RWANDA KARATE TRIP SUMMARY
What started with a couple of uniform donations transformed into a Martial Arts trip to Kigali, Rwanda, Africa. The purpose was to participate in the Rwanda Karate Federation's "Never Again" Karate Tournament to remember the 1994 Genocide, for me to teach a number of Karate seminars to their students and of course some sightseeing. Ms. Jensen, Kimberly Davies, Paula Burrows, Mr. Maynard and Ilka Guttler all came along. We left April 16 after extensive planning and communication, and were met at the airport, after a stopover in Brussels, by their President, Sensei Theo and Sensei Guy, their Technical Director. Off we went, past the armed guards, to our Hotel--Chez Lando.
Our first day we went to the Amahoro Stadium for a tour as the tournament was there. On the way we passed the UN Complex. We then drove around and were stopped by the country's Presidents guards for taking a photo, watched at a driving school and went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial for lunch and a tour. We then went to Sensei Guy's Dojo to watch his students [they all had great effort and energy] and then attended an official welcome by their Federation at the Cercle Sportif de Kigali.
Day two included a walk around downtown, a trip to the Planning Department, the outside roof of the tallest building, to the Mille-Collines Hotel and the first Karate Training session. It was well attended by their students and included a "cultural exchange" of Kihon and Kata. They certainly liked the effort by Kimberly, Paula and Ilka.
The next day included a visit to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport and Culture, the Belgian Soldiers Memorial, the Presidential Palace Museum, Sensei Guy's house and the next Karate seminar.
The following day started with the Karate seminar, a walk, shopping and a Sushi dinner with Sensei Theo, Sensei Guy and his wife, who graciously helped with our Visas.
Sunday April 22 was the day of the tournament which was attended by over 200 participants. Our own PAULA BURROWS won the First Place Gold Medal for women's Kata!! The most popular Kata they performed was Jion. I was interviewed by their Television station and it was on Rwandan TV that night. They presented us with a Gi signed by all their students plus individualized medals. [ We had given them various gifts each day since we arrived including the same Banner that is in our hallway]. There were also over 300 spectators and we were the first 'foreigners' to ever participate. A great day! [They seemed to really appreciate Ms. Jensen's longevity and vitality]
The next day was a 3 hour drive to the Murambi Genocide Memorial, lunch in Butare, a drive there around their National University, a tour of their National Museum, including a drumming display and then a drive by the former King's residence in Nyanza--then back to Chez Lando.
Four of our students left at 4:30 the next morning to watch the Gorillas! It was a 3 hour drive to see the Susa group which is the largest Gorilla group in the world. They had lunch at Lake Kivu and saw the border to the Congo. I spent almost 5 hours with Sensei Guy and one of his senior students reviewing everything I had showed them [3 kata, bunkai, self-defence, ippon kumite, forearm and resistance training, Tai Chi, various drills and types of push-ups].
On Wednesday April 25, Ms. Jensen left us to go on to Tanzania and Zanzibar, while we took another 3 hour drive to a different part of Lake Kivu at Kibuye--altitude 1486m. It separates Rwanda from the Congo. The day included a boat ride to an island featuring bats, a Sambaza lunch at the Bethanie Hotel and then the challenging drive back.
The last day included more shopping and a goodbye lunch with Sensei Theo, Sensei Guy and two of their senior students, Master and Aimable (very nice gentlemen), who throughout our stay were extremely generous with their time and transportation. It was then off to the airport for a flight to Brussels, with a touch down in Entebbe, Uganda.
Some common things during our visit were goats all along just about every road, people walking all day everywhere, various degrees of housing, a lot of traffic congestion, lush vegetation, armed guards in a great many places, delicious grilled kebabs and that although it was considered the rainy season with thunderstorms predicted, it hardly rained at all (their forecasts are like ours).
The Rwanda Karate Federation were excellent hosts--on the other hand they indicated that they were honoured to have us and that our visit there - during Genocide time- was a benefit to their reputation. They are somewhat isolated in their Martial Arts program and certainly seemed to enjoy ours. It seems that our students - who seized the opportunity to go - enjoyed themselves and hopefully appreciated the effort it took to organize this adventure. It was a Dojo trip throughout. They will tell you more and each of them agreed to combine pictures for a Dojo photo album, which is their contribution.
On a separate note, the Rwandan people were all friendly. It is a strange polarity in a country that has seen so much pain. The locations mentioned are on the map and/or in the book Shake Hands With The Devil. Hopefully it is "Never Again"