The sport that protects
Botswana Kofukan Federation Chief Instructor Million Masumbika is one of the few local sports people who have through dedication got international recognition. An international karate instructor and referee Masumbika talks to Dubani-wa-Dubani about his love for the sport, life as a sportsman, family man, challenges facing our society, especially the youth today. He also believes that karate can help mould people into respected citizens who can defend themselves and protect others whenever the need arises.
Q. A lot of people know you as Masumbika the Karateka, can you tell us a little more about yourself?
I was born and bred in Changate and like most boys in a village at the time I grew up herding goats and cattle and helping out in the fields. I had a happy but disciplined childhood. I did my primary education in that village and then went to Shashe River School for my Junior Certificate in 1977 but had to drop out in form two due of illness. After leaving school I stayed in Changate for a while and after a few months of recuperating I asked my mother to let me go to Gaborone to stay with my cousins I until I recovered enough to continue with my schooling. It was whilst in Gaborone that I decided against going back to school and in 1979 I joined the army after seeing an advert for privates in the Daily News. It was after completing my training that I realised the importance of continuing with my education and in 1983 I started studying for my junior certificate through non formal education. I have a diploma in Business Management from IDM and am presently pursuing a Diploma with the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and supplies. I am married two Godiramang and we are blessed with twins, Thato and Thabiso. I am a soldier who has worked himself up the ranks from private to warrant officer.
Q. Tell us about your love for karate and what inspired it?
I first fell in love with Karate whilst at Shashe River School but did not join the school club. I played football briefly instead. It was only after joining the army in 1979 that I started practicing Karate. I joined the BDF Karate Club in July 1979. Some members of the club included household names like Martin Sekotswe and Thuto Thuto. We became the best in the country, winning most BDF and national competitions. We then started getting invitations to compete and train in other countries especially Zimbabwe. It was through the Zimbabwean connections that I ended up meeting my present master, Shihan Keiji Tomiyama. In fact in 1990 whilst in Zimbabwe at the invitation of the Zimbabwe Karate Federation I trained under Ken Johnson from the UK who is one of Shihan Keiji Tomiyama’s students and we felt it was important that we invite him to come and conduct some training session for our clubs. When he came we invited other clubs in the country for the weekend training. He recommended that we apply for membership of the International Kofukan Federation, we did that and we became members on August 1, 1991.
Q. Karate is a foreign concept and Batswana are starting to get concerned that most imported cultures are hurting the nation. Any comment on that?
The element of respect is part of the Japanese as it is that of our culture. Children are taught to respect and learn from elders and elders are encouraged to respect young people. The Japanese are very respectful people and this culture is an important part of karate. Karate demands that equal respect be given to all: the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the strong, and the weak. Our Setswana norms also demand such. In this sense I see karate as an extension out our values.
Q. As a parent what message do you have for other parents in regard to raising children?
We must counsel and discipline our children and do our best to mould them into productive and respectful citizens. After all they are the destiny of our nation and the world is in their hands. If we don’t do our best to guide our children to a better future we are not only creating a problem for our children but ourselves and the rest of society. Failing to guide and discipline a child now spells trouble for any parent. I talk to my children a lot and I always emphasize the importance of discipline.
Q. Besides talking to them what else do you do to inspire them to be better people?
Sometimes I take unpopular decisions and even though they will be against it I know it will be for their good. For example I insist on knowing their friends and they know I will not hesitate to tell them what I think of them. If I feel they are not good for them I will say so and if necessary kill the friendship myself. I have terminated a number of my son’s friendships and although he hated me for it then, he has come to realize that I was doing it out of love and to protect him.
Q. Most people have heroes who inspire them in life. Do you have any?
Many people have touched me but four deserve a special mention. My mother, former BDF Commander retired Lt General Matshwenyego Fischer, My Uncle Josiah Mahelo and my Karate master Tomiyama. My mother has always been supportive of me and was always by my side when I was young and sick. She was also the first person to castigate me for laziness and inspired me towards believing and pursuing my dreams. I worked under General Fischer for a very long time before he became commander and he encouraged me to take my job, sport, education and whatever I chose to do seriously and to always strive for excellence. My uncle Josiah taught me the value of hard work and patience. He also trained me to get up early and work till late. I remember the times when there was no work to do after meals in the evening, he would take out this big can that contained nails of different sizes and make us sort them into piles of the same size. When we were done he would put them back into the container again and make us sort them out again. Back then I did not understand why he was doing that but I later realized that he was teaching us not to be idle. Tomiyama is the reason I have achieved what I have in Karate.
Full Name: Million Tabalume Masumbika
Date of birth: June 3, 1959
Place of Birth: Francistown
Marital Status: married with twins
Food: Sadza le Denbgwe (Thick Millet Porridge) and vegetables
Drink: Any Fruit Juice
Coulur: Black, the colour of my skin.
Music: Country and Western.
Musician: Don Williams.
Movies: I am not a movie person and most of the time the only thing I watch on TV is karate or football.
Football Team: I am a fan of Notwane, the Zebras, Orlando Pirates (South Africa), Liverpool and Brazil.
Football Player: Liverpool’s Steven Gerrad is my main man. What a player.
Dream Car: I am not much into cars
Hoilday Destination(s): Victoria Falls, Cape Town and Mauritius.