Martial arts may not be as highly appreciated in Kenya as other sports, but there are individuals like Peter Karanja who are determined to change that perception. With a passion for karate that began in his childhood, Karanja has not only achieved a fourth-degree black belt but has also dedicated his life to sharing the benefits of martial arts with his community.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
In the bustling neighborhood of Kayole, Nairobi, Peter Karanja is Taekwondo coach and the founder of the Obama Manthis Kenpo Karate Club, which operates out of the Kayole Social Hall.
While martial arts may not be the most popular sports in Kenya, Karanja firmly believes that with the right approach, it can be a path to a successful career and a way for individuals to earn a living.
Karanja’s journey into the world of martial arts was ignited by his early fascination with karate.
As a child, he would sneak into local gyms and social halls to observe people training in this discipline.
His passion was further fueled when he witnessed a karate trainer named Charles Wanyama, who displayed an incredible amount of passion and style in his craft.
“Boby Were was really good at his craft and by that time, he had reached eighth degree black belt. He motivated me to pursue karate as a profession,” Karanja who officially began his journey into karate in 2000 under Coach Boby Were told City Biz.
Coach Boby Were, an eighth-degree black belt holder, proved to be a significant influence on Karanja’s life.
Were’s dedication and skill motivated Karanja to pursue karate as a profession.
His determination led to him earning a first-degree black belt in 2011, and he decided to establish the Obama Manthis Kenpo Karate Club, where he charged a modest fee for training.
Karanja’s mission goes beyond personal gain; he is committed to sharing his knowledge and skills with others.
He states, “As much as I’m earning from training others, my focus is to empower others to have a skill that can help them in one way or another.”
Karanja’s club offers a comprehensive martial arts training program that covers various skills, including ground fighting, using the whole body for attacks, locking techniques, and the use of improvised weapons from everyday objects like keys, pens, or newspapers.
As students progress, they are introduced to more advanced techniques, and new skills are added to their repertoire.
Karanja’s club is open to individuals of all ages, ranging from seven to 50 years old.
He firmly believes that age should not be a limitation when it comes to martial arts. The affordable cost of training, with sessions priced at only Ksh100, makes it accessible to a broad range of individuals.
However, new students are required to register with a minimum fee of Kshh1,000, part of which goes toward federation fees, and they are also expected to purchase their sports kits.
On a given day, he gets an average of 40-50 trainees and from the estimate; he is able to pocket an average of, Sh4,000 per day.
The impact of Karanja’s dedication is evident in the number of trainees who have attained black belt levels in karate under his guidance.
Over 160 individuals have benefited from his coaching, and they now have the skills and knowledge to teach and compete at a professional level.
In addition to his club, Karanja has been hired by schools, colleges, and universities, including Riara Group of Schools and Kenyatta University, to provide his expertise in karate coaching.
Karanja’s mission to empower individuals extends to the domain of self-defense, especially for women. Trizah Njoki, a trainee at Karanja’s club, attests to the significance of acquiring self-defense skills.
She believes that these skills are essential in a society where women often face harassment and violence. Karate empowers them to protect themselves and assert their rights.
Peter Karanja emphasizes that karate is not about fighting but rather about self-protection, self-control, and promoting a healthy well-being.
It’s a means for individuals to gain confidence and ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones.
Despite his dedication and success, Karanja laments the lack of government support for martial arts as a sport.
He believes that more support could encourage youth to consider martial arts as a viable and rewarding career option.