Sport: Karate Queen

Sport: Karate Queen

Terry-Lee Sullivan (21) is not your average twenty-something. In only sixteen years of  practicing karate she has managed to climb to heights few have been to in the sport, going from novice to Sensei (teacher) in a very short time. Glitter spoke to Terry-Lee to find out what it took to get where she is and what keeps her there. 

Give us some perspective on your accomplishments in the sport of karate 

I was five when I first started karate with my dad as my instructor. He was known as being an old school instructor who adhered to the strict codes of discipline and etiquette of karate.Under his tutelage I won my first gold medal before I was six years old. From age seven I entered the national championships every year and every time finished in the top three. In 2009 at age 13 I received my fist black belt, an accomplishment few kids of that age in the sport achieve. In 2009 and 2010 I was the national champion in my age group. I recently qualified for my third black belt which is called 3rd Dan at the national gradings in Johannesburg. 

What has been the toughest part of your training? 

The toughest part was keeping disciplined throughout my preparation for the 3rd Dan grading. It meant that I had to dedicate myself to training every single day, even on days I didn’t feel like it. I had to pass in many activities I wanted to take part in in order to be ready for the grading. 

Qualifying for my 3rd Dan was really hard. The grading for 3rd Dan focuses heavily on free fighting. The fighting is full contact and is not split into male and female sections, nor weight divisions, nor age divisions. Usually higher graded people are called in for the free fighting part of the grading to really test one’s skill in fighting and to see if a candidate can really handle skilled fighters higher qualified than they are - and perform as well, if not better than the higher qualified fighter. 

It is essential that the candidate who is being graded remains calm and in control, yet dominate in all her fights. While the grading examiners expect to see the candidate fight hard and dominate her opponents throughout the fight, they also expect the candidate to control the level of strength in her attacks and encounters. In my grading I had 11 fights against men and women who are highly graded, between the ages of  21 and 60, and came out of the grading with blood splattered mitts! 

What have you enjoyed most so far? 

For me the joy comes in mentoring and being an example to the younger kids who want to progress in the sport. I enjoy working with kids and adults. Teaching them gives me immense fulfillment. 

What emotions do you connect with the sport of  karate? 

I’d say there are a few words that come to mind, such as commitment, strength, enthusiasm, character, etiquette and self-control. 

What values did your dad, as your Sensei, instill in your life? 

He instilled many values of which discipline, focus, work-ethic, sincerity and self-belief are a few. 

What do you miss most about your dad? 

I miss seeing him train karate in our Dojo and being trained by him. I also miss his guidance and wisdom. 

What has practicing karate taught you? 

The main lesson I’ve learnt from the sport is that there will always be someone better than you. There will be times when you win and times when you lose, but the important part is not to get stuck in failure, but to endure to your goals.There is no time limit on dreams as long as you persist and dedicate yourself to them.Through hard work and dedication much is possible. 

Do you have any other passions outside the Dojo? 

I’m passionate about dance and movement, so after completing matric in 2014, I went to the University of Cape Town to study dance education, which I graduated from in 2018. 

What is your dream for the future? 

I dream of opening my own karate Dojo and ballet studio in the future where I will be able to teach ballet and karate to all ages and genders. I also dream of working with adults and children who have physical disabilities, to be able to make a positive difference in their lives. - Du Plessis Janse van Rensburg






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