Young karateka brings back gold

World champion Liam Jeffries, right, going through some training drills with sensei Bruce van Rensburg.

The road to Berlin was not an easy one for the junior black belt who trains at Samurai Karate, in Claremont, under the mentorship of Sensei Bruce van Rensburg.

With eight years of training under his belt, Liam only had one thing on his mind – and that was to make his dojo proud and return with top honours.

Then, as if going into combat was not a tough task on its own, the youngster also had to raise the funds needed to fulfill his dream of competing on the world stage.

A Grade 7 pupil at Groote Schuur Primary, Liam took on the challenge in the same way as he would any of his opponents.

To raise the R32 000 needed to attend the world champs in July, he sold books at Muizenberg flea market every Sunday.

“I started selling at the beginning of the year and would stand at the flea market from 7am until 7pm.

“I sold anything from cook books to novels and told every customer that bought a book, that their support was going to send me to Berlin,” said Liam.

“They then told a family member or friend, and more people came looking for me to purchase a book. I’m thankful to everyone who supported me to send me on my way,” he said.

For the world champs, team South Africa was divided into two groups – team SA North and SA South.

Liam and his SA South teammates arrived a few days before the competition.

This allowed them to rest following their long flight and to do what tourists do best. The young martial artist qualified to compete in the kata and kumite sections at the competition.

“At the regional tournament only the top two fighters qualify for the national championships.

“And at nationals the gold and silver medallists qualify for the SA team to compete at the worlds.

“I’ve always been too young to be part of the SA team, so after I won silver for kumite and gold for kata at last year’s nationals, I was amped because I knew my time had come,” said Liam.

Although eliminated in the first round of the kata; young Liam beat opponents from Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and England in the kumite to reach the final.

The youngster said there was a lot of pressure on him, as expected, but he enjoyed the experience and won 6-3 in the final to claim gold.

The world champion got into the sport at the age of five after being bullied at pre-school.

He said once he threw that first punch in the dojo and competed in his first competition, he was hooked.

“I entered my first competition at the age of six.

“All I can remember is hearing my mother (Aloma) shouting from the sides to hit and kick. But before I knew it, I got knocked down and lost that fight.

“That loss made me hungry to win and inspired me to train harder. That hunger helped me jump through the belt ranks very quickly,” said Liam.

“Karate has changed my life in that I’m more aware of what’s happening around me. Also, discipline is a big aspect of the sport so that’s gotten me out of sticky situations,” he said.

Liam earned his junior black belt in December last year.

And, when he is not hard at work in the dojo, then he enjoys swimming and playing rugby for his school.

“I progressed quickly up the belt system and would get two new belts a year.

“Since getting my black belt, I was asked to help out with the younger classes as well. I’m now a sub-instructor which is a sempai.

“I played soccer for Ambassadors FC but had to give it up because it clashed with school sport,” he said.

Van Rensburg said Liam had done the dojo proud as he was the only one who returned with gold.

Samurai Karate has been around since 1967 and Van Rensburg has been with the club for the last 30 years.

“Liam started off all over the place and karate has given him unbelievable drive.

“It took him eight years to win this gold and now we are grooming him to help the younger students to follow the same path as he did,” said Van Rensburg.

“This was the third consecutive world tournament that SA South won – we had the best total of medals.

“We run an outreach programme in Vrygrond and have been there for seven years.

“Luchiano Jacobs is from the programme and won bronze at the world champs,” said Van Rensburg.