SENSEI VINCENT FEBRUARY – 6th Dan - IOGKF SOUTH AFRICA
Sensei Vincent February, 6th Dan, is Sensei Bakkies Laubscher’s own Dojo’s most senior student in South Africa and has been in Goju Ryu since 1974. He attended a European Gashuku in 1998, but was really noticed as the person performing a demonstration of Yakusoku Kumite with Sensei Bakkies during the 2004 Budosai in Okinawa, where he also received his Rokudan (6th Dan) grading as well.
He is highly respected by the entire karate community in South Africa and IOGKF members who have had the opportunity to get to know him and his karate ability, have been overly impressed with both. As a competitor, he participated in local and national IOGKF tournaments in South Africa for many years and won gold medals in most, if not all, events he took part in. As a security guard, he is skilled in all kinds of fighting, and regularly teaches stick fighting and defense against stick/baton attacks during local seminars.
He is also a renowned musician and plays the bas guitar in a full time band!
Foreword by Sensei Bakkies Laubscher
Sensei Vincent is one of the really special people in IOGKF that really lives his principles and ‘walks the talk’ in every way, on and off the floor! He is highly respected inside and outside our organization, and it is indeed a pity that he did not get more international exposure prior to 2004, when most IOGKF members saw him for the first time in Okinawa doing a demonstration with me.
During the cruel apartheid era in our country, he never succumbed to hatred and violence, but anchored his mind in his Karate and spiritual being and remained a balanced, mature person. Only someone who actually experienced this period will understand the effort it took from him to remain himself! This was a part of history which had a big influence on my own Goju Ryu career, as well as that of many South African seniors like Sensei Vincent, because, during the apartheid years, South Africa was banned from all International sports events, such as the Olympic Games and WUKO Championships. We were also forbidden to partake in International Gasshuku’s, such as IOGKF events. The result was that senior South Africans, such as me and Sensei Vincent, could not attend events such as European Gasshuku’s, nor get Higaonna Sensei out to South Africa on a regular basis, as he would have been blacklisted by the United Nations. This caused many of our seniors such as Sensei Vincent to ‘drop out’ of the IOGKF hierarchy as far as senior gradings were concerned.
How and when did you get started in the martial arts, particularly karate?
At the age 10, I was interested in Karate and started reading about it in a book by Eric Domoni. I used to teach and train by myself in my parents’ backyard, almost every day. In 1972, I was introduced by school friends to Shotokan Karate, which I pursued for the next two years. But it did not do it for me and I left and trained on my own again.
Around this time, I heard about Sensei Bakkies, after reading about him in a newspaper article, but was unable to get to him. When I saw in an advertisement in the local news paper that he was also teaching classes in Somerset West (a neighbor village to Stellenbosch), an area close to where I lived, I decided to go and watch a class.
Because of the political situation emanating from the ‘apartheid’ government in South Africa at the time, I was scared because a white man would not/could not normally train people from a different color, because of the laws of the country at the time - but I went in any case! I was attracted by the basics and the movements of Saifa Kata, which was practiced that evening, and also the evasive (sabaki) movements of the Goju Ryu style. After the class I was also stunned by the humble approach and invitation given to me by the Sensei who was teaching that evening, to join the Dojo.
Why did you choose or prefer Goju Ryu?
In Shotokan, I lost my dojo fights because of the straight movement of attack and defense against stronger opponents. I requested from the sensei if I could change my line of defense but he refused. With Goju Ryu the evasive movements and circular fighting allowed me to stand my ground against stronger opponents and give me a lot more options in attack and defense.
What are your views on tournament karate?
I don’t like tournament karate but I believe that competition is good for students because one can always try to apply the techniques trained in class, thus giving the student the opportunity to evaluate him/herself to establish where he/she needs to improve and what needs to be developed. For competition purposes, I have noticed that many organizations have tampered with the Kata to suit personal needs instead of training the Kata in its original form for which it was developed – I see this as truly detrimental to the future of real Karate-Do!
Your teacher, Sensei Bakkies Laubscher, is one of the IOGKF’s most senior teachers and you are his most senior student – How did it came to be that you started training with him and how long have you been training with him?
As I trained at a sub-Dojo, I had to wait for my first kyu grading opportunity to finally meet Sensei Bakkies after training for two years. At first I could not understand why everybody else, who had started with and before me, was graded, but I never got an invitation! It did not really bother me, because I was enjoying the training, which I felt suited my body and my fighting style. At this grading Sensei Bakkies graded me from white belt (10th Kyu) to green belt (6th Kyu) belt. I skipped yellow and orange and surpassed my protégés - I was ecstatic! Since 1977 onwards, I made efforts to travel to our Honbu Dojo to train with Sensei Bakkies on a regular basis.
Explain shortly what training under Sensei Bakkies was like in the ‘old days’.
Sensei Bakkies always maintained a high standard from the time I started training under his guidance. Training was always hard and he always pushed you beyond your limit. Even though he never said it to us, he was preparing his students to succeed in Karate. One thing I appreciate today is the “words of wisdom” he sometimes shares after a class and I believe that if a student is willing to listen intensely, it could better his Karate or save his life.
During the Okinawa Budosai in 2004, you did an awesome demonstration with him – what is it like to do such an activity with him as well as the DVD series that you did with him?
I feel honored and also humble by the opportunity to be chosen by my teacher who has invested so much in me as his student. During these demonstrations I experience the real power of Goju Ryu Karate. With the DVD series, I was curious to see the end result. It was hard work, but his focus and determination was truly showing because he was creating a masterpiece. I was glad to part of this.
What would you say are his outstanding features as a Karate Sensei and a person?
Sensei leads by example. He has a great respect and admiration for his teacher, Higaonna Sensei. He knows where he is taking Goju Ryu and always maintains high standards. He has a warm, sincere heart for his students and does not want to show you what he knows, but what you need to know in order to survive any attack or better your Karate. His demand for perfection in Basics and Kata is another matter that is not negotiable!
What keeps you motivated in your training and teaching?
I don’t know if one could say that I found Goju Ryu or that Goju Ryu found me! It will always be part of my life. I appreciate the discipline and perseverance that I am experiencing which have made such a big difference in my life and my attitude to life and living.
You have been to Okinawa - what are your thoughts on the future of traditional Karate?The leadership of Traditional karate is healthy and strong. They know what they want for the future and are making sure that, what those who went before them intended, are being preserved and taught for the future generation. I am confident that our future will be going from strength to strength.