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Sports, arts and activities

Karate champion inspires students to greatness

With numerous national and world Karate titles under her sixth dan black belt, Penny Cheketri has taught extracurricular classes in this popular sport at Strathallan for over 15 years. Sharing her skills and knowledge with the ACG community, she has seen over 30 students (and several of their parents) earn their black belts through her tutelage.

Embracing her role as a Year 4 classroom teacher, the busy educator also teaches Year 6 Science and takes Year 4 to 6 classes in Health & PE – a job which she adores. Then, when the school day ends, she dons her gi (the traditional uniform) and transforms into a Karate Master.

Practised by millions of adherents around the world, Karate has roots that date back thousands of years, and ancient Chinese martial arts heavily influenced its early form. Originating in Okinawa, Japan, the Goju Ryu style that Penny teaches (known as Okinawakan), is headed by her teacher, Grand Master Kiichi Nakamoto Hanchi – a direct student of Chōjun Miyagi, who developed Goju Ryu Karate in the 1920s.

However, while Penny’s introduction to the sport is far more recent, the accolades she has received during her career are no less spectacular. Since beginning her training at the age of 14, she has been awarded black belts in five different styles of Karate, along with a slew of national and international championship wins, honours, and awards.

But her accomplishments don’t just end there. Penny’s abilities as a coach have seen her students achieve incredible results as well. And the South African native and adopted Kiwi is as excited about their success as she is about her own.

At present, Penny has fifteen students in the Senior school who have received their black belts under her coaching and three have been awarded their ni dan (second black belt). In fact, over the previous decade and a half, more than 30 past pupils have earned their black belts, with many of them continuing to pursue higher dan status.

Three students in the College are currently following in her footsteps and are being tutored by Penny to become Karate instructors. Plus, several of her past and present students have won multiple national titles and medalled at world competitions.

And if that wasn’t enough, student families are welcome to attend her weekly extracurricular lessons, and several Strathallan parents have gained their black belts under the humble expert’s guidance.

Penny is constantly delighted by the enthusiasm and commitment she sees from her Karate students as she helps them to discover the techniques, rituals, attitudes, and discipline of the sport. Whether they are simply training for wellbeing and fitness or whether they have more serious aspirations in mind, she is always keen to share her expertise and experience with eager practitioners.

So, what advice does this superstar mentor pass on to inspire her students?

“With commitment, patience, and strong principles, you will achieve whatever you set your mind to. The journey will challenge you, and through this, you will grow physically, mentally and within yourself.”

Penny’s recent awards and accomplishments:

2019 World Goju Ryu Championships won gold for kumite (sparing) and silver for kata (patterns) in the female master’s division
2019 NZ Championships won gold for kumite and gold for kata in the female master’s division
2018 Oceania Karate Championships won gold for kumite in the female master’s division
2018 Awarded the title of Shihan, meaning Master
2018 Graded to sixth dan (6th degree black belt)
2018 Awarded Shibu Cho by Kiichi Nakamoto Hanshi – Grand Master of Goju Ryu Okinawakan Kyokai (which means she is chief Instructor and a direct branch of Okinawakan Kyokai)
2017 World Goju Ryu Championships won gold for kumite in the female master’s division
2017 NZ National Championships won silver for kumite and gold for kata in the female 35years plus division
2016 NZ National Championships won silver for kumite and silver for kata in the female 35years plus division
2015 World Goju Ryu Championships won silver for kumite and bronze for kata in the female master’s division
2013 Awarded the title of Renshi for excellence in the teaching and passing on of Karate