Guest of honour Deputy Minister for Rural Development Mcebisi Skwatsha

The Return of the Springbok Haka

There was a time when the South African national rugby team, the Springboks, used to perform a Zulu war cry, since been called the “Springbok Haka” or “South African Haka”. This was reportedly last carried out at an official ceremony in the 1950s, after this practice was sadly stopped by the nationalistic government of the day. For the first time since then, it was carried out at an official event. The Warrior Training Centre (WTC) trained Martial Arts Display Team once again performed this cherished war cry on the 6th December 2018, as part of the Youth Leadership Development Programme (YLDP) graduation parade of c. 600 young South Africans.

Guest of honour Deputy Minister for Rural Development Mcebisi SkwatshaGuest of Honour: Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha for rural development.
Photo: Helen Galanakis

The first phase of their training was held at Thaba Nchu NARYSEC College run by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) for the final phase held in Saldanha. The WTC trained these young future leaders in self-defence and the fundamentals of warrior ethos, to have a warrior mindset as a life tool to overcome challenges that they may face later in life. This self-defence training formed part of a wider leadership programme, with the overall aim of empowering them via discipline, entrepreneurial skills as well as social development and upliftment skills. These are integral to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s youth leadership development programme. Overall and in conjunction with the SANDF, the programme aims to build character by focussing on leadership, discipline, teamwork, volunteerism and patriotism.

The Build up
After the WTC trained the YLDP in self-defence – with the assistance of the UK’s Krav Maga Combat Academy for the first phase of training where almost 600 were trained at once – a selection was held by way of fun competitions testing perseverance, to determine the suitable candidates for the display team. Of the almost 600 group, 30 were selected. The training was demanding as it required hours of effort and perseverance, with natural attrition resulting in the official Martial Arts Display team consisting of eight dedicated and deserving “warriors”.

YLDP Martial Arts Display team with their completion certificatesYLDP Martial Arts Display team with their completion certificates.
Photo: Helen Galanakis

The display kicked off with the forgotten Zulu war cry, once performed by the Springboks being performed with passion. The war cry and the display were notably well received as evidenced by the rousing reception from those in attendance. World Cup winning coach Jake White made headlines in 2007 when he called for the revival of the Springbok Haka, pointing out that the history books show that the Springboks did indeed perform a Zulu war dance in major matches whilst on tour. Just as the battle tested Zulu battle cry of the advancing impi would have had a blood curdling effect on the mightiest of opponents, it would have had a heightening effect on the advancing impi, strengthening their warrior spirit. When incited during battle, it called upon their ancestors to bestow upon them the strength and bravery of fallen Zulu warriors. The most famous battle cry being King Cetshwayo’s “Usutho!” which would have no doubt roared at the Battle of Isandlwana.

WTC Claudio Chiste said, “In this current chapter of honouring Forgotten Valour of many of our heroes who were denied honour in the past, or have since been forgotten, this is one further step towards embracing our proud warrior heritage. We are a warrior nation. I would like to see more of our sports team follow this initiative, particularly our national teams, bringing our war cry back to life”

In addition to self-defence, the team were taught about the “Warrior Ethos” and that to overcome adversity one needs to have “fighting spirit”, therefore the self defence also served as a metaphor for the ability to overcome: A valuable lesson for these youth who are only at the start of their adult life.

YLDP graduate Sheroleigh Wilschut said “I think I have really learned valuable life skills which I can use for the rest of my life… feeling empowered. I feel if anyone were to attack me, I could now safely and confidently defence myself”
The next phase after the graduation, these young graduates will be deployed to working environments, in either the public or private sector, to further sharpen their “employability skills”. Some will find themselves interned to the sponsor department.

This was the eighth YLDP intake which has had more than 4 600 young people attend its courses, the majority of which are staged at SANDF bases where qualified instructors supervise all training. Medicals are conducted before training starts by SA Military Health Services to ensure students are fit for the physical rigours of the course.

Watch the video of the Zulu war cry here:


This exciting news also featured in The SouthAfrican, see:


Mental Toughness Training for Sinenjongo Rugby Team

The Warrior Training Centre (WTC) conducted Mental Toughness training for the Sinenjongo High Rugby team. Rugby is a sport well known for high-impact collisions, in which players have to exert extreme force in pursuit of the ball, whether directly or by colliding into the opposing player. Injuries are frequent, with the probability of a player being injured in a season as high as 90% in some studies. It is only fitting that rugby players train hard to build strong and conditioned bodies. Equally, the mind needs to be strong.

Sun Tzu summed this up when he stated “The Victorious warrior wins with his mind before going into battle”
Roman Legionnaires would routinely carry c. 13kg of weapons, armour, and equipment over long marches of almost 60 km per day and into battle. King Shaka would reportedly make his Zulu impi warriors run 50km each day – with little or no water – barefoot in the scorching sun as preparation for battle.
The modern-day paratrooper could carry up to 80 kg of external load, depending on the mission, marching hundreds of km.

However, you carry a gym bag, or a shopping bag to your car…
Even though the modern world may not require us to carry 13kg or 80 kg of external weight everywhere we go, this does not mean we can’t build our mindset and our corresponding bodies to get back to our roots as warriors. The WTC’s “Mental Toughness of a Warrior” training does just that.

The training was conducted over two parts. The first part consisted of theory, where an overview of South Africa’s warrior heritage was provided and the neuroscience behind mental toughness was explained. The second part consisted of the practical phase, where the rugby team endured Navy SEAL type training. On hand to provide the training was WTC’s Claudio Chiste, himself a former combat officer in the Navy, and special guest instructor, Commander Michael Vrey from the South African Navy. The training was conducted on Milnerton beach, focusing on getting the team to being “comfortable being uncomfortable” and teamwork. Evolutions varied from sandbag exercise to cold water resistance training.

Training on beach sand builds your strength, stabilizing muscles and coordination. Compared to running on the pavement, running on the beach is not only much harder (building stamina), it is also more effective. Your muscles have to work much harder than usual. This helps your body develop a natural running form, whilst working your core.
Military style training with elite military units for rugby teams is nothing new. Under Sir Clive Woodward, England rugby team became world champions in 2003. In 1999, in his build-up training to the World Cup, Woodward had taken the national team down to the Marine base in Lympstone, giving them a first-hand look at the kind of commitment required to be a Marine. This was to lay the foundation, with a similar sense of elite culture becoming increasingly prevalent within the England squad over the next four years. This was evidenced by players being ultimately chosen on the basis of whether, like the Marines, their colleagues would be prepared to ‘go into battle’ with them.

Woodword went on to say training with the Marines was key to his side winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup, recalling the words of a senior Marine: “Ok, if you want to hear it, there are men in your squad who we wouldn’t go into battle with. It’s not about their skills, it’s about their attitude and effect on the team.

This sentiment was echoed by Brian Ashton, who in the build up to taking England to the 2007 World Cup Rugby final, had taken his squad to train with the eilte military unit, the Special Boat Service (SBS), stating, “The modern military and top level sporting environments have much in common, although it is obviously more important that they get things right more often!”

Indeed, in high-pressure combat situations just one negative trait of a player could sap the energy from the whole group, destroying a whole team. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The practical phase of the training with the Sinenjongo rugby team specifically focused on teamwork and communication during high pressure situations.

Navy-style beach training to reinforce teamwork

The programme ended on a high, with a fitting ceremony where certificates were presented before more than 1,000 pupils of Sinenjongo High, overseen by the the principal, Mrs Khuselwa Malinga-Nopote, and Sports Teacher, Luvuyo Zulu. After receiving their certificates, the Sinenjongo rugby team performed the famous blood curdling Zulu war cry once performed by the Springboks, “Jimilayo”, to the delight of the roaring crowd.

Sinenjongo Rugby Team Proudly Display Their Certificates.
Back row (from left to right): Enzo Gxokhwe, Gracious Banda, Qhama Qothoyi, Gugulethu Jantjies, Mellok Chirwa, Oyitando, Zubenathi Ncwadi, Odwa Thandiwena, Zwelibanzi, Kudzai Mamvura, Siphamandla Feni, Samkelo Sohma, Chieftan Sabawe (coach). Front row (from left to right) Claudio Chiste, Mr Diego Chiste, Lukho Mndayi, Mr Luvoyo Zulu, Asanele Msomi, Athenkosi Tshomo For further press articles on this, see:
Pupils gathering moments before the award ceremony

Claudio Chiste training Saldanha Rugby team

Saldanha Rugby team maintain conditioning with WTC’s Krav Maga training

The word is spreading that WTC’s Krav Maga training can help you achieve your strength, health, and fitness goals by using basic Krav movements alongside other aerobic and resistance exercises.

Recently the pride of Saldanha, Saldanha XV, won the ‘west coast trophy’ after defeating their bitter rivals, Vredenburg. (see article covering this). This has served as an inspiration for young aspirant players, but also for the broader community.

Fighting Fit
To maintain conditioning during the holiday period, the Saldanha team showed commitment by not letting themselves go during the “off season”, opting instead for Krav-based fitness training. The team were exposed to a range of exercises from high intensity aerobics to strength and resistance training using primarily their body weight.

The benefits of WTC Krav Maga for Sportsmen
For Krav Maga self-defense training, one is taught to use all the body’s natural weapons, namely the fists, elbows, legs, feet and head (if absolutely necessary)— with devastating effect.

In the game of rugby, players are taught to use their body to protect or attack the try line. Similarly, in Krav Maga, the focus is on protecting your body, as you would the try line, whilst being aware of dangers with the necessary skill to execute solutions to any dangers which may arise. Just as a rugby player on the attack with the ball darting for the try line may wish to side step an opponent to avoid being tackled, in Krav one is to be alert and skilled enough to be able to sidestep potential danger. This training could benefit not only the agile winger in the backrow, but members of the forward pack alike as the ever competitive modern game places further demand on all fifteen on the team to possess speed to effectively execute tackles and gain territory to score tries.

The WTC Krav Maga training sessions are designed to provide an all-over body workout, from high-intensity cardiovascular training (to improve stamina to get through games), to strength and conditioning (to improve the defensive side to your game).

WTC Krav Maga training system also helps you from a neuroscience perspective, improving your brain’s neuroplasticity. Stress drills in Krav improves your ability to think under pressure, serving to improve the speed of your natural reactions. These drills improve awareness, promoting self-discipline – with an emphasis on controlled aggression – which is essential on the rugby field.

Krav Maga is not a sport, as is Karate, kickboxing or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Krav Maga is a way of life. With this in mind, WTC training sessions are purposefully designed to be fun, educational and physically beneficial. Krav Maga was developed for soldiers preparing to go out on the battlefield, what better physical and mental training for warriors preparing to go out on to the rugby field?

The dedicated Saldanha rugby players flanked by instructors Matt Leach (Krav Maga Combat Academy) and Claudio Chiste