SONDISA Magajana may have quit competitive judo, but that does not mean he has turned his back on the sport entirely. In fact, he is possibly doing more judo now than he ever did while competing – by passing on the knowledge and expertise he has gained in the past three decades.
Magajana, 37, now focuses on coaching children with disabilities.
A process monitor from KwaDwesi who works at Volkswagen South Africa in Uitenhage, he has received several awards for competing and for his contribution to the sport, including volunteer of the year at last year's South African Sports Awards.
"After going to the Commonwealth Championship in Northern Ireland and coming third in 2006, I told myself the time had come for me to exit competitions but not quit judo," he said.
Magajana then started coaching deaf, blind and visually impaired children in 2006 and the following year he started the VWSA Judo Club.
Initially only men joined but over time the club attracted women, two of whom are now participating at a provincial level.
"Many women join because they feel it will help them with self-defence, but as they grow in the sport it becomes more than that for them," Magajana said.
Cwenga Nomganga, 17, a Khanyisa School for the Blind pupil who is visually impaired, has excelled at a provincial and national level. She said judo was not only a way to protect herself, but also gave her self-respect.
"It's quite hard, but I love it and I feel proud. It helps me a lot because it teaches me discipline," she said.
Her peer, Daniswa Gxothani, 19, is the province's No1 in the under-58kg junior women's category – both in disabled and able-bodied. She said she was proud to be excelling in a sport she never imagined she would be involved.
"When Sondisa came to our school in 2010 and explained how judo works, I was inspired and thought to myself, why not join it?"
Daniswa, who has six medals to her name including three golds from the Judo SA National Ranking event, said she was humbled by her achievements. "Judo has changed my life dramatically. I have more confidence. I feel like a human being among other people."
Her dream is to open up a judo club in Uitenhage that will hopefully steer youth away from crime.
VWSA general manager Matt Gennrich said the firm supported Magajana's initiative.
"Essentially what he is doing is his idea, his knowledge and we believe it is a good thing that he is helping in the communities. He works for us and he knows that what he does is on his time. Nonetheless we are behind him," Gennrich said.
The schools which are benefiting from Magajana's training are Khanyisa School for the Blind (KwaDwesi), Reuben Birin School for the Deaf and Lonwabo School for the Physically Disabled (both Missionvale), Cape Recife (Summerstrand), Northern Lights (Cotswold) and Efata School for the Blind and Deaf (Mthatha).
Magajana's next goal is to coach children from places of safety and to help them recover from traumas by rebuilding their confidence.