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Kung fu coach furthers his dream in Kenyan hometown

By OTIATO OPALI in Kiambu, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-24 09:23
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Contestants compete during a kung fu tournament in Kiambu, Kenya, on Sunday. LI YAHUI/XINHUA

When Ngaruiya Njonge wanted to start learning kung fu 10 years ago, he had no one to teach him and nowhere to go and learn the art since his hometown of Kiambu in central Kenya had no such facility. Determined to learn the skill, he turned to video streaming service YouTube for lessons and since then, he has never looked back.

Born in the remote village of Kangoya in Kenya's Kiambu County, Njonge's interest in kung fu was roused after a teacher in a nearby primary school, who was trained in China, introduced martial arts to the villagers. However, once the teacher left the village, Njonge had nowhere to turn to and this is where YouTube tutorials came in handy.

"I used to work as a truck driver with a transport company but after training for five years, I quit the job and decided to fully concentrate on kung fu. In those days, I was aspiring to be a trainer but I could not get students so my two daughters who were 6 and 4 years old at the time became my first students," Njonge said.

In order to advance his dream of becoming a coach, he approached his local county government with a proposal to start training local youths. Njonge was concerned that his county was known for heavy drinking among the youth and sought to work with the county government by using kung fu to curb the vice.

As luck would have it, the county government allocated him the local community hall for training, thus marking the beginning of his journey as a career coach. He started by training children and jobless youths at the community hall on Saturdays and Sundays. From having fewer than 10 trainees at the time he started, Njonge has seen the sport grow and he now trains at least 60 children and dozens of youths for free during the weekends.

"I started with a handful of students but over the years, the numbers have grown. Once I became a registered coach, the Ministry of Education wrote me a letter which I could use to approach schools and request to train their students in kung fu," said Njonge, who is now the president of Kenya's Kung Fu Wushu Federation.

So far, he has established kung fu clubs in 24 public primary schools in Kiambu County, where he trains about 4,000 pupils for free. Despite the lack of monetary support from the government, he said that he also trains students in private schools where he makes part of his earnings. As president of the Kenya Kung Fu Wushu Federation, Njonge has so far established eight branches across the country.

In 2019, he walked to the Chinese embassy in Nairobi and introduced himself as a registered kung fu coach. Having reviewed plans by the federation to expand the sport in Kenya, the embassy agreed to become a partner in setting up a tournament for junior championships and the federation held the third edition of the tournament on Sunday.

This year, the competition had 70 participants from different schools across the country. The best 10 performers were awarded medals and certificates and will represent Kenya in an international tournament to be held in Rwanda in June.

Sheila Wanjiku, a judge at the tournament said that she is not only impressed by the growing numbers of kung fu performers but also the improving quality of the practice.

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