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Women of Shotokan: Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes

“There is something magical about Shotokan Karate!” says Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes, SKIF Kumite World Champion Masters 50+ of 2019. We could not agree more. However, Sandra lost this magic once. After being a very successful competitor in very young years, she felt a lack of sense in her karate. To many competitions gave her the feeling of “being driven by results, rather than my heart.” Thus, she stop training. 28 years later, she found her way back into the dojo. Today, she is more committed than ever. And her commitment pays of and gained her the title of a world champion. Read this inspiring and insightful portrait about a woman, who fought her way back on the tatami: Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes. By Dr. Christian Tribowski

Portrait: Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes
Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes
  • Age: 50
  • Karate since: 1977 until 1989 stopped for 28 years and started again in September 2016
  • Origin and residence: Dutch since 1996 living in Schilde Belgium
  • (Kyu/Dan) Rank: 2nd Dan KBN (WKF/EKF), 3rd Dan SKIF
  • Dojo: Honbu Dojo Mortsel Belgium

Additional information (member of a national team, coach, board member of a Dojo, highest achievements etc.):

  • From 1985 until 1988 member of Dutch National Team WKF
  • 1986 Silver Dutch Championship -53kg  KBN/WKF
  • 1987 Bronze European Championship Santander -53 WKF
  • 1988 Bronze European Championship Sopron Dutch Women Team
  • 1989 Gold Open Dutch League WKF
  • 1989 Silver  Dutch Championship Women All categories WKF
  • 1989 Bronze Open English Championship Birmingham Dutch Women Team WKF
  • 2019 Gold SKIF Kumite Masters 50+
Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes during the SKIF World Championships 2019

What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: As a young girl, I was quiet, shy, and I cried easily. That is why, even before I turned six years old, my parents advised me to take up judo to increase my confidence. Two years later, I joined a new karate school.

Because I suffered from chronic asthmatic bronchitis, I found it challenging to train in small spaces. My Sensei, Jim Hubner, from “Seibukan Dojo” taught me how to breathe the right way during training, and as a result, my self-confidence grew quickly. Suddenly I could enjoy the fun and educational karate lessons, just like all the other children.

Almost every night – after my father and I came back from work and school – we went to the dojo where he worked as a sports instructor, and I could take karate classes every evening. And so the dojo became my second home. 

What do you like about Shotokan Karate?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: There is something magical about Shotokan Karate! It is a perfect art of self-defense and an excellent way to achieve overall fitness and unparalleled control over body and mind.

Kumite is and remains my favorite part of karate, but the basic kihon and kata are also fascinating and very interesting.

During the training, I am always looking for “perfection” because something always remains to be improved. Even simple kihon exercises are never truly perfect. I am always looking for the right positions, timing, kime, balance, and breathing.

I think that it is essential to keep control of all these aspects. And for kumite, I think the more versatile you are, the better you can determine your strategies.

Is there something you do not like? What is it?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: No, I like every aspect of karate. Except maybe the blisters I have all the time, haha.

What has been your greatest and your worst experience so far related to Shotokan Karate?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: My most significant experience was returning to karate after 28 years.

Three years ago, I took a karate trial lesson with my friends in the Honbu Dojo in Mortsel, Belgium. My friends didn’t know anything about my experience with karate because I had closed that chapter a long time ago. During the first training session, as soon as I took my first kick, my Sensei Stephane Castrique realized that I had done this before. I was surprised about how quickly my desire grew to do this more and more often. Very soon, I was allowed to participate in the black belt lessons, and I came to the dojo almost every day.

There was something magical about the dojo, and I was inspired by the great passion and knowledge with which Sensei Stephane Castrique taught his classes. I realized more and more that karate was still flowing through my veins!

After a year of hard training, I got my 2nd dan confirmed by SKIF, and a year later I got my 3rd dan.

In these 2.5 years, I reconnected with old karate friends. I increasingly felt that all the pieces of the puzzles were coming together. It gave me a sense of complete satisfaction and purpose. The last piece of the puzzle and the most beautiful highlight was winning the gold at the World Cup in the Czech Republic.

In terms of the worst experience, there is nothing that comes to mind.

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes during training

What do you do when the training becomes challenging? Where do you get motivation from?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: I like challenges. I see them as new opportunities and take them with both hands.

On the one hand, I get my motivation from the fact that challenges make a person better and stronger. And on the other hand, they force me to think about things differently. And when you deliver excellent performance, you get more appreciation. That is also a major motivator.

How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: Karate has shaped me as a person. I was in the Seibukan dojo almost every day from the age of nine to the age of nineteen. At that time, I was surrounded by loving people who all shared my passion for karate. I had weekly training sessions with the best Senseis of that time, including Ludwig Kotzebue (kumite) and Jaap Smaal (kata). They taught me not only to work hard but also to stay sharp and focused on achieving my goals. In the national team led by national coach Otti Roethof and Raymond Snel, I trained with the greatest champions of that time!

My friends sometimes ask me whether I truly enjoyed my childhood. They wonder if I ever missed going out with friends. I can only answer that loving, caring people surrounded me, and so I never experienced it negatively. They were my karate family, and I am grateful that they shared not only the passion for karate with me but also some valuable life lessons.

How has Shotokan Karate influenced your life?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: Karate has had a significant influence on me in every aspect.

I quit karate when I was twenty years old because I lost my passion for it. I felt like I was being driven by results, rather than my heart. Around that time, I also met my husband, with whom I traveled around the world, got married, and have two beautiful children. My husband had his own company, and he worked around the clock. I wanted to stay at home with our son and daughter. I made that choice wholeheartedly without any doubts or regrets. Because of it, I now have a great connection with my children, and I love being a mother.

When my daughter left home at the age of nineteen to study at the UVA in Amsterdam, I felt lost. I had everything my heart desired, and yet I was miserable and anxious. I felt like crying a lot of the time, and I was driving myself crazy.

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes during training

So I focused all my attention on our son. When he came home from school, I bombarded him with questions. According to the doctor, I was suffering from empty nest syndrome. He even prescribed light antidepressants for me, but I refused to take them. I had to do something for myself. So as I mentioned before, karate came back into my life at the perfect time. I rediscovered my old passion in which I could always set new goals, and as a result, I flourished. Also for my family it is nice that I have my own goals and they know that I am always there for them when they need me.

How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: When I was younger and a member of the Dutch national team Kumite, I trained every day. At that time, especially in the later years, karate was more of a sport to me, and so I only trained to achieve good results. That was also what people expected from me.

Now, 28 years later, I train with much more passion and depth. I am also fortunate that, in the SKIF family, I get to train with the best and most inspiring senseis and karatekas. They ensure that I stay sharp and focused.

My goal is to become an even better karateka. But I also want to enjoy every minute on the tatami with people who share the same passion!

How should Shotokan Karate evolve in the future?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: I hope that Shotokan karate remains the way it is. I hope that the traditional style of karate continues to be practiced with all its strict etiquette, depth, and respect for each other.

Would you recommend Shotokan Karate to your female friends? Why?

Sandra Hoogerdijk Joannes: Yes, it is through my female friends that I have found my way back to the dojo. We have a nice club of ladies who train together every Monday morning. We want to get the most out of each other, both as a karateka and in our friendship. In recent years, I have not only seen them evolve from a white belt to a purple one, but I have also seen them grow as a person. They have more self-confidence and they have become stronger, both physically and mentally. And while doing karate, you make friends for life!

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Hiyori Kanazawa – Women of Shotokan

The picture shows Hiyori Kanazawa.

Last weekend, Hiyori Kanazawa achieved what she had dreamed of: She became grand champion (1th place in kumite and 2nd in Kata) at the SKIF world championship in Czech Republic. We think it is time to read the full interview again, we did with her in March. It shows how far determination and an the will to break through boundaries can lead. Hiyori has shown that she is an inspiring woman of Shotokan. Congratulations, Hiyori. Oss!!!

Portrait of Hiyori Kanazawa

  • Citizenship: Japan
  • Age: 21
  • Karate since: I began when I was 3 years old. But between age 15 to 19 I did not practice Karate because I was abroad for studies.
  • Rank: 3rd Dan
  • Dojo: SKIF Honbu Dojo in Japan

Additional information:

  • Manager and instructor of Akasaka Dojo in Tokyo,
  • Instructor of Narashino Dojo in Chiba,
  • SKIF World Champion in individual Kata girls between 12 and 13 years of age division in Greece in 2009,
  • member of SKIF national team Japan
  • Grand champion 1th place in kumite and 2nd in Kata SKIF World Championships 2019

What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?

My grandfather was President of the Shotokan Karate-do International Federation at that time. My father and my uncles also practiced and taught Karate back then for a long time. So it was natural for me to begin with Karate training.

What do you like about Shotokan Karate?

Hiyori Kanazawa: The simple answer is: It matches my body in terms of movements and distance (dynamic movements and long distances).

In addition, I like the philosophy behind Karate in general (respect others and so on).

Is there something you do not like? What is it?

Hiyori Kanazawa: When I was younger, I did not like hard training. But I am really passionate about Karate now. So I enjoy training hard everyday!

The picture shows a part of Hiyori Kanazawas latest video (see below).
Part of Hiyori Kanazawas latest video (see below).

One thing, I think could improve, is the number of women practicing Karate. I hope that especially women in my age will become more in the future.

What has been your greatest and your worst experience so far related to Shotokan Karate?

Hiyori Kanazawa: About three years ago, I competed in The SKIF World Championships in Indonesia. At that time, I was in the UK for college and I didn’t have time to train much. So my level was not good enough and my focus was directed towards other things than Karate. I lost in this championship. This was maybe one of the lowest point I had in my Karate practice. But after losing, I realized that I wanted to become better and my motivation went up again.

I started practicing very hard. In the following year, I opened my own Dojo. To see my students improve week after week and to work very hard together with them, has probably being the best experience I have had with Karate so far.

The picture shows Hiyori Kanazawa in her dojo.
Hiyori Kanazawa in her dojo.

What do you do when the training becomes challenging? Where do you get motivation from?

Hiyori Kanazawa: First of all, I push myself to go and train every day. But when it becomes too difficult I look at the people around me, my training partners, my students and I see them training hard. That gives me strength to train hard also. In addition, my teachers can be quite tough sometime. But the fact that they are always training with us and always give their best although they are all older than me (but still in very good shape) I think to myself, that I have no excuse to not train hard.

How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?

Hiyori Kanazawa: Through training, I have improved my body and have become physically stronger. This is important because being physically stronger makes me also mentally stronger and I am not scared to be alone, for instance.

And pushing myself in training every day, helps me face other problems in my life with more confidence.

How has Shotokan Karate influenced your life? Has it helped you overcome or deal with difficult situations in your life?

Hiyori Kanazawa: To give an example: When I lived in Australia I was very shy and did not interact much with other people. But one day, I gave a demonstration of Karate at my school and by showing this side of myself to other people and also the fact, that everybody was impressed, gave me a lot of confidence and made the rest of my stay there much easier.

From the time I started until I was about 19 years old, I was scared of doing Kumite. I was, of course, practicing both Kihon, Kata, and Kumite. But I did Kumite halfheartedly. At some point, I started training more with men, in particular with my teachers, and slowly my Kumite improved. I was practicing mostly with taller and physically stronger men than me (and sometimes getting injured ). So it made me stronger. Then, when I was practicing with women again, for instance in competitions, I was not scared at all anymore.

How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?

Hiyori Kanazawa: Today, I like practicing both Kata and Kumite equally.

Since I started, I have been told that a genuine Karateka has to do both Kata and Kumite. Now, many people choose one or the other in competition. But I am very happy and proud that I do both.

The pictures shows Hiyori Kanazawa with students during an international seminar.
Hiyori Kanazawa with students during an international seminar.

What are your personal Shotokan Karate short- and long-term goals?

Hiyori Kanazawa: My short term goal is to participate and win the next SKIF World Championship that will take place this summer in Europe. This is, of course, a selfish goal.

How should Shotokan Karate evolve in the future?

Hiyori Kanazawa: First of all, however, Karate evolves I think preserving Budō is very important.

Talking about competition: we see a lot more women than before, which is very good. But when I look at people practicing traditional karate, for example in seminars or abroad, I see maybe 90 percent men in classes. I wish more women would take interest in traditional Karate and I want to work to improve this aspect and get more women involved in traditional Karate.

The picture shows Hiyori Kanazawa during a tournament
Hiyori Kanazawa during a tournament

Would you recommend Shotokan Karate to your female friends? Why?

Hiyori Kanazawa: Of course, I would recommend Shotokan Karate to female friends. Because Karate has so many positive aspects and it is a fulfilling art. I believe people can become mentally stronger which would be especially good for many women. Because women, more often than men, can feel weak sometimes. Karate can bring out the inner strength of people. I know it is true because it happened to me.