Shihan Cele

Shihan Cassim Cele

Shihan is a Japanese martial arts term used as an honorific for senior karate instructors. The 42-year-old Cele, born in Hammarsdale in 1972, is one of the handful who has qualified for this title.

“It was February 23, 1981. We were watching bioscope at Zwartkops Primary School in Sweetwaters titled Iqhawe, starring an actor from Inanda by the name of Themba Hlongwane. He is now in kick boxing. I saw [Hlongwane’s] moves in the movie and decided right then and there that I wanted to be able to fight like him. Luckily at the same school there was a teacher who was also an instructor in Kyokushin. I approached him to teach me and he said I must gather a group of boys and he would train us, which he did.”In these years he was under the great Instructor (Sensei Baldwin Blose) from Clermont who passed away in 1995.

Fuelled by the passion, Cele never looked back. “In 1988, I founded my own dojo [karate school] in my community of Ntshongweni as a brown belt. The dojo was and is still known as Gurango Dojo. The dojo has trained generations of families,” said Cele.

Cele, who became a Muslim in 1996, believes his religion and karate coincide. “As the Prophet Mohammed says, a strong Muslim is better than a weak Muslim and karate keeps me strong.”

Through the sport, Cele has travelled to various countries around the world. When he achieved his fourth and fifth dans he fought in London and Amsterdam, respectively.

To get to where he is was not easy, says Cele, for each dan he was promoted to, he had to fight equally talented and strong opponents.

Cele’s fighting skills haven’t only been tested on a professional basis. In 1996, he rescued a teenage girl who was about to be raped by a hoodlum in Ntshongweni. “My instructors have always told me that when fighting a non-karateka it shouldn’t take you more than a minute to put that opponent on the ground.”

The hoodlum had forced the young girl into a toilet in broad daylight and women who witnessed the incident were screaming for help. “I went to assist,” he recalls. “The teenager’s skirt was already ripped and she was still putting up a fight when I got there. I intervened, he threw a punch and I grabbed it, twisted it, punched him in the face and kneed him in the stomach, and left him kneeling on the floor of the toilet.

Shihan Cele currently runs a dojo at 100 East Street, known as Honbu Dojo. Most black-belt holders in Pietermaritzburg were trained in this dojo.

He was recently promoted to 6th dan (Rokudan) and is the founder president of the Africa Kyokushin Karate Association (AKKA). He is a member of the WORLD INDEPENDENT BUDOKAI (WIBK) under the leadership of Kancho Henk Kuipers and Fuku Bernard Creton as well as the World Kumite Organisation based in Pattaya, Thailand via the South African representative.

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