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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
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 … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
June 16, 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 … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA BLOGS – As I See It”. Order Simon Chilembo books on Amazon)
April 07, 2016
HOME AT LAST! Part 32
BETRAYAL IN THE DIASPORA
I do not know José Mourinho personally. I would be very surprised if he would ever be interested in knowing whether I exist or not. We live in such divergent worlds, miles upon miles apart. I refer to him here only for the one reason that his recent fall from glory and grace finally brought it on home to me that, as leaders, makers, as well as movers of men and women, when the mighty fall, there is one common thread connecting them all, … That common thread is betrayal. Jesus was betrayed to the cross by one of his disciples, Judas. His Chief Disciple, Peter, would disown him three times at the very last minute. But I won’t go there … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA AWAKENING – home in grey matter”. Order other books on Amazon here).
December 29, 2015
HOME AT LAST! Part 30
OWN TURF IN THE DIASPORA
Because I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, the notion that I must be happy with what I have here and now, no matter how little, was ingrained in my head from a very early age. If I could get more by doing what is acknowledged as good and acceptable practices, well and good. However, if it doesn’t work, too bad. Try something, or go for something else, and/ or simply wait.
Waiting never meant for me to just rest on my laurels, hoping for some miracle to happen for the more of that which I want to materialize somehow, without any effort from me, though. If I have to pray, it will be more to introspect and find peace of mind so I can think more clearly, but not for God to deliver it all for free just because I believe in her … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA AWAKENING – home in grey matter”. Order book on Amazon).
November 23, 2015 (more…)
HOME AT LAST! Part 23
WALOBA AWARD 2015
Diaspora Friendship, Brotherly Love Celebration
To introduce the recipient of Waloba Award 2015, I take the liberty of reproducing an edited version of my speech to him on his 50th birthday earlier in 2015:
- You don’t know what it’s like
To love somebody
To love a Brother
The way I love you …
- Modern, enlightened, liberated men happily declare their love for one another openly even if their love is not of a physically intimate nature. Some call it Bromance. In any case, in South Africa, land of the free, home of the brave, people love who they love, as provided for, and enshrined in the constitution of the land.
- I’ve heard it said somewhere that if you are not grown up yet by age 50, forget it, you’ll never grow up … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA AWAKENING – home in grey matter”. Order book on Amazon).
June 26, 2015
Regarding the renewed, more grave, xenophobic violence rocking major cities of the land at the moment, on the ground, enlightened and critically thinking South Africans know that there is more to South Africans’ apparent envy over foreign nationals’ business acumen, as well as their apparent resultant financial success.
There aren’t many social interaction spaces as revelatory of the true colours of individual and collective human behaviour and attitudes as in places of trade, market places. It’s only natural, therefore, that when shit hits the fan, as is the case with the current xenophobic hassle in South Africa, it will be in and around retail business outlets … (Continued in the book: “MACHONA AWAKENING – home in grey matter”. Order book on Amazon).
April 18, 2015