organised Soccer Unity talks. They are going well and we hope that by the year 1992 we will have one soccer federation. We are also involved in unity talks in sports such as tennis and table tennis.

Untitled0-49

A kitskonstabel on guard outside the change rooms of the English cricketers

Learn and Teach: About Mike Gatting’s English Cricket tour— could you please talk about the campaign against it.

Krish Naidoo: Last year we met with the South African Cricket Union (SACU) and told them to forget about the English Cricket tour. We said they should instead solve the problems in sports in South Africa, such as the division in sport along racial lines. SACU refused to cancel the tour.

We then sent representatives of the UDF and COSATU to meet with the English cricketers. The cricketers still said they would not cancel. It was then that we decided to form the Anti-Cricket Tour Campaign. We have organised protest demonstrations against the tour like those that have taken place at Jan Smuts airport and Bloemfontein.

Learn and Teach: What are the aims of the campaign?

Krish Naidoo: Simply to stop the tour. But we have also decided to use this anti-tour campaign to educate our people about the sports struggle. At the same time, the campaign has shown us how much support we have. We hope that this will be the last rebel tour in this country.

Learn and Teach: What do you say to those whites who say that it is their democratic right to invite and watch Gatting and the English Cricket team?

Krish Naidoo: That is a mad understanding of democracy! They are not genuine with themselves because if they were truly democratic, they would do what the majority of the people in this country and the world are doing — that is, to reject the tour.

Learn and Teach: What gains have been made so far in the anti-tour campaign?

Krish Naidoo: We have had the chance to explain to our people about the sports struggle. We have made links with other sports organisations inside and outside South Africa. And we have had the chance to lay the basis for a mass sports movement in the future. Most importantly, we have educated and organised our people against apartheid sports.

Learn and Teach: Mike Gatting and his fellows have been called “rebels” and “mercenaries”. Do you agree with these descriptions?

Krish Naidoo: Yes! Mike Gatting and his English cricketers are breaking the laws of the world sports movement. We are not the founders of those laws — the international community is. So Gatting and his fellows are rebelling against the world.

Untitled0-50

Hotel workers at the Sandton Sun in Johannesburg protest against Mike Gatting’s rebel tour

Learn and Teach: Some time ago on TV we saw some black people in Bloemfontein protesting in favour of the tour. Who are these people?

Krish Naidoo: Those were school children who were transported from Bophuthatswana by SACU. They were not from Kimberley. We have learnt that they were paid to come and protest in favour of the tour. It was sort of a Rent-a-protester business. It makes a mockery of SACU and its leader AN Bacher, because people are asking why they used black children. This proves true that “SACU is riding to fame on the backs of blacks.”

Learn and Teach: Why has Mike Gatting’s tour been targeted? Other sports people who have broken the boycott, like the golfers at the Sun City “Million Dollar Tournament” and the recent American athletics team, did not experience the same protest actions as the cricket tour.

Krish Naidoo: We are still a new organisation, and we are doing it slowly but surely. We are still educating our people. We are planning more meetings to educate our people about other sports.

Learn and Teach: What is the NSC’s relationship to the South African Council of Sports (SACOS) and to the South African Non-Racial Olympics Committee (SANROC)?

Krish Naidoo: We have a working relationship with SANROC, although we do not have formal links. SANROC has helped us a great deal during this Anti-Cricket Tour Campaign. Among other things, we have used their offices in Britain to launch our campaign there against this tour.

Our relationship with SACOS is not easy to explain. It is too early to talk of unity between the two organisations, but what I can say is that we have a very good relationship with some of SACOS’ sporting codes, especially cricket and rugby. Some of the officials and members of these codes are also NSC Interim Executive Committee members. We have discussed the question of unity with SACOS several times and we hope that SACOS will in future see itself as one of those forces that are fighting for unity in this country.

Learn and Teach: What is the NSC’s position on sporting contacts with other nations or sports people from other nations?

Krish Naidoo: The International Campaign Against Apartheid Sport (ICAAS) says that no nation or sports people from other countries should have contact with South Africa until apartheid is completely destroyed. We are part of that world community.

Untitled0-51

The hot sun didn’t stop this comrade from protesting against the rebel tour

Learn and Teach: Are there any exceptions to the NSC’s policy? In other words, are there any situations where the NSC would support sporting contact with other countries?

Krish Naidoo: The only exception is when we encourage people to go to other countries for training only. But those sports people must come back and share their skills with others. This is part of our 1990 programme of action.

Learn and Teach: What is the NSC’s opinion of SACU’s township cricket coaching clinics? Do you see this as a sincere attempt to promote non-racial sport, or just an attempt to fool the world community?

Krish Naidoo: I have said that development is part of our programme. But our people have problems with SACU’s programme because they were not properly consulted by SACU. We learnt that they only consulted the DET, an apartheid structure that our people do not support.

In townships like Atteridgeville in Pretoria, people are organising against SACU’s cricket programme. The NSC is also planning to replace SACU’s pro­grammes with our democratic ones.

Learn and Teach: Under what conditions will the sports boycott be lifted?

Krish Naidoo: For the sports boycott to be lifted, the South African sports people have to get their house in order. They have to be united and fight against apartheid. All of them — black and white — have the serious task of getting together and solving the problems of sponsorships and apartheid in sports.

We are quite confident that within two years we will have addressed these problems. We hope to see our sports people marching hand in hand with the masses of our people towards a non-racial democratic country. Then we shall be saying that conditions are ripe for the sports boycott to be lifted!

NEW WORDS
objectives — aims
mercenaries — people who are only interested in money
an attempt — when you make an attempt to do something, you try to do it
make a mockery of something — make something look stupid
address a problem — discuss a problem and try to solve it

Hamburguers and the hardest race in the wind

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Sixty two years ago, some guys in Natal had a crazy idea. They decided to start a road race. But they wanted to make the race the hardest race in the world. So they found the biggest hills in the country and made the race 91 kilometres long. They called the race the Comrades Marathon.

Every year, people still run the race. And today, the race is still the hardest in the world. This race makes even the biggest rugby players cry!

So what kind of guy wins this kind of race? For the last three years, a small, gentle, friendly guy has won this race. His name is Bruce Fordyce.

In many ways Bruce Fordyce is like all the rest of us. He likes hamburgers. He likes reggae music. He likes a beer or two. And he likes a good party.

But when Bruce Fordyce runs, he is not like the rest of us. He runs like a true champion. He runs to win.

He was born in a far away place called Hong Kong 27 years ago. When he was very young, he moved from country to country with his parents. In 1969 his parents came back to South Africa. Bruce was 13 years old.

Bruce went to school in Johannesburg. He played some sport. He played a bit of foot­ball and rugby. He ran a bit. But he was no champion.

When Bruce finished school, he went to university. And for the next three years he played no sport at all. He studied a bit. And he sat around with his friends a lot.

Then one day Bruce went to play rugby match at his old school. He was not fit. After the game Bruce didn’t feel so good. He felt like he was going to die.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Bruce started to think. He decided that dying wasn’t such a good idea. Two weeks later, he saw the Comrades Marathon on television. He liked what he saw. “That’s it!” said Bruce to himself. “I’ve got to start somewhere!.”

So Bruce went for his first run. He ran around the block. But he didn’t get very far. He walked home – and he went straight to bed.

But Bruce did not give up. He ran everyday and he got stronger everyday. A year later, he ran in the Comrades Marathon. He ran very well. He came 43rd. Bruce felt good. Now he wanted to do better.

And he did do better. He came 14th in 1978, third in 1979, and second in 1980. “I never thought I could win the race until I came second,” says Bruce. “But after that race, I still felt so strong. I knew I could win. I suddenly began to believe in myself. I also learned something else. People can do things they don’t think they can do – and more.”

Bruce won the next three Comrades Marathons. And he ran these races in the fastest time ever. Nobody ever thought anybody could run the race so fast.

Bruce is not only a great runner. He also is a guy with lots of style. In 1981 the Com­rades people made the race a special race. They made the race part of the Republic Day celebrations. Bruce did not agree with this. He didn’t understand why anybody wanted to remember Republic Day.

They hated the black armband - but cheered when he won

They hated the black armband – but cheered when he won

Bruce wanted to show the world he was not happy. So he put on a black cloth around his arm .. Before the race, an old friend wanted to hit him. And when he ran, people threw tomatoes at him. They also insulted him.

But Bruce did not care. He ran like the wind. And he won the race in a record time. The people put their tomatoes away. They forgot about their insults. And they went home. What could they say?

Bruce is not scared to speak his mind. “Black and white people run together these days,” says Bruce. “But most black runners still have the same old problems. How can they train properly when they leave for work at 5 o’clock in the morning and come home at 8 o’clock at night?”

Those old guys in Natal must feel surprised. They never thought a guy like Bruce Fordyce would win their hardest race in the world. Just a small, gentle, friendly guy who believes in himself!

‘Who’s Fooling Who’?

Untitled0-11Any time Moroka Swallows are playing soccer, and you hear a great roar from the crowd, you will know one thing -‘Who’s Fooling Who’ Hlongwane has scored yet another goal. And when you see a well-built man, running with the ball, past the other team to the goals, know that the man is “Who’s Fooling Who’ Hlongwane.

Learn and Teach went to see this man who scored more goals than anyone else last year. We went to the George Goch Stadium where ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ trains with his team, Moroka Swallows (Ltd) – or ‘The Birds’ as people call them.

DUSTY STREETS AND TENNIS BALLS

Who’s Fooling Who’ was more than happy to speak to us. “I was born twenty five years ago at Temba Township in Bophuthatswana, “Who’s Fooling Who’ told us. “Like all kids from the townships, I started playing soccer in the dusty streets with a tennis ball.”

“I used to play football at school. And at weekends I played for my father’s team which is well-known in Bophuthatswana. I am from a family of football lovers, even my mother loves football.”

“People used to tell me that I played football very well. But I just played football because I loved it. I thought that they were just talking. I never dreamt That I would one day play for one of the big teams.”

NO MONEY TO STUDY

“I wanted to be a lawyer. I finished my matric but I could not go to university. My parents did not have money. So I stayed at home and played football. I told myself that one day I was going to be a great footballer.”

“My big chance came in 1978. I started playing for Arcadia Fluoride. For the first three years that I played for Arcadia, I was chosen as Footballer of the Year.”

Untitled0-12MR R22 000

Soccer lovers will never forget that Moroka Swallows bought ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ from Arcadia for R22 000. It was the most money to be paid for a football player in 1982.

For a while, people called ‘Who’s Fooling Who’; Mr R22 000. But soon his fans changed his name to ‘Who’s Fooling Who’. The words come from a song which people loved. But the name was given to ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ because of the way he plays football. He fools the other players when he dribbles.

NO ROUGH PLAY, PLEASE

“I love football very much,” ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ said, “But it must be clean. I hate rough games. Some players forget that they are playing a game. Then they get rough. That is bad. Rough play kills the good name that football has.”

“I also do not like the way some referees run the game. Sometimes they do not control the game well – or they make unfair decisions. It is not good for football. It turns football into a circus.”

'Who's Fooling Who' receiving 'Goal Scorer of the Year' and 'Player of the Month' awards.

‘Who’s Fooling Who’ receiving ‘Goal Scorer of the Year’ and ‘Player of the Month’ awards.

JOMO SONO IS KING

We asked ‘Who’s Fooling Who’, who his favourite soccer player is.”My hero is Jomo Sono of Jomo Cosmos. I started liking him when I was a boy. Jomo Sono is the king of football. He has got his own beautiful way of playing. Jomo thinks quickly and he never grows old”.

FAMILY MAN AND STUDENT

We asked’ Who’s Fooling Who’ what he does when he is not scoring goals for Swallows. “I read a lot,” ‘Who’s fooling who’ told us. “I have a diploma in Business Management and Administration. I am now studying for my degree in Business Management and Administration with the University of Bophuthatswana.”

“I also like listening to music. I like a group called The O’Jays and Kenny Rogers. But most of all I like to spend time with my family.”

“My wife’s name is Margaret Hlongwane. And we have a beautiful seven year old daughter. I live with my parents and my wife. Margaret likes football as much as I do. She is my number one fan. She watches me every time I play,” said ‘Who’s Fooling Who’, smiling.

‘WHO’S FOOLING WHO’ TRAINS

We wanted to know what makes ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ such a good player. “I train twice a day,” ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ told us. “In the morning I run. And in the afternoon I train again with my team.”

“Training is very important. But you must look after yourself too. I make sure that I have a good night’s sleep every night. I also watch what I eat. I eat a lot of traditional Shangaan food, especially pap and chicken cooked with peanuts.”

SOME ADVICE

“My advice for youngsters who want to become football stars is: You must practice everyday. You must eat good food and you must not drink or smoke. Drinking and smoking is not good for your health.”

And if you have seen ‘Who’s Fooling Who’, you will know that his advice is good. Who’s Fooling Who’ is very fit and healthy. But more than that, he is one of the best football players in South Africa today.

“SHA-A-A-KES!”

shakes1The goalkeeper is out of position. Most of his team-mates are lying all over the grass. The coach on the bench covers his eyes.

On the eastern stand thousands of fans are silent, like they are at a funeral. A tear or two is already falling down many a face as the ball makes its way towards the net.

On the western stand people are already on their feet. Together, with one voice, they scream,”Go-o-o-alll”.

Then, from nowhere, a big man in a black and white outfit with the number “5” on his back, rushes towards the ball. He gives it a mighty kick just as it reaches the goal-line.

His team-mates suddenly jump back up onto their feet and run over to hug him. The fans on the eastern side are on their feet. There is only one word on their lips – “Sha-a-a-kes!”

HERO OF THE MOMENT

As the whistle blows to end the game, thousands of fans run onto the field. They carry the gentle giant on their shoulders in mad happiness. Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba has saved the day – again. By stopping a certain goal, he has helped Orlando Pirates to win yet another cup final game.

Happy times are here again. If you are a Pirates fan living in Orlando East and you do not have enough money for a beer, do not worry. Today the aunties will be selling a bottle of beer for 25 cents. All the talk is about “Shakes”. He is the hero of the moment.

But that is not how it always was. The very fans who praise you today will be screaming for your blood tomorrow. This is what soccer is all about. Joy and pain, laughter and tears. This is what Shakes told Learn and Teach as we sat with him on a cool evening at his beautiful Vaal Reefs home. This, and a lot more…

FROM A POOR FAMILY

Shakes Mashaba was born to a poor family in Orlando East, Soweto in August 1950. It was a rough place, Orlando East. The youngsters used to go around in gangs with “okapies” in their back pockets.

But not Shakes. He was different. The young Shakes saw how his parents struggled. They could pay rent and buy food – but not much more.

So everyday, after the school bell rang, little Shakes went to the Orlando Station and “opened shop”. He sold oranges and peanuts. With the little profit he made, Shakes paid for his schooling. It was this kind of fighting spirit that took Shakes Mashaba to the top in the world of soccer.

“HOW I GOT MY NAME”

One day, Shakes and a group of friends were playing “tickey ball” in the dusty street. A smart gentleman saw them playing. He called them and told them that he liked the way they kicked the ball around.

The old gent said his name was Shembe and that he was starting a soccer team. Shembe called his club the Orlando Preston Brothers.

“Preston Brothers is where I got my name,” says Shakes. “We often played against a team called the Mzimhiophe Mighty Brothers. They had a good defender called “Shakes’. Old man Shembe said that when I grew up, I would play like that Shakes. So he called me ‘Shakes’ as well.”

Many future stars played with Shakes at Preston Brothers – players like “Pepper” Moloi, Vusi “Maria Maria” Lamola and Force Khashane. Later “Maria Maria” went on to join Kaizer Chiefs. And Shakes and Pepper went to join Orlando Pirates.

SHAKES – THE CAPTAIN

Shakes joined Orlando Pirates towards the end of 1971. Only a year later he was captain of the team. It is not easy for a player to become captain after only one year, especially a club with a proud record and difficult fans like Orlando Pirates. But Shakes had a simple reason for this. “I think they made me captain because I worked hard – in training and on the field. I gave all I had,” says Shakes.

That year Pirates won the BP Top Eight competition. But a much better year lay ahead.

“1973 was a year I will never forget,” says Shakes. “Pirates made history in more ways than one. We won all the competitions in the league – like the Sales House Champ of Champs competition, BP Top Eight, Life Cup, Castle and Super Team Shield. Yes, 1973 was a wonderful year.”

A GREAT TEAM

Shakes has nothing but praise for the players he led that year. “We had a lot of hard-working guys – like McDonald ‘Rhee’ Skosana, Patson Banda, Jomo Sono, Ronnie Shongwe, Solomon Padi and Webster ‘City Late’ Lichaba, to name but a few. “We were a great team. Once we stepped onto the field, we had only one thing on our minds – victory. So our supporters liked us, and we liked them, and we paid them back by winning.”

But soccer fans are soccer fans. They love you as long as you are a winner. But they hate losers. Shakes learned this lesson when he became caretaker coach of Pirates for a few months. After Pirates lost a game, Shakes almost lost his life.

“When I was coach we won three games – but then we lost two and drew one. After losing one game, the fans wanted to kill me.

“They attacked me openly at the stadium. I rushed into the dressing room and changed quickly. I sneaked out through a side door and ran to my car. I drove off while the fans were still waiting for me at the change room. Those were the bad times.”

THE WORST GAME

Shakes remembers another time when fans gave him problems. “We were playing against Pretoria Callies in Pretoria. That was the worst game I ever played. I tried to ‘shake’ myself but nothing happened. Everything came to a standstill. Whenever I thought I was in the right position, the game moved to another part of the field.

“The fans’ boos were ringing in my ears. I tried to shut them out but they got through to me. Those boos finished me off. In the end we lost the game 3-1.”

That year Shakes left Pirates. He joined Swaraj in the South African Soccer Federation League. He helped them win the league in 1976. Shakes returned to Pirates the following year. But once again he had problems with his game. People were now saying, “Shakes is finished!” Shakes was lost to soccer for two years.

THE GREAT COMEBACK

But not everybody thought Shakes was finished. One of those people was the late Jack Sello, who was the director of Moroka Swallows. “You can still make it in professional soccer,” Bra Jack said to Shakes. “There is still a lot of soccer left in you. We need you at Moroka Swallows.”

And so Shakes flew into the Birds’ nest. It was not long before he got sweet revenge on his old team, Pirates.

“It was a Top Eight match and I really wanted to prove a point. And I think I did. Firstly I took care of Jomo. He was a passenger in that match in Durban. He was right in the bottle. At that game I found my form for the first time in two years.

“That victory meant a lot to me. I proved to myself that ‘Shakes’ was not finished.

YESTERDAY AND TODAY

” Many things have changed,” says Shakes.” The Group Areas Act was a big problem for us in the old days.

“We used to camp in a two-roomed house. There would be twenty players in the house. We used to cook food in a big pot. Mostly it was not well cooked. But hell, we used to eat. We would eat a big plate of porridge at two in the afternoon – and then run onto the field at three. We could hardly run because our stomachs were so full.

“Nowadays players stay in five star hotels. They sleep one to a bed. They eat the right kind of food at the right time. That is why players are so fit today.

Shakes says players may be fitter – but the teamwork is worse. He blames “too much money” for this. He explains: “The top goalscorer of the year gets five thousand rands. The Player of the Year also gets five thousand rands. These prizes are not a bad thing – but players have taken^them in the wrong way. Nowdays everybody wants to score. Everybody wants to be a hero.

THE DREAMS ARE SWEET

Today Shakes is not as fast and sharp as he used to be. The younger players are now wearing his crown. But luckily, soccer has not yet lost the great Shakes Mashaba. He is now a player coach with a mining club, Vaal Reefs Stars. He hopes to take the team to the first division soon.

Shakes says he misses the bright lights of professional soccer – but he is happy to play with amateurs. He says he is proud of what he has done with his life.

It was now late and we left the old footballer to rest – and to dream sweet dreams of a time when the crowd were on their feet with only one word on their lips – “Sh-a-a-a-kes!”

A black belt for Grace

Grace Snoek is a domestic worker. She lives and works in a block of flats in Killamey, Johannesburg. During the day you will find Grace hard at work. But in the mornings and evenings Grace is nowhere to be found.

In the mornings Grace goes running. And in the evenings Grace goes to classes — karate classes. Grace is training for her black belt, the highest grade or class, in karate.

When we got to Killarney, a small woman was waiting. ” This can’t be Grace,” we said to  ourselves. But as we walked to the flats she stood up and smiled.

“Hi,” she said, “I am Grace.” Grace did not look like a fighter. And when she spoke, she did not sound like a fighter either.

NO WOMEN, NO BEGINNERS

“I used to go to the Rio cinema with my friends,” Grace said. “We often saw Bruce Lee films there. I thought Bruce Lee was great. I told my friends that I wanted to learn karate. They laughed at me. My friends said that women do not do karate.”

But in the Bruce Lee films, lots of women do karate. And Grace thought, ” If they can do it, so can I.” So she went to a karate school in town. The people at the school said, “No  beginners.” But Grace did not give up.

One day when Grace was going to town on the bus, she saw people doing karate outside a hall. She got off the bus and asked if she could join. That was three years ago. Now  Grace is getting ready for her black belt.

BLACK EYES AND BLOCKING

We asked Grace if men were frightened of her — like would her boyfriend hit her? Grace just smiled and said no. “But,” Grace said, “many people think that he does hit me.”

“Quite often I get hit in the face when I am training. Then I get a black eye. I can see everyone thinking, ‘Shame, her boyfriend gives her a hard time.” I just laugh.”

KARATE HELPS

Grace did use her karate once. She was coming back from a karate class one night. She had to walk through a park. On the way, a man grabbed her and pulled her into the  bushes.”I gave him one hard kick,” said Grace. “And then I ran. I never saw him again.

“But karate helped me a lot.” Grace said. “I never feel scared anymore. I am free to go where I want, when I want. I know that I can look after myself.

“Karate made me sure of myself. Karate also made me more patient. Before, I used to get cross very quickly. Now I can take people’s rubbish. I don’t like to fight anymore.”

HARD HANDS

We asked Grace how she trains. Grace held up her hands. “I must make my hands hard,” she said. “Sometimes we break bricks and wood with punches and kicks. If your hands are soft, it hurts you.”

We looked at Grace’s small hands. They didn’t look like hands that break bricks. But then we felt the edge of Grace’s hand. It was very hard. Grace also has a broken knuckle. Someone stopped one of her punches too hard.

Grace did not only learn how to stand, kick, punch and block. She also learnt the names of these things in the Korean language. The kind of karate Grace does is called Taewokdo. It started in a faraway country called Korea.

“In the begining,” Grace said, “I found all the names very hard. I couldn’t even say the name of the leader of Taewokdo. But now I can. His name is General Chong Hong Hil.” We felt very shy but we had to ask Grace to spell it for us.

FROM WHITE BELT TO BLACK BELT

“The worst thing with karate is doing grades. Grades are just like exams at school. But you do not write, you fight instead. And if you pass, you change classes. You get a different  colour belt.

You start with a white belt, then a yellow belt, all the way through to a black belt. “When you do your grades, you can forget all the Korean names. They tell you to do something and you don’t know what to do. You are not allowed to talk. So you ask your partner with your
eyes. It is difficult but I have never failed a grade.

KARATE MAKES WOMEN SAFE

“More women must do karate. Then they will also feel safe. Karate changed my life.”

Then we asked Grace the question we wanted to ask for a long time. Has she ever given one of her madams a karate chop? Grace looked at us as if we were mad. “Never,” she said.

We asked Grace if her bosses know that she does karate. We wanted to know if her bosses were careful when they spoke to Grace. Grace just laughed. But we felt that she thought we were very silly. For Grace karate is no joke.»