Senior Instructor and Vice Chairman of the Guyana Karate College Sensei Jeffrey Wong on Thursday last successfully undertook his 7th Degree Black Belt or (Shichi-dan) examination at a special grading examination that was held
at the dojo in Thomas Lands.
As a consequence of this accomplishment, this Karate Instructor is now a 7th Dan Black Belt which is also known as the Shichi-dan rank but more importantly has been conferred with the title Shihan
The designation Shihan is a Japanese term that is used in martial arts as a title for a Master or “teacher of teachers,” responsible for the structure and standards of style of those Senseis under his authority. Under the International Karate Daigaku’s rules Shihans must carry the rank of seventh dan or above.
Despite the long history of martial arts, there are only a few martial arts masters. Shihan Jeffery Wong who is one of only two persons in Guyana practicing Shotokan Karate under the world governing body the International Karate Daigaku to have achieved this feat of becoming a 7th Dan and a Shihan, the other being Shihan Amir Khouri the head of the Association do Shotokan Karate- Guyana (YMCA Dojo) who was successfully graded at the same time.
Shihan Wong in an interview after being conferred with this high accolade, with humility said that grading is no longer the most important part of practicing karate for him, and said he was focused on passing his knowledge on to others.
He said he doesn’t think of ranks anymore, but if it comes, he will accept it on behalf of all the thousands of Karatekas he has trained over the years. Shihan Wong opined that the idea is to keep training while he is still physically able to, and play a part in people’s lives to help them improve their calling.
Wong said progression was not in the hands of the karate student, the policy is that you get invited to grade. You don’t put your hand up and say, ‘I’ve been training for five years — can I get another grading?’ That he believes a distinct lack of respect.
Sensei Jeffrey as he is popularly known, began his training in the early 1970’s along with other karate icons of Guyana the likes of Amir Khouri, Dr. Guy Low, John Fernandes Charles, Aubrey and Josef Woon-a-Tai, Keith Da Costa, Jackie Gomes, Aubrey Bettancourt and the late Ian Fung at the Anglican Archbishop’s residence in High Street Kingston under the teaching and mentorship of Shuseki Shihan Frank Woon-a-Tai, a ninth degree black belt.
At that time karate in Guyana was under the under the umbrella of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) and Shihan Wong was able to benefit from interaction with and teaching from the fathers and masters of karate Masatoshi Nakayama, Teruyuki Okazaki, Takayuki Mikami, Shigeru Takashina and Yutaka Yaguchi
Shihan Wong has been training under world-renowned ninth-dan instructor Frank Woon-a-tai M.S. whom he credits with deepening his understanding that karate is more than just a physical exercise. He said “Karate teaches self-discipline, humility, respect, perseverance and courage.”
Shihan Wong attended as a brown belt, the first Caribbean Championships in 1976 that was held in Trinidad along with Sensei Guy Low where Team Guyana brought second with him getting two silver medals, after which he successfully attended all the other Caribbean and National championships. He held the title of kumite champion for a number of years.
Wong is versed in the 26 and more katas associated with Shotokan Karate. A kata is a detailed karate pattern that mimics a confrontation with one or many opponents, and firmly believes that the secret to his success is that he has never stopped learning and considers himself a lifelong student of karate and hungry learner. He said that the day he stops learning is the day that he stops living.
For more than 40 years, Shihan Wong has trained between three and five times a week, and has not restricted his teaching to only Guyanese students but was also responsible for setting up a dojo in St. Kitts and training its students in the 1980’s.
But Wong considers as his proudest achievement, the founding in association with Master Frank Woon-a-tai and the late Ian Fung, the Guyana Karate College which was registered in August 2006, but commenced training in November 2007 with a total of twenty-five students. The Guyana Karate College has been the most successful karate institution in Guyana with unprecedented success in its 10 year history with outstanding performances in the two world tournaments and three Caribbean championships that it participated thus far.
Shihan Wong whose other vocation is that of a miner, spends a lot of the time just thinking about improving the GKC and karate in Guyana at the expense of his business as many times rather than travelling to the interior to manage his concessions first hand, he opts instead to stay in Georgetown to teach karate. He said no matter what “style” you train, there’s always something new to learn or do – whether it’s kumite, kihon, bunkai, kata, embu or something else.
People practicing Shotokan Karate must rise from a white belt up 9 levels to reach the coveted black belt — which has 10 levels of its own. In the past, there was no need for the coloured belt system because there were only a few students practicing the martial art. But as numbers increased across the world, karate adopted judo’s belt level system.
Originally, there were only three colours (white, brown and black) but now you progress through 9 “kyu” (white, white with a yellow stripe, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple and three browns)
Then the black belt level begins, where there are 10 more rungs known as “dans”.
Shihan Wong’s capability in karate are clearly evident with the karatekas from the Guyana Karate College blazing the trail, both in Guyana and across the globe, capturing many gold, silver and bronze medals .
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