Karin Prinsloo

You either win or you learn. Train hard and make sure your expectations are in line with the amount of work you’ve put in.

Karin Prinsloo

Karin Prinsloo has managed to walk the fine line between traditional and sport Karate. Held as one of the best South African competitors of all time, she was the main face of South African Shotokan and All-Styles Karate for many years. She helped put the country’s Karate on the world stage, as came out of the apartheid era.

Prinsloo was born in 1972 in Klerksdorp, South Africa. She and her family moved to the town of Heidelberg, which lies between the cities of Durban and Johannesburg.

Growing up, Prinsloo was an athletic child. She started learning Karate when she was aged 10. Her mother wanted her and her brother to learn some discipline.

Prinsloo trained at the dojo of Bernard Raubenheimer and Dries la Grange, who were members of the JKA. The dojo was located at a local church hall. Initially, she didn’t like training. However, in time she grew to love it.

Dries la Grange would frequently take Prinsloo to train at the Johannesburg dojo of South African Karate legend, Stan Schmidt. She also had the opportunity to train with Keith Geyer, another South African Shotokan legend.

In 1984 Prinsloo competed in her first tournament. She remembers that she cried after losing. However, she found that she enjoyed competing. She started competing in provincial and national tournaments. However, South Africa faced international sanctions due to apartheid, which meant she could not compete internationally.

On 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison. This marked the beginning of the end of apartheid. By 1992, the sporting ban on South Africa was lifted.

In her first international tournament, Prinsloo represented South Africa at the 4th Shoto Cup, held in Tokyo, Japan, in 1992. She finished in the top eight of the women’s individual kata event. She was also selected to the South African All Styles Karate Team for the first time. She would remain in a team until 2008. That year she was named Sports Woman of the Year.

The 12th World Karate Championships were held between 8-11 December 1994 in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Prinsloo completed in her first World Championships. Earlier in the year she had represented South Africa at the 5th Shoto Cup, held in Philadelphia, United States. She was named the 1994 Sports Woman of the Year.

Between 13-25 September 1995, the WKA All African Games were held in Harare, Zimbabwe. In the Karate tournament, Prinsloo won a silver medal in the women’s individual kata event. She won another Sports Woman of the Year award.

Prinsloo competed in her second World Championships held between 7-11 November 1996. The 13th World Championships were held in Sun City, South Africa. Unfortunately, she did not win any medals at her home Championships.

By 1997 Prinsloo had moved from Johannesburg to Pinetown, a small city close to Durban. She had moved from Heidelberg to Johannesburg several years earlier. In February 1997 she took over the running of the Pinetown JKA Karate school. The dojo’s former owner, Ronnie Webber, had decided to move to Johannesburg. He offered her the dojo and she jumped at the chance to run her own school.

In 1998 Prinsloo continued competing internationally. That year she competed at the 7th Shoto Cup held in Paris, France. She finished in third place in the Women’s Individual Kata event.

Prinsloo’s first major international success came in 1999. At the Female World Cup, held in Sainte-Maxime, France, she won the -60 kg Kumite event. She beat a French woman in the final.

Prinsloo’s success continued at the WKA All African Games, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, between 10-19 September 1999. She won a gold medal in the women’s Team Kata. This was followed by a bronze medal in the women’s Individual Kata. If that was not enough, she won another gold medal in the women’s Kumite -60 kg event.

In 2001 Prinsloo had her biggest international success. At the 6th World Games held in Akita, Japan, between 18-19 August, she won gold in the -60 kg Kumite event. She defeated Kellie Anne Shimmings of Australia, in the final. She was South Africa’s only Karate representative at the Games.

On a high from her success at the World Games, Prinsloo represented South Africa at the 16th World Karate Championships held in Madrid, Spain, between 21-24 November 2002. However, she was unable to win a medal at the championships.

In 2003 Prinsloo had another successful WKA All African Games. The Games were held in Abuja, Nigeria, between 5-17 October. She competed in an unprecedented four events. In the women’s Individual Kata, she won a silver medal. She won another silver medal in the women’s individual -60 kg Kumite event. She then won a gold medal in the Open Kumite event. If that was not enough, she helped South Africa to a silver medal in the women’s Team Kumite event.

At the 9th Shoto Cup, held in Tokyo, in 2004, Prinsloo competed in both the Team Kumite event and the Team Kata event. In the Team Kata event South Africa finished in third place and in the Team Kumite event they finished in second place.

In 2006 the Shoto Cup was renamed to the Funakoshi Gichin Cup World Karate-do Championships. The Championships were held in Sydney, Australia. Again Prinsloo represented South Africa in both the Team Kumite and Team Kata events. In the Team Kata South Africa finished in second place. In the Team Kumite, South Africa finished in third place.

Prinsloo represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Karate Championships, held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2008. In the -60 kg Kumite event, she finished in joint third place. In the Team Kumite event, she helped South Africa reach the final. They lost to the host, Scotland.

On 25 October 2008 Prinsloowas graded to 6th Dan. Her grading panel included Masahiko Tanaka and Stan Schmidt.

The Commonwealth Karate Championships were held between 16-17 October, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Prinsloo made the transition from being a competitor to being part of the coaching staff for the South African team.

The following year, Prinsloo continued her role as a coach at the 14th WKF Africa Karate Championships, held in Cape Town, South Africa, between 1-8 August 2010.

Apart from running her Pinetown dojo, being a part of the coaching staff for the South African Karate team, Prinsloo decided to study to become a tournament official.

On 24 September 2015, Prinsloo was graded to a Level C Instructor, Level D Examiner, and Level C Judge by the Japan Karate Federation (JKF).

On 26 September 2015, the 1st JKA Africa Championships were held in Johannesburg. Prinsloo was a part of the coaching staff for the South African team.

By 2018 Prinsloo was married with two children. She and her family decided to emigrate to Perth, Australia in 2019. Her senior student, Dylan Powell became the Head Instructor at the Pinetown dojo.

As a competitor in post-apartheid South Africa, Karin Prinsloo helped inspire a new generation of karateka. Competing was just a small part of her Karate journey. At her Pinetown dojo, over 50 of her students have attained their black belts. She has kept a balance between competitive sport Karate and the more traditional aspects of Karate. Her students range in age and in background. Over 30 of her students have represented South Africa at international level.

Teaching Karate remains very important to Prinsloo. She has set up a very successful blog and YouTube Channel to teach important aspects of Karate. This has led to Prinsloo developing a large following, especially during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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