Dr Sadhana Manik, a senior lecturer from the School of Education, recently kicked her way to gold at the National Karate Championship in Pretoria. Manik, who has her KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) colours, proudly represented the province in the female masters (50 years plus) kata division.

Manik, who has previously achieved KZN colours has won gold medals in various competitions since commencing karate, but she sees this particular win as momentous, saying ‘I have been a karateka for over 25 years but winning gold nationally at a KSA (Karate South Africa) event is a first. I stopped competition karate for well over five years, although I never stopped training. I just returned to competition so being seeded for SA karate does feel like an achievement.’

Manik’s love for karate began when she was posted as a teacher on the North Coast and had to live alone. Determined to learn self-defence, she started off doing martial arts with Goju Ryu instructor Lao Tzse Bob Davies in Durban. ‘I was setup on a date at the time and my date revealed that he was a karateka (since he was 10 years old) and he invited me to watch him and club members compete in a tournament.

‘I was super impressed with his sensei’s (Kyoshi Nikki Pillay, 7th dan, presently based in Australia) skills and knowledge and I decided to swop to Shitoryu Karate which was also conveniently located in Verulam. I was also quite impressed with my date and we married in under a year. The karate has continued for 26 years but I’ve not been able to catch up with my husband. He’s a 3rd dan black belt and I’m 2nd dan,’ she said.

Manik considers winning to be in her blood, saying, ‘My grandfather was a wrestler, a boxer and a weightlifter; my mum was a natal athlete; my dad and his brothers had their own soccer team; my sons Kapil and Wazir achieved KZN colours for karate and both also represented the province in surfing and my sister-in-law has SA colours in pool.’

Asked to share her secret to balancing academia and sport, as Manik is also a graduated Latin American and Ballroom dancer, she responded, ‘I don’t know any other way of life or that it requires some secret formula to balance. I’ve always done both and enjoy both equally. I don’t believe that I can trade one for the other. I remember leaving my Education PhD cohort meeting in the early 2000’s whilst I was at the Westville campus to head down to the Sports Centre for KZN karate trials, achieve it and then return to my studying…it’s just who I am.’

Manik’s advice to other aspiring karate competitors is ‘Just do what you enjoy to the best of your ability. If you win a medal, wonderful-if not, so what? It’s not the end of the world.’

Her future plans now include continuing all her sport codes for as long as she can.

Words: Melissa Mungroo