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Sensei Stephen Cohen

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A sharp striking noise came down from upstairs, disturbing a joyful stroll of a skinny 16 years old boy who was passing by at what was a dojo in downtown Klerksdorp. This is how the story of Stephen Cohen is remembered “I ran upstairs to enquire what might have caused such a roar, and then I discovered that it was sensei Frans Bronkhorst who was demonstrating Saifa kata to his astonished audience on the second floor”. “it sounded like  lightning had just struck in a clear broad daylight”, remembers Stephen when asked how he came to train karate. “That was the beginning of my karate journey”.

Stephen started training karate in 1979 and have since graduated for 1st Dan black belt in 1986 under the watchful eye of shihan Pikus Windell, where after he went on to train with now deceased shihan Rudi Strydom 4 years later. “Rudi Strydom taught me the hard way and yet he maintained the strict discipline of Goju Ryu Karate – Do” says Stephen. In 1990, he travelled to the United Kingdom for an international seminar where he successfully graduated for 2nd Dan. Stephen holds many titles under his name and is the first karateka in South Africa to win the Seiwakai National Championships two years in a row undefeated. Stephen trained at many international fronts under the instructorship of great karate masters like Morio Higaona, Terio Chinen, Leo Lipinski, Tasaki, Fujiwara and Seigi Teramura, all of whom are distinguished masters in the art of Goju Ryu Karate –Do. In 1993, again in the United Kingdom, shihan Leo Lipinski, one of a few highly respected martial artists outside Japan, tested Stephen for his 3rd Dan; it was at that time that Stephen was offered to teach karate in England.

The relationship between Sensei Stephen and shihan Humphrey Skosana comes a long way when they were once students of Rudi Strydom for more than 5 years of dedicated training before Rudi’s death in 1996. After more than a decade in 2007, Humphrey Skosana and Stephen Cohen met again in Cape Town. It was at that point when the two discussed introducing KuyuKai karate, new martial arts flair in South Africa. Sensei Dean Sias, a long time Goju Ryu practitioner and a few other karatekas bought into the idea. Some few months later, the idea was followed by a meeting in Pretoria and subsequently launched Goju Ryu Karate –Do Kuyukai SA in Witbank – Mpumalanga province in September that year; the launch was headed by Saiko Shihan Osamu Hirano – 8th Dan JKF grade from Wakayama City in Japan.

Among many successful championships, sensei Stephen says, “I will always cherish the two major tournaments which I am yet to be dethroned, the Seiwa Kai National Championships in 1992 and 1993”. Having travelled extensively overseas, has opened sensei Stephen’s horizon and enabled him to teach good quality karate both at local and international spheres.

In March 2008, he travelled to Liege in Belgium to participate in an international seminar and also to compete in the 2nd International Hirano Cup competition and subsequently graduated to 4th Dan black belt. Stephen emerged overall winner in both senior kata and kumite divisions.

He boast about having produced 14 black belt karatekas many of whom have become provincial and national champions and are now playing leading roles in various communities teaching karate. “I owe much credit to shihan Frans Bronkhorst and Rudi Strydom without whom my successes would have only remained a distant dream”, he concludes.

Sensei Stephen is based in Tokai, Cape Town and teaches karate four times a week. Please contact him at 021- 712 1023 at office, Mobile: 072 2905060 or e-mail:

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Shihan Humphrey Skosana's Kuyu kai Karate South Africa teaches the traditional Goju-ryu karate of the late Osamu Hirano (Saiko Shihan) of Japan.