Martial arts are not highly appreciated in Kenya. They are among the sports that are not taken seriously by Kenyans in terms of how one can exploit their potential.
However, Peter Karanja, a Kayole-based taekwondo coach, reveals that with the seriousness it deserves, taekwondo not only helps in building networks but also as a career that you can earn a living from.
The fourth degree black belt holder has had a passion for karate since his childhood and he would always sneak to local gyms and social halls where people were training for this sport.
In one of these events, he felt moved by how a karate trainer who he later came to learn was called Charles Wanyama executed his craft with so much passion and style. In 2000, he officially began to train for karate under coach Boby Were.
“Boby Were was really good at his craft and by that time, he had reached eighth degree black belt. He motivated me to pursue karate as a profession,” Karanja tells City Biz.
He developed his interest to train after attaining a 1st degree black belt level in 2011. He formed the Obama Manthis Kenpo Karate Club at Kayole social hall where he charged a small fee for training.
“I decided not to be too mean, but pass on what I have to others as well,” Karanja says, adding: “As much as I’m earning from training others, my focus is to empower others to have a skill that can help them in one way or another.”
The skills inculcated during the training session include but not limited to ground fight, use of the whole body including punching, how to use legs, use of head, locks, knee among others.
Trainees are also taught how to improvise hand weapon from anything at hand, such as a key, pen, umbrella, razor bled, and newspaper. Other skills taught at Karanja’s club include blocking drill, punching drill, and kicking drill. New skills are added and combined as one goes higher the ladder.
“These skills help a trainee to know what is expected of him or her in the whole karate profession”
His trainees are from seven years up to 50 years. However, he says age is no limitation.
He charges students only Sh100 per training session which consists of about 1-2 hours.
Nonetheless, all new students are expected to register with a minimum of Sh1,000 part of which goes to federation fees. The student is also expected to purchase sports kits. From there, he or she has to be informed of all the procedures he has to follow in this training.
On a given day, he gets an average of 40-50 trainees and from the estimate; he is able to pocket an average of, Sh4,000 per day.
Some clients also want to be trained privately and for such, the charges are a bit different depending on the distance, location, status of the client and the type of training required.
However, other than his Kayole-based club – Obama Manthis Kenpo Karate Club – Karanja also gets hired by clubs, schools, colleges and even universities to offer his services in karate coaching.
“I have been hired by notable institutions including Riara Group of Schools, Kenyatta University, among others. However, I had to delegate responsibilities to one of my trainees since my club is growing and I can’t leave it unattended,” explains Karanja.
So far, Karanja boasts helping over 160 trainees attain black belt level in karate.
Other than offering employment opportunities as karate instructors in gyms, karate clubs, and national competitions, Karanja says the training also helps in empowering individuals in being confident, maintain a healthy wellbeing and have skills to protect or defend themselves in the event of an attack.
“I have also trained many women here who have affectively acquired skills to defend themselves against any aggressors,” says Karanja who encourages more women to take up karate skills so that they can be empowered both psychically and psychologically to protect themselves from any form of violence against them.
Trizah Njoki, one of the trainees at Karanja’s club who has currently attained an orange belt in martial arts, says she was motivated by a desire to have self-defence skills for self-protection. She says that she lives in a society where many look down on women because they consider them to be weak. “Look at what happens in matatu stages - conductors touching women and holding their hands inappropriately; they can’t do this to a man because they know a man will react,” says Njoki.
Karanja emphasises that karate skills are not meant for fights.
“The karate skills are for your protection, to protect your family or loved ones in case of danger and to help you exercise self control.”
However, Karanja regrets that the government is not keen in empowering martial arts and supporting it as a sport. This according to him has demotivated many youth from focusing on the sport on a professional level.