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Nairobi’s karate kids on a mission to win

By BRIAN YONGA January 24th, 2014 3 min read

The national Under 18 karate-do team took part in the World Goju Kai Championship last month in Mumbai and although they did not scoop medals, they won hearts and minds.

Kenya was ranked second among the teams from the African continent behind South Africa.

The team of 15 performed well in spite of the challenges they faced in the run-up to the championship. Three members were unable to make the trip because of inadequate funding.

Chief instructor Maurice Aloo was impressed by the results. “We hope to get more support from the Government in the future. In spite of our poor preparations, I am happy with what the team achieved,” said Aloo.

“Even though we returned empty handed, the experience and exposure the team received makes them better prepared for the next championship in Canada in 2017,” he added.

Nicholas Gundo of National under 18 Karate-do during their week end practices at Nyayo National stadium on January 18,2014.He's one of the participants who represented Kenya in Mumbai,India  last year December. PHOTO|DENISH OCHIENG
Nicholas Gundo of National under 18 Karate-do during their week end practices at Nyayo National stadium on January 18,2014.He’s one of the participants who represented Kenya in Mumbai,India last year in December. PHOTO|DENISH OCHIENG

Neville Masitsa, 8, was part of the team that toured Mumbai. She was excited about her first international event. She made it to the semi-finals but was knocked out.

“I made some mistakes, which my opponent capitalised on to defeat me. I feel I performed well, and I’m sure come the next championship I will go all the way to the final,” said Masitsa.

Her interest in karate-do began three years ago when her elder brother was rewarded for winning a school tournament.

This attracted Masitsa to the sport and she started training every Saturday at Nyayo National Stadium.

“I got hooked on karate-do because the techniques and skills impressed me. When I told my parents I wanted to learn it, at first they were surprised but eventually warmed up to the idea,” said Masitsa.

Aloo said she is one of the strongest members on the team who has potential to advance. He said Masitsa won praise despite falling short.

“A lot of people think Karate-do is not a woman’s sport, let alone a young girl’s. Masitsa is making steady progress, I am impressed with the way she is utilising the skills she learnt,” said Aloo.

Captain Nicholas Gundo, 10, reached the final in his category but lost to  Anjani Kumar Jajodia of India on points after putting up a spirited fight. Gundo said for most of the match, he overpowered his opponent but was surprised when he lost.

“I was a step ahead and I knew I had won the match. The judges felt otherwise because they ruled in favour of my opponent. I was disappointed by the results,” he said.

Gundo, who has practised karate- do for three years felt he deserved the gold medal. “I may have lost the medal, but not hope. I will work harder in readiness for the next championship,” said Gundo.

The class five pupil at Bidii Primary in Buru Buru liked the sport after watching movies.

“I loved the moves and tried them out with my friends who later told me about the karate-do club. My parents did not approve, but after consideration they agreed to let me join the club,” he said.

Gundo said it was an honour to captain the team. “I believe I was given the captain’s band because of hard work, commitment and dedication,” he said.

Gundo is looking to perform well at the Nairobi County Championship in March and during a regional  event in Nairobi later in the year.

Aloo trains 50 students from around Nairobi at Nyayo National Stadium. He said the sport had the potential to grow if there is investment in facilities. His plan is to introduce Karate-do in all counties and hopes by 2017 Kenya would be a force to reckon with.

Karate-do is a form of martial arts in which a combination of power and basic movement are used to subdue an assailant.

Since its introduction 15 years ago, karate-do has faced a number of challenges. It fizzled out at one point but was revived. It is one of the most preferred martial arts because of its powerful and dynamic elements.

The benefits of karate-do include physical and mental strength. A learner acquires self-defence skills, a healthy body, endurance and a refined character.

“People are taught karate-do for self-defence and not for provocation,” said Aloo.