Karate: Where are the women?

Brenda Dunduru

Brenda Dunduru

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It looks like the old adage “it’s a man’s world” won’t go away in karate.

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Indeed, karate is not for the faint-hearted and one may be tempted to think that karate was made for men only.

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However, there is a 21-year-old girl who is out to prove that karate is not a man’s world.

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Young Brenda Dunduru has seen four of her friends quit since she started training kyokushin two years ago under 2009 International Karate Organisation Kyokushinkaikan First World Karate champion Samson Muripo.

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To her, there is a strong link between her Christian beliefs and martial arts.

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“The practice is not easy, but for me I have learnt a life lesson. As a Christian, when a challenge comes you know there is victory behind it. When one is in the dojo, they go through pain and sweat. And just like a temptation, if one doesn’t endure the training they won’t make it. So, there is this strong link between my Christian beliefs and martial arts. That endurance I display during training is the same I put into life to succeed,” the Domboshawa-bred karateka said.

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And for women who are known to care more about their beauty, engaging in this full contact sport, which is full of risks, is not easy.

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We know of world champion Muripo, who was once poisoned at a tournament in Tokyo six years ago. His face still bears the scars as evidence of that incident.

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In spite of all those risks, Dunduru feels kyokushin has brought out the confidence that was hidden inside her before she started training.

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“When one trains, there is a confidence that naturally builds itself inside them. They become that person who can’t be pushed away and be punched down. Once I started training, it gave me the courage even to walk alone during the night because at one point I know if provoked I can defend myself and conquer.

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“In addition, I used to maintain my silence, especially within a group of people. My attitude was to let others speak their mind even when I knew some of the issues were wrong. This (kyokushin) has changed me whether I am in the dojo or at home. Now, if I feel like passing a comment even when it provokes someone, I say out my mind without worry,” Dunduru added.

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Petronella Kanyamuka Lichanda (28), the only girl who trains at a Highfield dojo, enjoys karate rather than dread the pain that comes with the sport. And to her, it’s a way to shed some excess weight while keeping fit at the same time.

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“I used to weigh 74kg and now I am at 66.As a little girl, I always picked up fights and I grew up intending to take up boxing. Now, my intention is to be a karate teacher,” the Highfield-bred karateka said.

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Just like any other woman, Lichanda hopes to be married some day. But she has had to deal with men who are scared she could beat them up.

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“They really wonder and think I could beat up a man if ever I was to be provoked in a relationship. But you learn to be disciplined. If I am asked to choose, I won’t quit karate,” Lichanda, who has gone through a year training kyokushin, said.

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Muripo, who has six female karatekas at his dojo, said despite a lack of sponsorship to support women karatekas, societal expectations also hindered women from pursuing the sport.

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Having trained female karatekas including Maud Tsikai, who went on to get a black belt in 2004 but quit after getting married, Muripo has seen an improved participation trend in female fighters

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“I discovered that female karatekas learn the fundamentals of karate with speed than their male counterparts.

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“Men are strong and tougher. But most of the time I receive women students who are adults and to tame them to become fighters takes two to four years for them to be able to take the heat.

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“They come as adults to probably lose weight. The moment they become technically better, they get married, usually to a man who doesn’t like them to train karate and that becomes the end of the story,” the 2009 world champion said.