11 November 2015

Sabeomnim Chris van der Merwe

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing away of our friend Sabeomnim Chris van der Merwe last Friday, 6 November 2015.

Sabeomnim Chris has been a pivotal behind the scenes figure in the South Africa ITF community. Over his many years of service he held numerous important positions on the SA-ITF's executive board, such as Secretary General, Information Director, and Constitutional Director; he also functioned as National Team Manager during international championships, as NGB representative at important ITF meetings, as the first webmaster for the SA-ITF, and occasionally as the official SA-ITF photographer. It was particularly in his roles as Secretary General and Constitutional Director that he shaped the very core of the organization. Few members know how fiercly Sabeomnim Chris fought behind closed doors on their behalf; how he embodied being a “champion of freedom and justice” for the normal and sometimes disadvantaged Taekwon-Do students all over the country. Sabeomnim Chris also started the Acestes Taekwon-Do Clubs—one of the largest group of Taekwon-Do clubs in South Africa—and is a founding member of the Dan Gun Kwan with whom the Soo Shim Kwan has very close ties. Sabeomnim Chris' progeny students and co-federation heads Sabeomnim Karel Wethmar and Sabeomnim Annari Wethmar of the Dan Gun Kwan has produced more students to represent South Africa abroad than any other Kwan. Indeed, Sabeomnim Chris has left an enduring South African Taekwon-Do legacy.

Sbnim Chris van der Merwe and Sanko Lewis
On a personal note, I have lost a very dear friend. I met Sabeomnim Chris in 2001 at a Dan promotion test. I tested for my second degree black belt; he tested for his first degree black belt. Shortly afterwards I became the webmaster for the SA-ITF, working under Sabeomnim Chris' portfolio, and I took over from him in 2003 as the SA-ITF's Information Director. During this time we became very close friends. During those years I was going through very difficult times (the deaths of family members and loved ones). Sabeomnim Chris was always ready with a listening ear and sage advice. As a friend he also supported my intellectual pursuits and while he never went on to do a doctorate degree, he did much to encourage me to do so—which is something I'm currently busy with. As it was something we often talked about, it saddens me that he will not see me accomplish this goal early next year. Whenever I visited South Africa Sabeomnim Chris and I would make a decided effort to spend some quality time with each other—my visits to South Africa will now always have a gaping hole in them.

C. S. Lewis is known for saying: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” Sabeomnim Chris van der Merwe was an important friend to me that definitely imparted value to my life. And I know that he did the same for many, many other people. He is fiercely loved by hundreds of Taekwon-Do practitioners that were fortunate to be his students and his friends. He will be greatly missed.

On behalf of the Soo Shim Kwan I wish to share my condolences to the Dan Gun Kwan, the Acestes Taekwon-Do members, and Sabeomnim Chris' family and friends. We share in your grief.

Rest well my friend. Taekwon!

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