REMEMBERING A SENIOR WARRIOR:
It is almost two weeks since Svein Sørlie died on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 in Norway. He shall be buried on Tuesday, August 29, 2017. I believe that wherever his soul is in the grander universe, it is thriving in the best conditions of the afterlife; resting in peace, hopefully. There is no rest for the hearts of gold. Gold is forever; larger than life. Such was Svein Sørlie as I knew him, feeling as if it had been all my life.
Svein Sørlie: my student, my friend, my mentor, my protector. In time, he grew to represent a formidable father figure for me as I strove to curve a space of my own in a land that is not of my forefathers, Norway. With his death, it feels like a large chunk of Norway has just been ripped off my heart. The hurt I feel is profound.
I have known Svein, since March, 1989. During much of this time, I’ve watched with awe how he would ever so elegantly balance, sometimes in one and the same space, the role of a father, grandfather, brother, uncle, lover, in-law, friend, teacher, student, colleague, citizen, and community member. I could never get enough of the warmth and love that, on the one hand, Svein exuded, and received, on the other.
It did not matter whether we were in Norway, or travelling in Greece or the UK; he was ever so easy to get along with. I guess it had to do with the aura of humility and compassion he radiated, long before he would open his mouth to greet people, and introduce himself to strangers.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall; dojo, camping, competitions, seminars, party, home, city centre, beach, everywhere: Svein Sørlie was the ever green, the ever wonderful. An IT expert, a former naval officer, and Judo adept, he was a knowledgeable and wise man; a man of the world. His terrific sense of humour made it a joy to talk with him about many subjects of common interest, any time.
On Wednesday, March 29, 1989, Anne-Britt Nilsen helped me arrange and host a public meeting to introduce Karate in the local community of Blåbærstien, Nesoddtangen. I was accompanied by my first ever Norwegian Karate student, Knut Arild Midtbø, who I had already started to train in Oslo since October, 1988. He would translate my message, since I hardly spoke a word of Norwegian, then.
In a packed, rather small community hall, the reception we received was mixture of curiosity, enthusiasm, scepticism, and outright hostility. During an altercation between my assistant, Knut, and a man who was totally against our mission in his neighbourhood, my eyes fell on a bespectacled older man. A little girl was sitting and playing at his feet. As our eyes met, the man gave me a gentle, reassuring smile; I thought the look on his face told me something like, “Never mind him!”
The friendly man was Svein Sørlie, and the little girl was his youngest child and daughter, Toril. For the next ten years or so, the Svein-Toril family duo would be the heart-beat of Blåbærstien Karate Klubb, now Nesodden Karateklubb. It was such that at a time when I had to make one of the most decisive choices in my life, I weighed my options against, amongst others, the joint pillar of strength Svein and Toril jointly represented for me in the club, if not the country Norway.
When I, sometime in October, 1991, received a deportation letter ordering me to leave Norway by November 11, 1991, I showed it to all my key people at the club, my school (then BI Sandvika), and my social network in Oslo. The reason for my deportation was that I no longer had access to the Norwegian State Educational Loan funds for the sponsorship of my continued studies at BI. We were all shocked, and, for a while, didn’t know what to do. This was unchartered waters for all of us.
Although I was prepared to leave, I didn’t know where to go: for political reasons I could neither return to South Africa nor Zambia. However, Svein came up to me, one day, and whispered, “But, Simon, you know, you cannot go away. The children will be very disappointed, you know!”
By that time, Toril and Erlend Dresskell were both about ten years old. They had recently acquired peewee Brown Belt status. I had forgotten that, when they first started training two years earlier, I had said to them that it took three to four years to get to Black Belt level. That assumed that one worked very hard, training at the dojo at least three times a week throughout the year. A lot more training had to be done privately also.
Being the sharp and ambitious kids they were, and still are, they had already figured it out that, if they had started to train Karate in 1989, then, they could have a shot at the Black Belt gradings in 1992 or 1993. They wanted it in 1992, of course! There was no way I could go away, then. Svein was right.
1992 came and went. Norway got the first under-twelve Karate Black Belts in Toril Sørlie and Erlend Dresskell, setting a trend. Their big brother, Mattias Jahr, and Big Daddy Svein had also graded for their junior and senior 1st Dan Black Belts, respectively. I had then kept my word, and the children had deservedly received their accolades. Now I could leave Norway, yes? I felt I had to, because the authorities were still not deciding whether to let my appeal to stay in Norway pass or fail. I was so fed up, then, it no longer mattered where I would go to after leaving the country.
In the meantime, I had fallen in love with a sweet girl called Birgit Lunden. Birgit has a son, Ludvik Møystad. Ludvik and I had already become the best of friends, of course; and, he had started to train Karate with me in my other club in Oslo.
Another day, Svein pulled me aside again, “Simon, you know, you have a family in Norway now. Erlend and Toril are still too young to leave alone with their children’s Black Belts. And you have said they will convert to adult grades when they are sixteen years old. That is, maybe, five years more. So, you see, you cannot go away for a long time now, you know!”
That is how I came to extend my stay in Norway, until I would, eventually, become a citizen ten years later – all for love and Svein Sørlie’s Karate kids: Toril, Erlend, Ludvik, and many others of their time. There are also hundreds of others who have since followed their footsteps in my Nesodden and Oslo Karate schools. The rest is history. Being Svein Sørlie’s fellow countryman felt, and still feels like the most natural thing. It is an honour and privilege to have him as one of my references as “The Best of Norway!” example of a real fine gentleman.
Through Toril, I extend my deep-felt condolences to the family, and Norway, on their loss. Thank you all for all the love and care you have shown me all these years. There is so much of Svein in all of you. His spirit lives in you, I know. I hope to see you all when I am back in Oslo in the coming months.
I want to especially thank Svein for having brought Toril into my life, and allowed me the pleasure of seeing her grow up as an absolutely top class Karate Kid Super Star of mine. On and off the floor, Toril has given me some of the most memorable experiences of Sensei-student relationship in all of my forty-plus Karate practice and teaching years. As a friend, she has remained supportive and loyal throughout. I shall remain eternally grateful for both Svein and Toril as an indelible part of my life story in Norway.
About Toril, Svein has said to me once, “You know, Simon, soon after Toril was born, she was brought into my arms. Our eyes met and locked immediately. We remained in that position, in silence, for what seemed like a very long time. Then, she yelled and cried as if into my face. At that moment, I knew that I was going to be together with her for the rest of my life.”
Svein continued, with a chuckle and a twinkle in his eyes, “And, you know, Simon, Toril has been yelling since then. Everyday! You are a good teacher for her. Thank you for that!”
If ever I become a father to a baby girl, I know I’ll aspire to be like the good father that Svein was to Toril; not forgetting her siblings, Svein (Jr), Ann Karin, and Tim Kristian. In that regard, I saw, in Svein, a lot of my own father, Mr ELW Chilembo, also late. The mutual love, respect, and admiration may not have been accidental, therefore.
August 28, 2017
GROWING UP IN TEN YEARS
It is not as if much has changed since I entered the afternoon phase of my life. In my younger, less restrained rock and roll days, going out to a party meant, amongst others, getting told that I talked too much, too loud. Getting laid would also come as a matter of course, although not necessarily as a must; just a cool endeavour to engage in to seal yet another successful party night out.
On the afternoon of Friday, July 27, 2007, I embarked on a cross-border trip from Oslo, Norway, into Sweden. The destination was a recreational cottage village on the outskirts of the south-western city of Gothenburg. I know now that I really had not been keen on doing that trip. But I had to: duty called; business. I was exhausted after a hectic two weeks’ business tour across much of South Africa, from which I had arrived in Oslo the previous day.
There was also a distant, yet distinct enough, uneasy feeling about the double-events calling for the visit: a business partner’s birthday celebration on the day. The following day, July 28, it was scheduled the inaugural shareholders’ meeting for our newly-registered trading company.
I had had a theoretically substantiated notion that, despite the negative vibe I felt, everything would end up well. I couldn’t help but see the millions of dollars we were going to make as we went on to transform and dominate the Scandinavian health foods market. On my part, I already saw how I’d use my share of the millions to help even more of my needy South African relatives’ children acquire decent education. The poverty levels of some of these people sear my heart ever so too much for comfort on any day.
Apart from a few new dark suits, a new Mercedes, and a new apartment in Oslo, I really had no reason to blow the monies on any more of my vanity needs. I already had my gold Rolex. So, I was cool.
As, on the morning of Saturday, July 28, 2007, I found myself driving my former business partner’s car on some unfamiliar country road, I immediately understood that something terribly wrong had happened. I wanted to believe that I was seeing myself in a nightmare, up until an almost frontal collision with an oncoming vehicle. Things had terribly gone wrong, alright. But, how?
Nothing made much sense to me. Alcohol consumption during dinner the previous night did not make me feel any fresher. As usual, I got scolded for being too loud and taking too much space. The slowly-healing scar after a major abdominal operation three months earlier was sore. I didn’t get laid, which was just as well under the circumstances. To this day, I still haven’t figured out how and where I found the car keys, scaled over an at least 1.2m high gate to get into the car, and drove off, through a never used rocky and difficult terrain, to get to normal roads.
When I lost control of the car and drove off the road, I knew that things were moving from “terribly wrong” to “serious trouble”. Realizing that crashing into a roadside ditch was unavoidable, the situation degenerated from “serious trouble” to “things fall apart”. Things happening real fast now, I recall not worrying about injuries, or worse. But, in an instant, I saw my millions flying out of the window; and, through the windscreen, I thought I saw my business partner dancing, saying to me, “See, you are not as hot as you think you are. Let’s see how you come out of this one!”
As the car rammed into the ditch, I recall acknowledging to myself that, yes, the unthinkable had just happened: my world had just fallen apart. I was finished, then. Getting out of the car stuck in the ditch, I concluded that the solution to all the inescapable impending challenges arising from this involuntary misadventure lay in me staying calm and strong throughout. I resolved that que sera sera. I’d pay my dues with dignity and honour, even if I’d have to lay my life on the line.
Such began my steep fall from economic might and glory. Little did I know that the blow would reverberate throughout about all the most decisive aspects of my being; changing the course of my life in ways I could never before envisage even in my worst nightmares.
Ten years on, I’ve yet to recover; having lost everything symbolic of economic success in life. I’m officially insolvent, and haven’t had any source of income since the first half of 2013. Prior to that, I had to endure near debilitating punitive actions arising from the car accident, both in terms of financial and legal imperatives. Seeing my business collapse in front of my eyes, and, subsequently closing down my clinic and training centre in Oslo, remain some of the most unsettling moments during that time.
Through it all, however, my staying strong resolve has never been an option. My senses of dignity and honour are still intact. Solid as a rock, I’m standing tall. The worst is over. I feel and see, like I used to before the fateful July 27-28, 2007 night and day, the pulse of my fate in my hands. I’m here. I live. I love. Again. I’ll soon return to my world in Oslo, Norway, and continue from where I left; stronger and wiser than ever before.
To mark the 10th year anniversary of my fall in opulent society, I offer the electronic version of my first book, When the Mighty Fall – Rise Again Mindgames for free. In the book, the story leading up to, and after July 27-28, 2007, plays itself out. The free offer shall be from Thursday, July 27 to Monday, July 31, 2017. Order, read with an open mind, enjoy, and be inspired.
Tel.: +27 626 218 288
July 24, 2017
►Order Simon Chilembo books here.
STEPHEN CHAN’S PIONEERING ROLE IN ZAMBIAN KARATE
Accomplishments and Impact in the Transformation of Martial Arts Culture
- This article is in response to a request by my friend and Martial Arts brother, Raymond Mbazima, Sensei, in June 2016, “Could you do a write-up of Professor Stephen Chan Sensei’s Pioneering Role in Zambia – in particular what he accomplished and his impact in the transformation of martial arts culture?”
- The article is an honest account of events as best as my memory serves me. I must apologize in advance for any inaccuracies, or misunderstandings that might arise. The names of the various people mentioned in the article are done so with but only respect and the fondest of memories. I’ll be failing if I didn’t acknowledge many of them as having helped mould the kind of man I am today, both inside and outside the dojo. None of them is directly responsible for my madness, though.
- Regarding the main subject of the article, Stephen Chan, the tone the article has taken is as it emerged from my heart, without fear or favour. That, in line with how my mind has interpreted the execution of his Martial Arts teacher and Godfather role towards me over the years; in four countries, Zambia, UK, Norway, and South Africa.
I have never felt that Stephen was compelled to work with me, neither have I ever felt that I was unduly expected to feel indebted to him for all that he has done for me. Therefore, I am under no obligation, I have no pressing need to aspire to sanctify, or flatter him. There is nothing egotistical to gain, nor intended to.
All this I shall summarize in Stephen’s own words in a correspondence pertaining to the article, “I do hope it is a lot more to do with mutual respect and camaraderie. I always pitched in with you on the floor – so we all suffered together.”
The article here initially covers the years 1981-85, a period of my first ever direct observation of Stephen’s physical presence, and martial arts work in Zambia. It will partially describe my personal experience of training and studying Karate with him as my Sensei at the UNZA Karate Club (UKC) in Lusaka. Little did I ever think then that thirty-five years on, the special student-master relationship would still be going strong; not only with me, but with many others of my generation the world over.
Following Stephen’s footsteps as a diverse collective spread across many parts of the world, the at least five generations of top-flight Karateka my contemporaries and I have produced continue to grow and benefit from his profound knowledge of, and love for the Martial Arts. Above all, perhaps, his broader love for, and service to humanity through his exemplary professional work and career continue to inspire many of us.
Secondly, the years 1986-88 are, in my opinion and personal experience, the period in which the relevance of Stephen’s impact on me would be tested to the limit. It would also test the unity and commonality of purpose in the then Seidokan Zambia core group he had developed at UKC.
Furthermore, this period would, by extension, define whether Stephen’s legacy in Zambian Karate would live on or not. I dare say that the modern Jindokai Zambia/ Zimbabwe family we have today can trace their roots to specifically that period. Had we at UKC failed to keep it together during those two years, the Zambian martial arts scene would have swallowed up Stephen Chan’s legacy for good, I am convinced.
It may be safe to say that Stephen’s work in the wider martial arts fraternity, within and outside the then Zambia Karate Federation (ZKF)’s framework, raised awareness of, and interest in the arts to unprecedented levels in the country. The man was, after all, the nearest living thing to Bruce Lee the people ever saw, came close to, touched, and spoke to.
Stephen made a striking presence on Television Zambia (TVZ)’s Sports Review shows, speaking, as Dennis Liwewe once said, “… fantabulous, beautiful English, indeed!”
The late Dennis Liwewe became a legend already in his own time as a passionate radio and TV sports commentator. If President Kaunda was Zambia’s football number one fan, Dennis Liwewe was in a class of his own as maestro supremo football commentator.
It is at the height of our success at UKC, under Stephen’s guidance in the 1983-5 seasons, that new martial arts schools and styles emerged and hit the scene in Lusaka. Such that almost immediately after his departure for England in the second quarter of 1985, some of the new schools started coming to recruit his senior Black Belt instructors at UKC. The apparently entrepreneurial owners of some of these new schools flashed a lot of hard cash, US Dollars, to entice some of us. They also made some of us promises of scholarships abroad, especially Japan, closely followed by the Koreas. It didn’t work for me.
Thinking I was crazy to decline the potentially lucrative offers, a then confidant of mine lashed out at me, saying that I was driven by the desire to be boss of Seidokan Zambia. When I told him that it was actually more out of loyalty to my teacher, Stephen Chan, and his work than my own power aspirations, my confidant was not very convinced. At my mentioning further that Stephen had introduced me to a concept called giri, my confidant understood. He was Japanese. Giri translates to devotion, and obligation to duty. In the context of this article, giri develops around, and espouses mutuality of selflessness in a Sensei-student relationship. The latter relationship can last a lifetime.
I like to think that to this day, the concept of what I call his no-strings-attached giri continues to mutually bind Stephen Chan and his students the world over. I know it works for me. To such an extent that to me, he long ceased to be just a kind and generous Sensei. Although he can never be a relative in the real sense, he is as close to family as can be. I am inclined to believe that many others, at least those of African extract and cultural orientation, will more or less share the same sentiment.
The beginning of 1981 was extremely challenging for me. I was commencing the final year at high school, to work towards final examinations at the end of the year. The exams would decide whether I would make university studies or not the following year. At the same time I found myself taking the bull by the horns, briefly becoming de facto leader/ ‘Chief Instructor’ of the then Trinity Karate Club in Lusaka. The club was formerly run by Sensei Bonar Noble, 2nd Dan at the time. I was, then, 1st Kyu Brown Belt myself.
Sometime during the first half of 1978, there had been held, I was told, the biggest Karate Black Belt gradings ever seen in Zambia at the club. My would-be first Black Belt teacher, Tom Banda, graded here. If my memory serves me right, so did some of the biggest names of the time. These included Sensei Noble himself, my other would-be sensei and, later, friend, Anver Bey.
There would also have been Ronnie Sharpe, Eugene Moody, Yousuf Doodia, Che Mubita, and others who may have come from the Copperbelt as well. My other would-be Sensei and friend, Ajit Sam Mangali would grade in South Africa a short while later. At the same time, a new crop of ambitious Brown Belts was graded.
The Black Belt gradings were conducted by another original Japan Karate Association (JKA) legend from the early 1960s, Sensei Hiroshi Shirai, Italy. These were organized and facilitated by Sensei Bonar Noble at great personal expense. It was under the auspices of the then Shotokan Karate oriented Zambia Karate Association (ZKA), which was affiliated to the JKA, if I am not mistaken.
This was a great time to enter the Zambian Karate scene. However, in no time, what I now consider to be a normal organizational growth and development phenomenon bound to occur at some point in time, arose: mutiny and power struggle from some of the new Black Belts towards their teacher, Sensei Noble. The latter’s martial arts competence and leadership-style were suddenly not good enough.
When the new Black Belts began to quarrel amongst themselves, then, things got out of hand for real. Sensei Noble would eventually leave the club, which Sensei Ajit Mangali ably took over in 1979/ 80. When the latter also left Zambia abruptly, the responsibility of leading the club was thrust upon me by my fellow club mates.
But, by the beginning of 1981, the administrative burden was too much to bear for a school boy who couldn’t privately raise enough dojo rent monies when people didn’t pay their own monthly dojo fees. That led to the collapse of Trinity Karate Club. And I became a club-less Rōnin for the first time. The Evelyn Hone College Karate Club would occasionally kindly accommodate me, though; especially during the sessions in which Sensei Noble would be visiting them.
With the collapse of the then elite Trinity Karate Club, the Lusaka Karate scene lost an important competency, resources, and leadership centre. In fact, with Sensei Noble’s disengagement from club activity, the whole milieu was left in disarray because the great Sensei would participate less in ZKA activities. The most striking effect of that was that the high momentum and enthusiasm generated from the 1978 Black Belt gradings got lost within a short space of time. Some of the new Black Belts simply stopped training altogether.
By 1980/ 81 there was, at least in Lusaka, a large number of 1st Kyu Brown Belts hungry for a go at the coveted 1st Dan Black Belt gradings. I was one of them. However, without the deep pockets of a generous patron like Sensei Bonar Noble, the ZKA failed dismally in all efforts to harness sponsorship for tours of Japanese Sensei to come over and conduct clinics, as well as subsequent Black Belt gradings in the country.
A Japanese JKA endorsed Black Belt certificate was everything in those days. That remained true up until 1980/81 when a mad Chinese Sensei called Stephen Chan hit the stage via UKC. He began to ruffle feathers almost from the word go.
When I showed up at UNZA to watch the Zambian Karate Nationals sometime during the first quarter of 1981, I had carried along my Karate gi more out of habit than anything else. I had thought that being at the event would also give me the opportunity to see, and perhaps greet this new Chinese Sensei around whom there was so much positive vibe in town.
Getting in the changing rooms to answer the call of nature, I find this other man with long, dark hair standing there, facing the wall, responding to his own call. Figuring out too late who the man could be, I couldn’t help but proceed, anyway, to stand a respectable distance from him as I relieved myself too. As if on cue, we both simultaneously looked sideways and smiled towards each other.
“Sensei Chan?” I asked uneasily.
“You must be Sammy Chilembo,” he said without hesitation.
We both laughed heartily, bowing to each other with a mutual “Nice to meet you!”
Hand-shaking would be done another time, another place.
Stephen, “I’m looking forward to seeing you in action today. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Unfortunately I’m not participating today, Sir. I’ve just come to watch. I’m in a bad competition shape as I’m giving priority to my school work this year.”
Stephen, “You could win yourself a trip to Zimbabwe!”
I then changed into my gi, went on to fight my way to quarter finals in kumite, and won my first Zambian Karate Nationals kata gold medal. In April 1981, I was part of the Sensei Noble-led and sponsored Zambia National Karate team that met the Zimbabwean side. It was on the occasion of that country’s first year of independence anniversary celebrations. And the team composition was out of Stephen Chan’s first stint as Zambia Karate National Team Coach.
For the first time we are introduced to the concept of nutrition as part of our competition training and winning strategy. There would also be held a series of seminars on modern competition fitness training methods, competition rules, refereeing, and judging, as well as coaching. All this would make Stephen an invaluable asset to Zambian Karate growth and development. It became especially so because, in a climate of chronically hard economic times, Stephen never demanded any payments for the work he did both at UKC and the broader ZKA activities.
Actually, much like Sensei Noble before him, Stephen would sacrifice a lot of his own money and time in his martial arts related work in Zambia. He still does. This kind of selflessness touched, and has influenced many of us ever since. And, almost single-handedly, Stephen gradually helped mainstream Zambian Karate regain its self-confidence, and develop its unique style as would be spearheaded by many of his UKC students and their affiliates in later years, to this day.
By the time I came to UNZA (The University of Zambia) as First Year student in October 1982, Stephen had just done his first ever Black Belt student gradings in Zambia. He had unilaterally awarded, if I recall, Wycliffe Mushipi, Alex Simwanza, Raymond Mbazima, and Papu Siameja their 1st Dan Degrees. This was without the blessings of the ZKA. That act would be considered as a cardinal sin from certain powerful quarters in the then extremely conservative Zambian Karate establishment.
Their contention was that Stephen Chan was not only non-Japanese, but his Karate credentials had no Japanese accreditation either. If Stephen’s Karate was not JKA recognized, then it was not true Karate, they said. Moreover, were Stephen to be allowed to carry on the way he did, no Japanese Sensei would be keen to come to Zambia again, the critics maintained.
But in 1985, a powerful 4-man team of some of the highest ranked Japanese Sensei got to tour Zambia at Stephen’s initiative. The Sensei were:
- Grandmaster Toru Arakawa, 8th Dan, Wadokai,
- Master Toshiatsu Sasaki, 7th Dan Shotokan,
- Master Yokio Yojose, 5th Dan, Shito Ryu, and
- Master Shigeki Uyemura, 4th Dan Uechi Ryu.
By this time, though, Zambian Karate had locally already had a unique first-hand taste of some big time international Karate and other Martial Arts from outside Japan.
In February 1983, Stephen took charge and arranged the first ever all-styles Karate Nationals in Zambia. It was us, Seidokan Zambia, versus the rest of Zambian Shotokan. UNZA took all there were of top prizes, of course. I won my third national Kata gold medal. Awarding me my surprise 1st Dan Black Belt degree on the occasion, Stephen whispered to me, “You shall be recognized, you’ll see!”
The non-orthodox Sensei Stephen Chan’s gradings would eventually be recognized country-wide. Such that by the time he left Zambia in 1985, barely four years since he took everyone by storm, he was a respected and influential Karate master in the country. He had created a legacy that would stand the test of time in the land, and, eventually, beyond the Zambezi, in Zimbabwe.
Stephen first issued grading certificates by the American Jukokai International martial arts organization. It was headed by one of the time’s leading innovative American martial arts Masters called Dr Rodney Sacharnorsky, 9th Dan; and was affiliated to the All Okinawa Seidokan Karate Kobudo Renmei (AOSKKR).
Soon after, another legendary grandmaster linked to the AOSKKR, Jerry Hobbs, 10th Dan, hit the Zambian Karate scene at yet another Stephen Chan’s facilitation, changing the face of Zambian, and subsequently, Zimbabwean Karate forever.
Jerry Hobbs would visit Zambia 2-3 times in the years 1983-86, if I recall. His dynamic training seminars took our understanding of Karate for sport and self-defence to a whole new level. Refining further the Toide/ grappling and throwing techniques, including Kobudo/ weapons training that Stephen had already introduced to us, he worked to make us complete martial artists beyond just rudimentary sport/ self-defence Karate knowledge and practice. The seeds for Dentokan Zambia were sown here during this time. Needless to say, thanks to Stephen Chan.
In early 1985, by bringing in another AOSKKR international affiliated giant from Greece, Grandmaster Bill Zahopoulos, 10th Dan, and his crack team of top-flight 3rd-5th Dan Black Belts, Stephen introduced us to real high-level international Karate competition for the first time. At the UNZA sports hall and the Ridgeway Hotel, the Zambian public were treated to spectacular, unforgettable competition fights, kata, as well as close to reality self-defence demonstrations by the Greeks.
The Zambian National Team Coach, Stephen Chan, had but fielded the crème de la crème of our fighters of the time. These included Raymond Mbazima, Alex Simwanza, Lemmy Ngambi, Paolo Piccinini, Papu Siameja, and yours truly. Later on in December of that year, Stephen sponsored my travel and participation in a Pan-European Karate tournament organized by Grandmaster Zahopoulos. The event was part of the greater celebrations marking the ancient Greek city of Thessaloniki’s 1000th year anniversary.
That first visit to Europe, and first competition experience in front of a large crowd of more than a thousand people would have a lasting impact on me. Ten years since I had left apartheid South Africa, my meeting with, and talking to so many people from all over the world opened my eyes and mind to the reality that, as I would mention in my gratitude speech to our hosts, “We all are one, same universal person!”
I must mention also that the late Bill Zahopoulos and his team brought a lot of joy and pride to the local Greek community in Zambia. As did the Americans, the Japanese, and the North Koreans regarding their own visiting Martial Arts masters respectively.
The official receptions hosted by the various embassies, government representatives, and prominent residents in Lusaka gave some of us, Stephens’s senior students, the first real taste of mingling in diplomatic circles. It was a great extra-mural learning experience I personally value highly to the present day. Through Paolo Piccinini, another Seidokan Zambia Super Star who would leave the country for home in 1984/5, we enjoyed much goodwill from the local Italian community as well.
July 1988 saw Stephen meeting up with Papu Siameja, Stephen Kamanga, Stanley Chiwambo, and I in Salamanca, Spain. We were attending a Seidokan Europe international training seminar hosted by another grandmaster in the system at the time, Sensei Boulahfa Mimoun Abdellah, 10th Dan. This provided us the unique opportunity to meet and train under the then head of the AOSKKR, Sensei Shian Toma, 10th Dan.
In attendance from Ireland was also Martin Rice. As a thirteen year old, he had returned home with a Seidokan Zambia 3rd Dan Black Belt degree three years earlier. It was a truly great re-union for all. From London, Stephen had also brought along Jerry Hobbs’ Hakko Ryu Jujitsu student, Angus Watson, a fine Budo gentleman who has afforded me the hospitality of his family home in London on more than one occasion.
I will, therefore, postulate that any talk about Professor Stephen Chan, OBE’s, Accomplishments and Impact in the Transformation of Martial Arts Culture in Zambia (and Zimbabwe) must necessarily take into consideration the internationalists that many of us have become as a result of having grown up under his tutelage.
Through TKD Black Belt, Jim Seeker, then head of the Marines Corps at the American Embassy in Lusaka, Stephen brought home the elegance and power of Tae Kwon Do kicking. An especially tense international relations moment arose when one day in, 1984/5, I think, Stephen arranged for Jim Seeker to do a demonstration of his American-South Korean brand of Tae Kwon Do. He would do this side-by-side with a visiting senior Black Belt Tae Kwon Do team from North Korea; all in the presence of the North Korean Ambassador to Zambia. Jim did his entire part with his back to the Ambassador.
Exposure to TKD further took our Karate kicking technique at UNZA to another level. Developments at UKC would, of course, be passed on to our satellite clubs at the Green Buffaloes Karate Club, Bank of Zambia Karate Club, and Ridgeway Karate Club.
As a martial arts teacher and leader, Stephen Chan embraced everyone who came his way. I often saw him demonstrate extreme tolerance with all kinds of people. He also demonstrated just as extreme levels of endurance and compassion.
In 1983/ 84, by getting the whole available UNZA Black Belt team to do a “1000 push ups Karateka” fundraising exercise for the Zambian Red Cross, he brought to me a new awareness and approach to philanthropy and community service. The same team would also run the first official Lusaka Marathon, drawing sponsorship from various donors in the same spirit of philanthropy and community service.
By these exercises above, I concluded that Stephen was teaching us that, as relatively more privileged and stronger martial arts students and artists, we didn’t want to alienate ourselves from the hard realities of the other side of society not having it so good in life. By extension, it is not uncommon to find Stephen Chan’s students and associates running Karate clubs in some of the poorest parts of the major cities in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
Stephen would unknowingly put to the test the “extreme tolerance with all kinds of people” I thought I had learnt from him, pushing me to “as extreme levels of endurance and compassion” I had observed him do on so many occasions. This was during the years 1986-88, the second phase of his influence in me when he was no longer physically in Zambia.
The leadership vacuum he left upon his departure in 1985 created serious misunderstandings amongst the UNZA Black Belts, as well as the club administration. These two units, in essence, formed the core of Seidokan Zambia. I’ll skip the details, but what I experienced here during this time exposed me for the first time to the real ugly side and intrigues of power and leadership. I made many mistakes, and got burnt severely. Nevertheless, I grew up a lot; although I didn’t quite see it, growing up, at that time.
In the middle of all this, Stephen had ordered me to technically break down and build anew the Green Buffaloes Karate Club. The club had for many years been training a rather special kind of Kung Fu. They had joined the Seidokan Zambia, and, as such, had to demonstrate mainstream Karate qualities all-round if they were to be accommodated in the national, newly-formed Zambia Martial Arts Federation.
It was a daunting but fun task working with raw and tough soldier boys aged between 18-25 years. By the time I left Zambia in 1988, my soldier boys were some of the absolute hottest fighters and kata executors in the country. They kept the fire burning for many years thereafter, I have been told. Some of them are prolific senior Sensei in their own right today. I had passed my test with flying colours; and I am still well pleased with the work to this day.
Parallel to working with the Green Buffaloes Karate Club, I had the hyperactive Jimmy Mavenge to prepare for his special 1st Dan Black Belt grading in the pipeline. He had needed that in order to have a bit of hierarchical and real experience muscle for him to meet his ambition of breaking down the racial barriers in the old Zimbabwe Karate fraternity. Jimmy had a burning desire to “take Karate to the people” in Zimbabwe, come what may.
Although he had originally committed himself to paying me generously for training and helping him to get a genuine Seidokan Zambia Karate Black Belt degree, I declined the offer in view of the greater good that his aspirations my Stephen Chan-trained mind saw. Originally coming from apartheid South Africa, any struggle against racism was, and is, my struggle.
The resistance and animosities that arose against the Chilembo-Mavenge unholy alliance from the then Seidokan Zambia leadership were gross. Despite that, my will of steel determination to go ahead and work with Jimmy the way I did was not only a function of my natural-born madness, stupidity, and pig-headedness; I simply played out, all the way, what and how I believed Stephen Chan would have done under the circumstances.
Although the environment was different, I did exactly the same thing when I first got to Norway with Seidokan Karate. Thoughts of the origins of both modern day Zimbabwe and Norway Jindokai fill me with a lot of joy, hope, and pride anytime.
When in April 1988, with the UNZA Open Karate Tournament of the year, I pulled off, until then the biggest and most successful martial arts competition meet in the country, I had modelled Stephen to the letter, from:
- the administrative groundwork processes,
- event operations management,
- involvement of detractors and supporters alike (Motivation: cause for common good, ultimately),
- sponsorship sourcing involving families and friends,
- showing sensitivity to local political climate and leadership,
- special winning prizes,
- marketing and advertising,
- budget control/ management,
- transparency, to
- media relations. The mutual goodwill that Stephen had built with Television Zambia, Radio Zambia, and the mainstream national print media was taken to even higher levels at this event.
It would be hard to convince me that the massive success of UNZA OPEN 1988 did not contribute significantly to anchoring even deeper the nationally dominant position of the then Seidokan Zambia. This, in turn, would consolidate Stephen Chan’s legacy, thereby legitimizing his continued relevance to Zambian martial arts growth and development to the present day.
From the beginning, the megalomania in me had, indeed, had ambitions of making the tournament “the biggest ever”. This was because my bruised ego wanted to make a strong statement before I too would leave the country, heading for studies in Norway. However, the outcome beat my visions and expectations by far. If I recall, at least two hundred Karateka had participated, showcasing some of the very best Zambian competition Karate fighters and Kata performers of the time.
For the first time in the history of Zambian competition Karate management, we carried out elimination rounds on four competition areas simultaneously. All spread in the entire spacious UNZA sports hall facility. The audience was given a competition Karate feast of a rare kind. And, I can, with confidence, declare that the professionalism, with which the event flowed from start to finish, set a national standard for arranging and managing subsequent events of the same nature. This was documented in a detailed file I had left with the UKC for records. To the best of my knowledge, a report of a similar kind had never been done before. However, because of the unprecedentedly large sponsorship amounts of monies involved, transparency was a major preoccupation of mine in that regard.
Because I chose to do the undertaking at a time when my popularity with Seidokan Zambia was as low as could be, had it been a failure, I most probably would have sunk with the entire group. If they still would have come to being anyway, I think both Dentokan Zambia and Jindokai Zambia would have taken different forms from those we see today.
It was a fascinating process for me, from behind my madness façade, to observe and study quietly how Stephen ever so very elegantly danced his way through forces resisting change and new thinking in the entire Zambian Karate and Martial Arts fraternity.
“Rebellious Diplomacy” is my personal concept that describes and applies my observed and learnt Stephen Chan methods of pushing ahead, against all odds, with that which has to be done towards the attainment of certain predetermined goals. The assumption and conviction being that the outcome will be for the common good.
I know that there are some of my generation who do share the view that we learnt more about human relations than actual Karate training and skills from Professor Stephen Chan, OBE. Karate and the Martial Arts were, and still are, simply a tool, a platform for the unfolding of certain aspects of each our own human potential to the highest levels possible.
In conclusion, I contend, therefore, that it is in the focus on the humane aspects of the Martial Arts that Stephen Chan’s Accomplishments and Impact in the Transformation of Martial Arts Culture may be found. Evidence of this lies in abundance in all parts of the world, including Zambia itself, where many of his most outstanding students and Martial Arts associates are found, and continue to flourish.
Simon Chilembo, 6th Dan
Tel.: +27 81318 5271
June 16, 2016
Thinking about it as a grown up man, I’ve found that in my social interactions at all levels, I am driven by only two concepts: fairness and justness. The thesaurus lists the two as synonymous. Operationally, though, I take the liberty of applying “fairness” in relation to the good-bad duality; and “justness” to that of right-wrong.
I postulate, therefore, that if it is fair, it is good. It is uplifting. It is praiseworthy.
If it is unfair, it is bad. It is devious. It is condemnable.
If it is just, it is right. It is life supporting. It is revered.
If it is unjust, it is wrong. It is destructive. It is punishable.
When it comes to my friends, I have found fairness playing itself out in how they have accepted me in the way that I am. They have also allowed me to open doors into my life for them, equally accepting them for what and how they are. With the very closest of my friends, the mutuality of respect for one another’s strengths and fallibilities keeps me awake at night some times. It fills me with ever so much joy.
I have found justness playing itself out in hard times, especially.
It is the constant awareness of inter-personal fairness that keeps the love for my friends alive. Fairness constantly sensitizes me to elements of respect, tolerance, and moral codes cementing our friendship. These elements then extend to form the core of the interplay of justness as we all face and seek to overcome the intrinsic daily challenges of life, working either individually or collectively.
In hard times, when a friend has been overcome by misfortunes of some kind or other, those friends who are just, and able, will come forth and assist in any way deemed necessary. In principle, the friends will be motivated by the desire to help a fallen friend to come back on track and lead a happy and productive life again. Acting this way, they will be displaying moral rectitude, and honour.
Moral rectitude, or integrity, is an internal personal attribute. It reflects a person’s capacity to exercise fairness and justness. It expresses the good in us, our ability to empathise. A lack in this quality manifests itself in anti-social tendencies of, for instance, egotism, envy and spitefulness. The latter tendencies can lead to unjust acts vis-à-vis friendship moral codes, even to the extent of breaking the law.
Honour is external. It comes from the outside as a form of recognition of the good deeds attributable to a person of integrity. Therefore, in a perfect world, integrity serves, while honour acknowledges, and may reward; both occurring in a balanced climate of mutual respect. Bearing in mind that life’s pitfalls face us all equally; albeit in unequal measure and variable spaces and time. One of life’s guarantees is that one day, we all gonna fall. In that case, it should be a given that everybody needs a friend.
Driven by loss of integrity in desperate times, though, some people ever so incessantly push and cross the boundaries of common human decency with extreme insolence: they unjustifiably stab their friends in the backs. Trust betrayed. When justness is insensitively broken, there is no way the centre of a friendship can hold. That is how friendships die.
Tel.: +27 81318 5271
June 16, 2017
IT CAME TO PASS
It has been one year, one month, three and half weeks since I posted the last blog article. Since then, some of the most predominant happenings in my world are as follows:
- I have written and published my second and third books
▫ Machona – Emigrant
▫ Machona Awakening – Home in Grey Matter
The fourth book manuscript is off to the editor. Working on the final touches of the fifth book. In my head, plot incubation period of the sixth book is over; getting in the works soon.
- My extended writing sabbatical continues. My creative asylum is burning hot with inspiration.
- International Big Business ambitions have burnt me once again. But, I have fallen so many times before that I’ve sustained no scars at all this time. My resilience has never been any higher. I have never been happier. Be it known that I am far from finished. If ever.
- I have made two short visits to Lusaka, Zambia. Met my people. Flesh and bones of my fathers made me ever so happy and proud. Lusaka Karateka gave me a warm welcome; allowed me to rescind my retirement from international Karate practice and teaching with them. Life is good.
- The distances between a few of my old personal relationships have grown wider. One or two old relationships have taken a dive. Good riddance. Breathing has never been easier. I can see clearly now. My soul is free.
- Key old relationships just keep growing stronger. I got more than I asked for here. Gratitude, humility are the names of my game.
- New relationships have only been a blessing. To love and be loved in return is a wonderful thing. Love is the power.
- The UK took Brexit, leaving modern Western civilization shaken to the core. Shocking. International solidarity thrown into the English backyard.
- The world bid farewell to outgoing President Barack Obama, a man who made political leadership seem ever so cool.
- Defiant, in self-centred Brexit-arrogance style, the USA replaced Obama with insolent Donald Trump. This is one American president who is having the time of his life peeing on the heads of We People who are Darker than Blue. All others, in America and the rest of the world, who think they are wise and progressive forces of humanity, aren’t spared either. Please, please, God, save America!
Reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s “There is no war!”- Minister, Donald Trump says, “There is no global warming!”
Gawd, what have we done to deserve this? Global warming is one threat to humanity we can fix without shooting a single bullet. We created it. We can fix it. Just stop burning coal, among other simple measures. Any fool ought to see this.
- North Koreans continue test-firing ballistic missiles. Much like Donald Trump, North Korean president Kim Jong-un is having a ball going against the world’s concerns for possible nuclear war outbreak in the Far East, if not the world. World media show pictures of him in his characteristic self-satisfied grin of a stuffed spoilt brat. He seems to be saying, “World War 3? Bring it on!”
Jesus, if there’s hell below, we all gonna go. The end of the world is not going to come as it is written in the Bible. It is nigh. Even if God is smarter than man: for he so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- The Syrian war goes on unabated. Bombs keep raining in Yemen. Other bombs explode from vehicles and human bodies across the Middle and Near East. ISIS spreading terror, killing indiscriminately its own and people in major cities of the Western world.
People don’t seem to die enough; people don’t seem to suffer enough. If it’s not in the name of God, it’s in the name of Democracy. An indecisive stalemate in which people make and devour themselves in never ending circles in motions of genocide. The circles do stop moving for each and every person that gets killed, though.
In death, we all are indisputably one; God and Democracy cease to matter, then. Not really worth the madness, ultimately. There really is no life after death. We leave heaven and hell behind here on earth when we die.
“Who is to blame?” is another war being fought on all fronts: from philosophers, Human Rights Activists, to humanitarian organizations. Is it the Americans? The Russians? The Arabs? Who?
Warring over what? Oil? Land? World domination? Only God knows. She doesn’t seem to care much, though. The monster she created out of humanity has gone out of control. What say ye, democracy pushers of the world?
- In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the butchering of people continues. Boko Haram is still causing havoc in North Eastern Nigeria; some Chibok girls have been released, though.
In Somalia, al-Shabab is still determined to annihilate The Horn of Africa.
- Africans babies and young children, young men and women, keep getting roasted in the Sahara, and drowning in the Mediterranean Sea in their desperate attempts to get to the lands of milk and honey in Europe. So miserable is the real African condition for many of its people in their own countries. Still no movement of even the little finger from African leaders. Embarrassing. Shameful. Disgusting.
Africa unite? Bullshit talk in African Union summit this summit that, year in and year out. Keep the official receptions champagnes and whiskies flowing, keep the Cuban cigars burning. Blow the smoke over the Mediterranean Sea waters. Let those fleeing Africans drown in peace.
- The French just recently voted in Emmanuel Macron as their new president. Saved the European Union from collapse, and gave new hope to the world.
- Elon Musk and Tesla keep rocking the world. The non-fossils, renewable energy revolution is here. Welcome the future today.
- Beyoncé and Jay-Z are expecting twins.
- The world has not gone under. Yet.
- The sun still shines over South Africa.
- Zuma is still in power.
- African National Congress (ANC) structures continue steering a sinking ship.The Voice of reason, “Abandon ship, Comrades!”
ANC structures spokesperson, “Why abandon ship? How? What is that? What is it you are talking about? Can’t you not see how much water is there in the sea out there? Or, are you blind? You see, my friend, we did not fight for freedom so that we come and die in the ocean! But, you don’t know that. O’vious.
Let us focus on Radical Economic Transformation, please! This talk about ships and their abandonment is rubbish, plain rubbish; a tactical distraction manoeuvre by imperialist agents, enemies of the revolution.
And, so, who else wants to say nyweee-nyweee, Zuma dis, Zuma dat, Nkandla what-what, and so on and so forth? Huh, the Gupta family? There’s nothing like that. Who are they, mhumm? I donno what are you talking about. Don’t believe everything you hear on fake news! Next khweshen, heh?”
Oh, no, Morena, boloka setshaba sa heso! / God save my nation!
Tel.: +27 81318 5271
June 01, 2017
- From an independent and private position I find it imperative upon, and within incumbent South African President Jacob Zuma’s prerogative to now step down and resign. By that, he will be preserving whatever little honour as a leader and noble citizen of the land he has left. Moreover, he will be saving the country much international diplomacy and business ridicule and embarrassment.
My imploring JZ to step down and resign is inconsequential of whether I like him or not. Manifestation of any lack of respect for an elder and leader in accordance with “… it’s our African culture!” is of no relevance here either. My stand is based on impersonal well-thought out critical thinking leadership principles and philosophy.
- Watching how the once most revered African National Congress/ ANC and its loyal structures defend the indefensible in President Zuma’s already long tarnished beyond repair image and reputation as a national leader is a fascinating endeavour.
It’s like hopelessly watching a woman I dearly love slowly drugging herself to death on a daily basis. With every new temporary abstinence killing shoot, she has gone beyond believing; she deliberately defies logic and reason. She ever irrationally convinces herself in vain that the new shot would be the very last and most decisive to fix and put everything back in place again once and for all. On and on till she drops dead.
Perhaps with death comes freedom from self-deception. If only death could clean up messes caused, destructions effected, and crimes committed in the living. A misguided ship’s captain dead in his sunken ship in the middle of the ocean will never bring the machine back to surface; neither can he bring back to life the dead, not to mention coming back to console the bereaved.
The ANC is like a sinking ship which can no doubt easily be rescued by simply plugging up the hole letting in water in the hull. But the amazingly dedicated and hardworking, loyal structures personnel would rather use as badly porous buckets to throw out, instead of attending to the cause of the ship’s taking in the water causing it to sink. The problem is that if at all, very few will be good swimmers. So, when the ship finally sinks, all shall be lost. I might as well bid the ANC farewell. My heart is sore. Buya, Mandela, izwe se li khathele!
- So, the State President has publicly apologized and shown remorse for having “… failed to uphold, defend, and respect the Constitution as supreme law of the land.” Cool. Magnanimous. But the beef is that apology and remorse are meant to enliven the conscience of the offender. It ought to remind the offender of a thing called humility, as well as his own humanity with its strengths and fallibilities, like everyone else.
We are found guilty in the face of the law of the land because we have caused somebody, or some common societal value held sacred to hurt. When we are asked to, and do indeed commit ourselves to apologizing, it’s our acknowledgement of the fact that we are after all only human, and that our undesirable and offensive acts have indeed caused others harm. We want to be forgiven essentially for the easing of our own sense of guilt; but, above all, also to acknowledge the humanity of other people. That’s called empathy.
Acknowledgement of the offender’s empathy outreach does not, and cannot nullify the wrongful act/ -s committed. In the free world, the law is by design, purpose, and intent cold and impersonal for that reason. We apologise to offended people hoping to receive forgiveness and understanding.
We show remorse in front of the law, its institutions, and agents hoping only for leniency in the face of the impending and non-avoidable due and relevant punitive action. A blatant disregard for the law, and in this regard, the highest law of the land, ought to deprive the offender of certain privileges and rights. These may, in the first place, may have facilitated the desire and/ or inclinations to break the law with blind and arrogant impunity.
The Constitutional Court ruling clearly demonstrates that the presidential incumbency has been abused. This ought to be enough grounds for the ANC to disown President Zuma. That can be done without being personal about it. But then again, if the President is the organization itself; when he goes down, he goes down with it. Makes perfect sense. Farewell, my lovely ANC.
- In my second novel, the story narrator explains a special Black South African attitudinal phenomenon. That phenomenon could help explain the intricacies of organizational/ political leadership and power as manifest not only in the ANC, but across the board in the country, perhaps even beyond the South African borders:
EXCERPT – “Kassie mentality … espouses and epitomizes the most base of manifestations of arrogance, disrespectfulness, and cantankerousness towards, as well as undermining of others perceived to be inferior and worthless as human beings.
It also includes boundless pig-headedness, acute levels of unreasonableness, including tribalism, and regionalism. Furthermore, it defines the basis for manifestations of extreme levels of defiance against, among other things, authority. That often culminating in self-destructive tendencies more than helping to achieve any meaningful, life-supportive goals for the self and/ or others.
This cuts across the strata of Black South African society, from the ordinary man or woman on the street to top politician, through academia to business. It would come out more glaringly in the actually relatively more culturally sophisticated and more personal, as well as national identity aware and secure Zambia.
Instead of showing humility and gratitude to the country and its people, the kassie mentality South Africans would play out all their degenerate township life attributes to their hosts, calling them …”
NOTE: Continued in the book, MACHONA – Emigrant. The book may be ordered on Amazon.
- Now that spoken have I, if I die I die. However, I’m just not ready to be a martyr yet. I live in pure preference of earthly maidens and virgins, although any active pursuance of them is not a favourite pastime of mine. So, I speak because I want to live in peace and harmony in the great and beautiful land South Africa is: a beacon of Democracy and freedom in Africa.
Tel.: +27 717 454 115
April 07, 2016