PEOPLE find themselves trapped in situations in need of escape but their lack of defense skills lets them down. Self defense techniques have become an essential for today’s Rwandan woman; Martial Arts is now the only reasonable answer to getting out of a trapped situation unhurt.
Jacqueline Byamungu, 24, is a policewoman and works with the intervention force. She started Karate at Apehot Secondary school and is a proud holder of a Black belt, 2nd dan and 14 medals since she started.
Byamungu has also attained victory as the National Karate champion for women and explains that in this day and age, the techniques and discipline taught in karate can mould a woman positively unlike most people’s perceptions of the sport.
“Karate is more than just fighting. We first teach the theory before going into practicals; discipline is the core word in the lessons,” Byamungu said.
Unlike other games like football, Byamungu says: “you will never hear of any riots, hooliganism or someone being the initiator of a street fight.”
The calm Karate champion still regrets the fact that the Rwandan society has not yet embraced women who practice Karate as a sport that puts them in a position of self defense.
“There are those who don’t understand and don’t accept women who practice Karate in the society.
I have to put up with men, who say that no man will marry me, family members also see me as an embarrassment and I also get ridicule from fellow women,” she said.
Her advice to young women is not to join Karate with the aim of fighting foes or men because they will drop out along the way.
“We are taught to respect elders, men and never use our skills as a show off,” Byamungu said.
She added that any woman who has gone through real training stands out from the crowd and most of them will never engage in fights in their entire life time.
According to the Technical Director of the Rwanda Karate Federation, Guy Rurangayire, there are 10 women Black belt holders in Rwanda, and seven are in the National Karate team.
“Among the Black belt holders is a 15 year-old senior one student who was awarded her 1stdan by Shihan Kawaso Masao, a famous Japanese karate master called a ‘sensei’ and the Technical Director of International Traditional Karate Federation,” Rurangayire said.
Rurangayire wishes to inform the public that Karate is more about self-control and discipline than about fighting.
“It is all about how you think, how you coordinate your brain and body and it tests ones concentration,” he added.
He further urged women to join the different clubs in the country to learn the wonderful techniques of self defense and enhance the discipline that already exists in the country.
Rurangayire noted that the major five rules in Karate are more of self discipline measures than fighting.
“Seeking perfection in a character, being faithful, endeavoring, being respectful and restraining oneself from violence are the major rules in Karate,” he said.
Karate is not a game for the hard headed women
Marie Claire Kalihangabo, the Regional Expert in Administration and Finance within IFDC is a Black belt holder and 2nd dan as well. She started practicing Karate in secondary school and continued at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) in 1995 up to date. She is married with two children.
According to Kalihangabo, the Spirit Karate ‘Do’ club to which she is a member sensitizes women and men to join and restore the Karate discipline and create awareness of the importance of women practicing Karate.
She said that ‘Do’ is a Japanese word that means ‘The way.’
“We are a small club of 12 members and we have all studied at NUR. We meet every Monday, Thursday and Friday from 5:00 p.m to 7:00 p.m at Lycée Notre Dame de Citeaux Girls School next to Kigali Central Hospital,” she said.
Kalihangabo said there is a need for women, who want to join Karate to first get informed about the clubs in Rwanda.
“There are fake clubs which are not recognized by the Rwanda Karate Federation and hence don’t give the right training to new learners. That is why the Karate discipline is slowly fading away in the country,” she said.
She said the Federation has sufficient data on the right clubs that are accessible. She recommended women to contact the Federation before joining any club.
“In Karate one never attacks either verbally or physically unless the need for self defense arises. Real Karate moulds someone to be a respectful woman since every member is obliged to be a listener, who is humble and obedient,” Kalihangabo said.
Karate is a sport that combats any superiority behaviour, it is a body relaxing exercise and it boosts ones self esteem.
As a result of these trainings, Kalihangabo is now a National level referee.