An Eastern Cape sensei was awarded the prestigious shihan title, which is only bestowed to selected karateka who dedicate themselves to martial arts.
Clayton Thom, formed part of a delegation who visited Japan for two weeks (28 march to 10 April), where he was awarded the shihan title. He is the first person from Eastern Province Goju-kai Karate to receive the title. The delegation participated in an intensive traditional training with the President of Goju-kai karate, Seiko Shihan Goshi Yamagutchi, and other senior members.
“Karate is not just a sport or art to most of its practitioners, it becomes a way of life. A karateka continues to strive towards improving physically, mentally, emotionally daily. The growth of oneself and realizing your full potential is always the objective. Although one does not practise the art for any form of recognition, to receive an accolade like this is an honour not bestowed on many,” said Thom.
He is the sensei at the Goju-kai karate dojo in Hillside, Port Elizabeth, and has trained in karate for 30 years. He holds the World Champion senior kumite in Goju-kai Karate (fighting) title in 2009. He currently has a 5th Dan in Goju-Kai karate. He is the team coach for Karate South Africa as well as Eastern Cape Karate. Thom is also a former team member of Karate South Africa.
“Potential candidates are recommended for the new ranking, which has to be agreed to by the majority vote by all shihan of the country of recommended candidates. The president then has the final decision,” explained Thom.
Thom is also the co-owner Shoot 97 Productions, which specialises in visual productions, with the expertise and capabilities to provide a wide range of products and services. He runs the dojo during his spare time.
Some of the criteria to meet for the shihan title includes the minimum rank of 5th dan, additional effort the candidates has put into growing and developing martial arts.
Thom was recommended based on all past efforts made, including his roles as Provincial head for Eastern Province Goju-kai, Provincial and South African team coach, among others.
“He continues to inspire us as he realizes his dreams and through his example, encourages us as students to do the same,” said Warda Mallick, sensei and wife of Thom.
“It is encouraging to know about a success story coming from our northern areas which are battled with various social issues. We are super proud of this achievement,” she added.
As a sensei with over 100 students at the dojo, Thom said that his students are very important to him and he hoped his shihan title will encourage and motivate them to continue with karate.
Thom, took up an existing dojo in 2000 and even though it is difficult to recall the number of students he trained, he can confirm that among his students 35 black belts were awarded (up to 4th dan), 15 Goju-kai world champions, 21 goju-kai world medallists, four commonwealth medallists, four zone six champions, 10 zone six medallist, one All-Africa games medallist and several Protea karate team representatives.
“I always tell my students that karate is about peace and not fighting. They come to learn about discipline, respect for themselves and others, personal growth physically, mentally and emotionally as well as pride and humility,” Thom concluded.