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FORWARD TO THE ROOTS
To mark my resumption of Karate teaching after a 2 ½ years’ semi-retirement, I take the liberty of reproducing an edited version of an interview I had with what are considered to be, in Karate terms, my Karate grandchildren in Zimbabwe. It is worth noting that my comeback is done in Welkom, the city of my birth in South Africa. This is where the adventure began.
BM: We are excited to be interviewing Simon Chilembo, Sensei, as a known pioneer of Seidokan back in the day. We hope to patch in some history that has been hazy, and we are grateful to people like Simon Sensei, who in many ways were responsible for linking Zimbabweans to Stephen Chan, Sensei, and responsible for shaping Jindokai as we know it today
1.BM. Sensei, many thanks for agreeing to this interview. We hope that we can go back with you in time. Please tell us how Sammy Chilembo was drawn to Martial Arts, and when this happened?
SC: I have always fought. First, as a smaller than average, sharp-tongued child protecting myself from others making my life difficult in various ways.
Second, defending myself as a mobbing victim, given my sudden growth in body weight and size from near pubescence to early teens.
Third, protecting my two siblings and myself against xenophobic and tribal inspired verbal and physical abuse arising from our father’s non-South African origin. There were also some direct responses to racial abuse and attacks in the then Apartheid South Africa.
I first started with Boxing from about age five. Christmas holidays 1971, in a street fight, I’m warned that someone was about to throw a stone at me from behind. I turn around to find, a few meters away, the boy raising his right arm to effect the throw.
Without thinking of it, I ran perhaps five steps and then flew on to the boy, kicking him with my right leg square in the face before he could throw the stone. Years later I’d understand that I had then performed something similar to a Tobi Yoko Geri.
Afterwards, people kept asking me where I trained Judo. I didn’t know what they were talking about; so I kept saying it was secret! It was during my ensuing investigations about Judo that I, a few months later, discovered James Bond. An older guy told me that Bond was a Karate expert, and there and then I knew I wanted to train Karate so as to be cool like Agent 007.
2.BM.Your first formal Karate, was this under Seidokan? When did you meet Chan Sensei?
SC: Although I now know that that the guy hadn’t gone very far in his Karate training then, I like to acknowledge Lefty as having been the first-ever person to give me a formal Karate training session sometime in 1972. Lefty was one of the few older guys really nice to me in our township in Welkom, South Africa.
He taught me Heisoku Dachi, Oyoi, Rei, and Hachi Dachi. Other than that I do not recall what exercises we did. But there sure was a lot of pain and sweat. And Lefty said one thing I never forget, “The most important thing in Karate is respect!” When I look back I think he could have meant “humility”.
I first met Chan Sensei in early 1981.
3.BM. How did Sedokan end up being such a force in Zambia, and later on Zimbabwe? Who introduced Seidokan in Zimbabwe?
SC: Regarding Zambia, my view is that at a very critical point in time we find at UNZA a spontaneous student convergence of the best and most promising Karateka in the country in the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. Then, at about the same time enters the scene an unusual Chinese Sensei Chan from New Zealand.
Sensei Chan’s style, approach, and attitude are like nothing we had ever seen before; very generous, very patient and tolerant, open, and inclusive, as well as innovative.
Sensei Chan subtly broke all rules of everything we thought we knew about fitness training, and all of the basics, kata, and kumite training. From this, we emerged with a new style of fighting, which was more mobile with more circular and spinning techniques, including takedowns.
At the same time we were all allowed to maintain and develop further our own individualities, such that it was difficult for opposing teams to find workable strategies against us who stood strong as a team, and yet performed so very differently individually. Respecting and developing further the uniqueness of the individual within the confines of certain specific techniques and methods has been a trait upheld since.
The late Jimmy Mavenge introduced Seidokan in Zimbabwe. Working then against very strong forces in Zambia, I facilitated this. When I heard that Zimbabwean Karate was represented in the World Championships 2012, I celebrated quietly, and thought, “You made it, Jimmy!” This is how it all started (excerpt from earlier correspondence to a friend):
[One Sunday morning early 1983, a BMW 5 series parks outside my home in Lusaka; and out comes the biggest and ugliest man I ever saw. Upon seeing me his face lit up brighter than the happiest baby face I ever saw… Although I had never met or heard of this man before, he spoke to me like we were like the oldest of friends (he had done some good research on me apparently). And, to be honest, Jimmy had enough charisma to kill the biggest elephant.
After introducing himself: Jimmy Mavenge, Green Belt holder, First Secretary at the Zim High Commission in Lusaka, on a 3 year tour of duty, he went on something like, “Zimbabwe Karate is polarized and racist. I want to change all that when I get back. Black people don’t go above Green Belt there; and I want to take Karate to the poorest of children in my country. You have to help me with this. I’m willing to pay you generously if you can give me a crash-training programme so I can return to Zimbabwe with a Black Belt. I am willing to work and train every day, I’ll do anything you want me to…!”
I remember my jaws sagging, my eyes bulging, with me saying a low key “Wowww…ohhhh…. ok, let’s do it!” I told him though that given the magnitude of the ambition, we had to this properly by engaging the then Zambia Seidokan…]
Unfortunately we initially received neither understanding nor support from the others. Only because both Jimmy and I were both mad thickheads, we unilaterally went ahead with the project any way, getting a lot of battering along the way. Rest is history; speaks for itself.
4.BM. Taking you back in the day, who were some of the young men you trained with? You being a champion back in the day, who was your most difficult opponent?
SC: When it came to kumite I was my own toughest opponent because I was just too strong and temperamental. With a history of disqualifications and injuries both inflicted upon my opponents, with me getting my own share, I do not have an impressive competition kumite record. Kata was, and still is my thing. I must mention though that, in my opinion, Lemmy Ngambi (late) was the most formidable fighter we had in Zambia during my time … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
January 19, 2014
- I once again state emphatically state that I am the proudest Black Man I know. And, believe me, I happen to know many, many proud and great Black Men. Starting with my own father, through Muhammad Ali, to Nelson Mandela. And then there is Barack Obama.
I know my strengths, my capabilities, and my potential. Behind every manifestation of real, fake, or fantasised weaknesses, I am at least ten times stronger at any one time. Do not try, do not test, and do not threaten me. I promise you, if you live, you may not be able to tell the story. “You think you are some kind of a God now Simon, don’t you?” I am God. Only no religion, no followers. Just Black & Proud. I tell it like it is, as mine eyes behold.
- I make some strong subjective claims in this posting. Were this an academic PhD thesis, I would substantiate every claim I make, of course. But that has to wait until such a time I do get into some serious PhD program in one thing or another.
Day before yesterday, the lady newly employed to come and assist us with domestic chores and all, does not report for work at the agreed upon time. My younger sister calls her on the phone. It turns out the lady had opted to go out to attend to some official bureaucracy errand instead, and that would keep her away all day. The same had occurred last week Wednesday.
Upon complaining to a girl friend that had recommended the lady, the friend says to my younger sister, “Our people are really strange. Had you been White, the woman would have told you, and requested for leave of absence in advance! Our people have no respect for work, not in the least us, who employ them, especially when we pay them well, and treat them humanely”
After an arduous day of clearing away construction site rubbish, I pay the 10 casual workers each double the normal daily rate in Welkom. I had also bought them a Nando’s grilled chicken + Coke lunch earlier on in the day. Politely, I thank them for a job well done, and ask them to, please, all come back the following day so we can finish off what was left of the rubble. Same generous conditions to apply. “Sure, Ngamla/ Boss!” all in unison, with apparent enthusiasm. So cool!
As I turn away, I hear one of them say, “Eish, bafowethu/ homies, enkleke/ really, I don’t work for Black people, mina/ myself. I’m not coming back …”
The speaker is a starving, unemployed, non-skilled street hustler as black as industrial coal. 33-45 degrees Celsius temperatures in January/ February, in central South Africa, can be very unkind on the skin, especially that of a malnourished one whose owner most likely doesn’t even have a decent place to stay either … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
October 18, 2013
THEY CAN FIGHT BACK
As a child I got fucked my brains out so by older girls I have since found big, strong, and powerful women very sexy indeed. I grew up around strong, beautiful women who, even as a child, I understood already, were used and abused only because they themselves allowed it to happen. However, only, it seemed to me, specific men got to treat the women as they chose. The men not favoured by these strong women in my life had it rough and tough indeed.
Beliza never got to do it to me, never seemed interested. One of the most beautiful, most desirable older girls I ever came across. She had her eyes on another, much older guy. Bastard! He used to even send me to go and fetch her from her home for him most evenings they had their dates. They would eventually get married.
Coming back home as a grown up man after many years abroad, and feeling good about myself, I go to pay a courtesy call on Beliza’s family. She was even more beautiful, more radiant as a mature woman. Although she was outwardly warm and welcoming, she, without saying it verbally, told me to fuck off. Witch!
In youth street fights I’ve been beaten clean and square only once. It was in my early teens. I had almost overnight become abnormally big physically given my age then, had started to train Karate, and had also started to earn a bit of my own pocket money. So, I was in my neighbourhood a flashy and self-confident young man at that time. This in practice meant that, among other things, I wanted a girl, any girl, I got her. But not Tumi. Shit! … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
(Read also: Guns, patriarchy and violence against women , Bert Oliver, Mail & Guardian, March 09, 2013)
March 11, 2013
IF YOU ARE REAL GOOD AND ARE REALLY COMMITTED, YOU’LL BE CHAMPION ANYWAY. JESUS!!!
The Zambian National Karate Team that would meet Zimbabwe in April 1981 went into the country with heads bowed. We checked into a Harare hotel unZambianically hushed up, like sheep entering a slaughterhouse. That was my impression. We had already lost against Zimbabwe, long before we would embark on the goodwill trip to mark Zimbabwe’s first independence anniversary celebrations.
A few weeks earlier on our National Team Coach had told us that, to be honest, we were no match against the Zimbabweans. The latter were rich and were almost exclusively White. This meant that by default they had better terms and conditions of training, with access to training facilities Zambians could only dream of. But we had strong minds, so we’d be fine, he told us. Ok … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
September 05, 2012
Chilembo Warrior Moves Karate • Development, hereafter CWM, is my safe home base playground. It begins and ends with me. Only I could make CWM for myself. In CWM I do what I have to do, play what I have to play without my inadequacies becoming an impediment for the expression of my overall creative potential. I play my freedom mind games without fear or favour here. CWM is an own platform for the unfolding of my visions, manifesting my values, beliefs, and faith both in thought and action. It encapsulates the story of my life; my past, my present, and charts the course into my future.
I use CWM as a tool to help me make sense of my reality. It helps me structure my thoughts; it helps me to focus. I withdraw into CWM to find answers and meanings to things and events. This is a realm in which I come out of myself for internal dialogues and reflections with myself. My alter ego is my best conversation partner.
My strengths, my strong sense of independence, my free spirit, my rebelliousness, my will to survive, my self-confidence, my innovativeness, my tenacity, my sense of fairness and justice, my ethics, my empathy, are all written on the entire space that is CWM. I walk, and I live my name. Chilembo will contextually mean that which is written down/ the written word/ handwriting/ scripture.
The CWM logo tells it all:
- The book represents the solid intellectual and academic knowledge foundation upon which CWM is based. Education is paramount; it is an imperative.
- The shield represents the protecting and defending roles and functions of a warrior. The Chilembo Warrior moves to protect himself and his own with love and compassion, all in the name of peace, fairness, and justice for all.
- The CWM mind is in a healthy body. Karate training and teaching over a period of 40 years has made my body very strong; has taught me to love and respect life. However, if I have to fight evil I will always aim for the heart. Whatever method I use, I’ll be sharp and precise like a warrior spear.
- Karate has been an invaluable personal development tool for me. It has taught me the value and essence of teaching, leading, coaching, guiding, and mentoring others. Karate has given me a taste of child upbringing. I have had the entire spectrum of life experience in my Karate endeavours, from love through victory to betrayal. Karate has made me whole.
When I have now retired after 35 years of active Karate teaching, and I no longer own or run a club of my own anywhere, CWM will keep me going strong forever. CWM provides the magic carpet rides that will help maintain and sustain the long-existing bonds between my students, colleagues, friends, as well as my teachers and I.
As my students have now taken over the running of my former two clubs in Norway, I cruise around on CWM carpet rides feeling like a proud old man enjoying the pleasure of seeing his children and grandchildren carrying on with Warrior work towards enlightenment through Karate. There’s nothing as good as good history repeating itself. I’ll always be available on consultant basis if and when my students wish to ride with me on the CWM magic carpet of constant innovation and fresh thinking. And for an indefinite period, out of current practical considerations, my engagement with my international Karate affiliations will be limited. But I’m definitely on board.
In my CWM magic carpet cruises all over the world I will, both impromptu and upon request, issue CWM certificates of recognition to practicing and retired Karateka, as well as friends of Karate and the Martial Arts in general.
Tel.: +47 92525032
August 15, 2012