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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 … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
August 28, 2017
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 … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
Simon Chilembo, 6th Dan
Tel.: +47 92525032
June 16, 2016
A DISCOURSE ON SACRIFICE
The difference between donation and sacrifice is the outcome of the trade-off between or among relative values. I donate excess value the disappearance or lack of which will cause no harm to, or reduce, my sense of self-worth and/ or well-being; I donate when “I got more than I asked for, (and) there ain’t nothin’ I need…”
When I by conscious choice or otherwise give away all or part of what I have of material and/ or subjective value for what I consider to be of greater good than my ego considerations, I make a sacrifice.
I share when I am indifferent to personal gain or loss to the extent that that which I endeavour to give a part of, or parts thereof, to someone/ others, or a cause is such that its value neither diminishes nor grows when I have, and hang on to it all by and for myself alone.
I donate, I share; and carry on with my life, living happily ever after. It is the application of sacrifice in practice which has been a major area of fascination in my youth and subsequent adult years.
We must have been in Form 4 (Grade 11) when one day in 1980 our then Chemistry teacher at Kamwala Secondary School, the ever affable Mr Mehta, brought an elderly visitor from India to our class. The latter gentleman not only came to greet us, but he gave us an inspirational talk about, if I recall, growing up, education, and leadership. I now understand that the man was a spiritual leader visiting some of his disciples in Zambia at that time.
I recall him emphasizing that we should take it for granted that we were all in the class going to be highly educated and influential in society as adults. He went on to say that we would fill up all key positions in all aspects of societal organization, as well as development. We were all going to be top doctors, engineers, scientists, business people, military generals, politicians, etc. And, given our potential future influence, owing to our apparent superior individual and collective brain power, we were all destined to be very, very wealthy. We would have the biggest houses, the flashiest cars, and the most beautiful families.
I have always been optimistic about a prosperous future full of all material trappings of financial success and power for myself. However, that day, I got this awesome mind picture of my classmates and I as having become the strongest and best ever rulers and power brokers of the world when grown up. The imagery was so intense and seemed so real that I to this day become hot and moist in my hands whenever I think about it.
I must have come to when I heard the Guru asked, “But what is all this education, wealth, power, and influence about then?”
I imagine that we were all so mesmerized by this man that no one in the class found the breath to say a word. He told us, I recall, that it was all about the responsibility to share with others who may not be as lucky and privileged as ourselves.
He went on to say that we in essence become educated, wealthy, and powerful in order to serve society, starting with our smaller family units and immediate communities. This is so, the man argued further that … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
June 17, 2012
(Dedicated to my Karate students everywhere)