Local champ reflects on her karate journey

“Karate is the best doctor, you always feel better after a class. Karate builds your character and gives you self-confidence."

Kempton Park-Dojo sensei Janine Potgieter has reflected on her journey as a sensei.

The 50-year-old from Kempton Park said her karate journey started in 1987.

Potgieter said her cousin did karate and wanted her to join them.

“My passion was dancing. “I did tap dancing, modern dancing and ballet.

Sensei Janien Potgieter training with the chief instructor of the World Shotokan Karate-Do Federation (WSKF) sensei Hitoshi Kasuya in 2003 in Cape Town.

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“I decided to see what it was all about, and I enjoyed the first class so much that I went home and told my mother to cancel the dancing and that I would like to join karate,” said Potgieter.

She said her mind was never set on achieving her black belt, but on getting her national colours within their style.
Potgieter said the style they belonged to then was Shotokan Karate International (SKI).

They changed organisation and joined the World Shotokan Karate Federation in 1990.

“I graded to my shodan or first black belt in July 1993. This grading was held at WSKF South Africa’s chief instructor of the dojo in Johannesburg,” said Potgieter.

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“I graded to my nidan or second black belt in December 1998 in Benoni at my dojo.”

“When I graded to my sandan or third black belt, in September 2003, I was graded by our chief instructor of WSKF, sensei Hitoshi Kasuya in Cape Town,” she added.

“A Japanese instructor graded me for by yondan or fourth black belt.”

Potgieter travelled to Japan, where she trained with karatekas from all over the world, in 2007.

Achieving her rokudan (6th dan) with sensei John Barnett achieving his 8th dan.

“We parted from WSKF and our senior sensei, the late sensei Nigel, formed New World Shotokan Karate (NWS).

“Under the late sensei Nigel and my sensei that I have been with from day one, sensei John Barnett, I graded to my godan in December 2012 and to my rokudan in December 2018 in Cape Town.

“I am only eligible for my seventh dan grading in Dec 2025.”

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Potgieter teaches in Kempton Park and Benoni and currently has 40 students aged five to 68 years.

“Since starting to teach in 2007, I realised everybody cannot be like me.

“I have a passion for karate and am always pushing myself to train harder and to do better.

“Teaching children taught me patience, as an instructor.

“All eyes are on you, so you must know what and how you teach. You cannot second guess yourself.”

Potgieter said she has been in karate for so long that she has seen many children and adults come and go.

“I have seen children grow up in karate, some starting at five, and still training at 25.

“Seeing how I have passed on my knowledge to another karateka and seeing them grading to their next levels is a satisfaction and pride you cannot explain.”

“My proudest moment as a sensei, was when Agata and Kelsey Szafranski graded to their sodans last year.

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“This was the first two karatekas that graded to their black belts from The Dojo – Kempton Park.”

Potgieter said being a great karate instructor requires self-belief.

“You have to be humble, open and approachable; you need to make your teaching exciting so that the members will want to come back and learn more,” said Potgieter.

“I want to train and teach as long as I can.

“My sensei, John Barnett, is an eighth dan and is 76 years young. He is a true inspiration.

“He still travels from Canada to South Africa for our grading, gashuku’s and championships.”

Potgieter said her sensei is strong, fit and healthy.

“He has taken my karate to a higher level of understanding and I am still learning from him.

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“Karate is good for everybody and self-defence is a must these days. Karate builds character and gives confidence,“ said Potgieter.

She added with sensei Barnett’s wide range of martial arts experience in Karate, Aikido, Ju-Jitsu, and Kobu-Jitsu, he has shared that knowledge with his members.

“Because of this, I learned to work with weapons such as sai, bo, and nun-chaku (kombu-jitsu).

“I have also learned knife fighting and self-defence in knife attacks.”

During her competitive years, Potgieter has won many gold, silver and bronze medals.

Sensei Janien Potgieter.

“I have also received national colours in WSKF as a junior and a senior.

“I have also competed internationally at the world championships for WSKF and placed fourth.

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“I also did all styles of karate and received my then Eastern Transvaal colours as a junior and my Ekurhuleni colours as a senior.

“The proudest moment in my competing years was the year I won the Shotokan Cup trophy for women.

“My parents have always supported me, driven me around and my dad was not there when I lifted the trophy.”

Potgieter said her karate career highlight was the opportunity to go to Japan, attend the seminar, compete at the world championships and a grading in Japan.

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