Tributes came pouring in for Portland karate instructor, Shihan Wallace Fortuin, 64, following his sudden death to Covid-19 a fortnight ago.
The former South Peninsula High School pupil leaves a legacy build over 42 years of service to the community.
Shihan Fortuin was an internationally acclaimed instructor and referee. He trained hundreds of students from four generations through his Shukokai karate dojo at Portland community centre and the Mitchell’s Plain Indoor Sports and Recreational Centre.
Many of his students have gone on to represent the country at prestigious events across the world.
Wife Vyon Fortuin, 52, said it was the effort, discipline and respect he instilled in each student, and in particular, the love he shared with his family that touched her.
“I met him through karate. I was one of his students. This year we would’ve celebrated our 30th anniversary and we stayed in the area for the past 30 years,” she said.
Fortuin said their sons, Kyle, 27 and Chad, 18, were distraught, however, their father’s teachings will always remain with them.
“His family came first. He was truly the best. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. Lots of children went through his hands. He started karate when he was still in high school. He was truly passionate about the community and the sport,” she said.
Fortuin said her husband had felt sick two weeks ago. He had difficulty breathing and was taken to hospital. Last week Sunday, they were on a call with him and he sounded like he was getting better. But later that Sunday, they received a call from the nurses, saying he had passed away.
Messages of condolences came from as far afield as Durban and New Zealand.
One of his longest-serving students and fellow instructor, Sensei Marwaan Carolus, 46, from Kuils River, was handed Shihan Fortuin’s karate belt by his eldest son, Kyle, at his memorial last week.
The belt was an honour of respect and the keys entrusted by Shihan Fortuin to the Fourth Dan Black Belt, Sensei Carolus, to carry on the legacy of the dojo. Present and former karateka and instructors and officials also did the last bow in Shihan Fortuin’s honour as the memorial drew to a close.
Sensei Carolus said Shihan “Wally“ started training him at the age of 10. He had also trained his friends and family, including his three sons, daughter and wife.
Sensei Carolus said his son, Altaaf Anthony, 20, has a black belt, Jaleel Anthony, 16, a first degree brown belt and Salmaan Carolus, 16, a blue belt. His daughter, Salma Carolus, 7, has an orange belt, and wife, Gadija Carolus, a purple belt.
“In the community where we grew up, a lot of children turned to drugs and gangsterism. He kept us straight. He was like a mentor. He taught us the value of discipline, respect and being humble. I can count on my hand the amount of times he couldn’t make it to a lesson and he said I should take it. He was the type of person to make sure if he does not have taxi fare, he walks,” said Sensei Carolus.
“It’s been generations that he taught – four generations. If you put into practice what he taught you, you will definitely be a better person for yourself and the community.”
First Dan Black Belt, Sensei Moegamat Samsodien, 45, from Heideveld, said his journey with Shihan Fortuin started when he took his son to the dojo, just under a decade ago. He was introduced to Kimura Shukokai, a karate technique taught by Shihan Fortuin and the rest is history.
“Shihan Wallace was a man that wouldn’t tell you a lot, but would show you how to do it. He was very accepting, no matter your culture or race. He was soft-spoken to children. He had the secret. You knew there was always a deeper meaning to what he told you,” said Sensei Samsodien.
“He taught us, the best way to learn about yourself, who you are, the warrior inside you, was through karate; because you learn how to break yourself and how to push yourself – he directed us to the right place.”
Karate Satori chief instructor, Shihan Jeffrey Jackson, from Westgate, echoed these sentiments, saying Shihan Fortuin was among the most respected in the karate community in Mitchell’ Plain and beyond. Although not one of his former students, Jackson said he was inspired by Shihan Fortuin to teach karate.
“He was a high-ranking referee at Western Province and national level. He was very involved in the development of the sport and was one of the leaders in the karate community here in Mitchell’s Plain . I have always admired him and he gave me and many others, especially youngsters, much-needed advice over the years,” said Jackson.
Shihan Fortuin’s funeral service took place at his home in San Francisco Close , in Portland, on Saturday.