After a well-deserved holiday with my family, I am back at work and it feels as if I was never gone…..funny. I really envy my fellow instructors who are teaching their passion as their permanent work and not as a side line or hobby. One day I’ll also change things around so that my passion becomes my occupation. I am really looking forward to 2018 as this is going to be another busy year, with us being the host of the Shorin-Ryu Nationals in Pretoria.
Riaan Coetzee started his karate career in 1974 at the age of 13. His first style was Funakoshi, a very strong karate style in South-Africa in those days. When he graded for purple belt a few years later, he left the Funakoshi Style and joint up with Kyokushin karate, which was a full contact style.
Reason for this was partly because his Sensei was transferred in his work and the dojo was without a Sensei for a while, but his passion for kumite made the final choice. In 1979, Riaan matriculated and started his two year compulsory Military training in 1980, in the Artillery division of the South-African Defence force.
In 1982, after completion of his Military training, he went back to his old dojo just to find that none of the students he knew were left. The dojo was still there, but the students were doing Funakoshi karate again, under a different Sensei. Riaan re-joined the Funakoshi style where he had graded to shodan in 1987 and to nidan in 1990.
Riaan opened his first dojo in the township, Atteridgeville in 1991, in spite the fact that he was still training at the honbo dojo. A year later, in 1992, his current Sensei resigned from karate and Sensei Riaan took over the Villieria Tigers Karate club. In 1994 most of the dojo owners resigned from Funakoshi karate and joined Shihan Claude Johnson in the newly established Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan style which was brought into the Country via the USA and Kyoshi Noël Smith. Sensei Riaan became Provincial Head of Northern Transvaal Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan karate, reporting directly to Shihan Claude Johnson. Sensei Riaan had graded for his fifth degree black belt in karate in 2003 and for nidan in Kobudo in 2004 under supervision of Kyoshi Pat Haley. In 2006 he grades his sixth degree black belt (Shihan) in Okinawa by Grandmaster Hanshi Shugoro Nakazato (President of Shorin-ryu Shorinkan World wide).
In 2012, at the National training camp at Gariep, Sensei Riaan was awarded the rank of Kyoshi Nanadan (7th dan) by Hanshi Doug Perry (9th dan), in the presence of numerous other Kyoshi and Renshi instructors from the USA who all attended the camp.
As an active student, Riaan was part of the SAMAC (South African Martial Arts Commission) team in the early eighties, he represented SA Shorin- Ryu twice against Botswana and he was also a member of the team representing Shorin-Ryu SA in Okinawa in 1997. This was one of the highlights of his karate career, as well as a training session with Hanshi Nagazato in 1997 and a ten day training session with Kyoshi Doug Perry and his students in the USA in 2004. The utmost highlight of his career, however, was the day that he entered the Shuri Castle through the “Gate of Shuri” in Okinawa.