Nyamhoka's bid to rescue martial arts

MUTARE - Sakubva is gangland. And most of those involved in this war are using martial arts as they seek to gain territory over rivals.

This has led to all those who practice the sport being invariably labelled mobsters whether they are members of a gang or not.

Recent violence outbreaks between different gangs for control over territory only worsened the high density suburb’s stigma of the sport.

But one of its most eminent sportsmen is now fighting the tag. As a four-time national kickboxing champion, Knowledge Nyamhoka, is trying to bring back integrity to martial arts.

Hailing from the notorious part of Sakubva — Japan — which is well known for its running battles between warring gangs, Nyamhoka is tired of being branded a mobster.

“Martial arts and gyms were, for long, associated with violence and thugs but we are rehabilitating that image,” he tells the Daily News on Sunday.

Nyamhoka dominated the local kickboxing circuit and won the national championship between 2002 and 2005 before leaving for South Africa as the economy imploded.

He is back in Zimbabwe and now runs a gym at Sakubva Beithall.

Nyamhoka is largely a self-taught Third Dan Black Belt master having started his career in martial arts with Wushu, a combination of various styles.

“I was trained by a Japanese master for about a year when I was only a 14-year-old before he left the country and I started reading and practising on my own and with the help of other martial artists in Sakubva,” he says.

“I later settled for kickboxing but because we didn’t have a proper grading system I was graded through the competitions I would enter and win. I was never defeated in the ring in more than 40 fights.

“I then started this gym to share with others what I learnt over the years in a more formal environment. I had even wished to have my own academy but I’m converging everything in this gym.”

Nyamhoka, also works with Rebuild Sakubva, an organisation that is working to rehabilitate the suburb’s image.

“We now have old people and women visiting our gym,” he says.

Rebuild Sakubva executive director Lucia Nkomo said the gym now has more females members than men.

“The slimming belt is their favourite. There are also free aerobics every Thursday afternoon which attract a lot of women as they now appreciate the benefits of fitness,” Nkomo said.

She said Nyamhoka was winning his battle as people were now coming from all over the city to the Beithall.

“We have people from all the city’s suburbs and from all walks of life coming to this gym at the heart of Sakubva. We have pastors, doctors and other professionals coming which was unimaginable only a short time ago,” she said.

Nyamhoka said more and more people are also embracing the rather new thinking that you do not build muscle and martial art skills to go around terrorising members of the public.

“We have a strict disciplinary code that you are not coming to this gym to build skills to assault people,” he says. “We do not want any of our members associating with violence.”

An instructor at the gym Charles Makukutu said:  “We have about 120 members who come here for body building, power lifting, kickboxing and general fitness.

“We always emphasise that we are here to develop ourselves and stay fit as well as to be able to defend ourselves not to cause others harm and so far, we are being very successful.”

Although there is proliferation of gangs around Sakubva due to the high unemployment rate among youths and drug abuse, at least there are some people who are trying to stop the violence.

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