Gangland’s forgotten children: I chose karate over gangs

Black belt, karate Picture: Free stock image/pixabay
Black belt, karate Picture: Free stock image/pixabay

At the age of 16‚ Jaylin de Klerk has seen people being murdered.

De Klerk lives in a dangerous neighbourhood in Kraaifontein‚ Cape Town‚ where gangs‚ drug peddling and shoot-outs are common.

“I can remember going to school every morning. The gunshots are like alarms‚ people wake up to that‚ people go to sleep to that. It’s just gunshots everywhere‚” says de Klerk.

De Klerk found karate at the age of 13 and is currently number one in South Africa in her division after winning an all-style championship in Durban earlier this year.

“You can use it [karate] as self-defence‚ especially in the townships. If someone wants to rob you or attack you from the back‚ you can use it on them‚” says De Klerk.

De Klerk is part of an outreach programme run by Goshukan Karate South Africa. She is one of three township students chosen by Karate South Africa to compete at the World Goju-Ryu Karate Federation World Championships in Romania in September.

De Klerk hopes to compete for South Africa in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo when karate will make its debut at the games.

 “Every time I have my gi (uniform) on‚ I feel so privileged. Like a girl from the townships going to Durban and Johannesburg and Romania‚ I feel privileged‚” says De Klerk. “I’d probably be roaming the streets here‚ doing bad things‚ if it wasn’t for karate.”

According to (Crime Stats SA)‚ there were 152 murders in Kraaifontein in 2016 alone. Gangsterism continues to plague the area but de Klerk says she doesn’t pay attention to that.

“I see gangsters‚ I know some of them‚ but I don’t care about them‚ I [care about] me and my friends. It leads nowhere‚ you’ll just end up dead or something.”