• Caleb Atemi

There she was. Kicking and scratching, as three young men in military uniform dragged her...

To gain mastery you must unite the qualities of spirit, strength, technique and ability to take the initiative.”- Sadami Yamada, Principles and Practice of Aikido

Screams of Terror

Her screams tore through the afternoon stillness. They were screams of terror and utter fear. Yusuf and I hurried along the dusty path, skipping and hopping over open sewer and scaring away a raft of ducks ‘swimming’ in the sludge. We made our away towards the screams, our curiosity propelling us on.

There she was. Kicking and scratching, as three men in military uniform dragged her along the road. There was a Land Rover waiting by. They wanted to take her away. Yusuf gave me a knowing look and a cheeky smile. A slight chill ran down my spine as I decoded his message. He wanted us to rescue the girl.

We were on our way back to school. We had used the lunch break to rush to the market where Yusuf’s mother had a fruits and vegetable stall. Once in a while she would spoil us with fruits and Swahili cakes, Mahamri. With our stomachs full we headed back to school.

Enemy Territory

Our journey to school was always an arduous and treacherous one. Each time we went to Menengai High school, we had to pass through Bondeni estate, a hostile territory. Boys who dropped out of school and others who were allergic to education and knowledge, were always picking up fights with us. It was common for us to arrive in school bloodied or muddied depending on how the fight went.

Here we were in enemy territory. One of their daughters was being kidnapped by criminal elements within the military in broad daylight and no one dared to rescue her.

Growing up I witnessed many atrocities committed by men in uniform. The police frequently attacked our parents, beating and molesting them in the name of fighting illicit brew. In fact every year, young police recruits would be deployed in their hundreds in ours estates to practice their combat skills on the poor and the helpless. The military on the other hand, would target girls and women. They would raid an estate, beat up young men then capture girls for overnight or week long rape and molestation.

Everyone feared soldiers. It was rumoured that once one joined the military, they were injected with a special drug that gave them superhuman strength. No one dared confront them. Not until this Friday afternoon.

Yusuf and I were about to do the unthinkable. Our solace lay in the fact that, if we were beaten, we would carry our wounds with pride. “You see this scar? I received it from a fight with military men”. However, if we won, then our lives would be transformed. We would have earned a ticket to walk through Bondeni at any time and any hour as heroes.

The unthinkable challenge

Hey leave that girl alone” Yusuf shouted. “I said leave her alone or we beat you up”. The wind suddenly stopped blowing. Men, women and children who were hiding began to peep and crawl out of their hideouts to witness the unfolding madness. Two boys in school uniform were daring three trained military men.

Yusuf was a tall muscular boy. A product of Manyala Community, he hailed from Sio Port in Busia County. He was one of the finest boxers I had ever met. We both joined the boxing club while studying at Bondeni Primary school. The power and speed of his punches had become legendary.

With time however I stuck to Karate. I had practiced the two martial arts but was inclined towards karate because I felt safer in the dojo than I did in the boxing ring. The obsession that boxing had with the head made me uneasy.

I once won a bout but a punch I received from my opponent tormented my head for years. I suffered frequent bouts of pain and dizziness as the punch replayed itself in my head.

What did you say you stupid boy” shouted one of the soldiers rushing towards us. He literally flew at me. I quickly sidestepped and swept him off the ground as my elbow smashed his neck. He landed with a thud! The second soldier came running towards us. I think they had in their confidence misjudged what these school boys were up to. In his fury, he could not decide who between the two of us he should attack first. He met one of Yusufs best cross punches followed by an uppercut. He fell down flat on his face.

Encouraged, we now converged on the third soldier. The girl had meanwhile managed to break free. I believe in her disbelief, she could not even run away. She stood close by in a daze. The crowd was now forming around us. Whispers were quickly turning into shouts and ululation.

The third soldier stood no chance against the two us. We unleashed a flurry of punches and kicks on him. His two colleagues had managed to stand up but now with an emboldened crowd, they had to run for their lives. The driver of the Land Rover sped off almost knocking people down. The soldiers made great use of their training. No one could catch them. They fled in a flash.

Yusuf gave me a High Five. The local gang leaders escorted us out of the estate. They cleared the way for us. We had become their heroes. Bondeni estate had suddenly been transformed into friendly territory.

The Great Promise

We were late for school. We took the punishment of kneeling on concrete with relish. Both the school watchman and the discipline teacher thought we were high on something. And yes, we were indeed high on adrenaline. We could not comprehend what had happened in Bondeni. What started as a stupid, almost suicidal act, ended up being one of the best rescue missions we had ever indulged in.

We had used Karate and Boxing skills to help the helpless. We had saved a young girl from a despicable and horrendous experience. We had helped restore dignity and pride in the people of Bondeni.

Never again did soldiers set foot in Bondeni or other neighbouring estates. The youth had been reinvigorated and energised. They knew that they could do it; defend themselves against brutal and unwarranted attacks.

I have for years practiced Karate as a purely self-defence discipline. We only use Karate as the last resort to defend ourselves and the loved ones. After serving as the president of the Kenya Karate Federation and the World Authority Karate-Do Association, I established Taikan Africa.

Taikan Africa is a health and fitness firm that promotes the benefits derived from Karate and Aikido. Our programmes can help men and women living with lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. We also run a pure self defence programme for both men and women.

We run a leadership project based on the tenets of Karate and Aikido. A programme that can help restore virtues of; integrity; honesty; love; compassion; loyalty; courage; humility and self-discipline in both individuals and companies. We teach both children and adults life-saving skills. We shall soon be introducing the Israeli military art of Krav Maga in our training schedule.

Join us every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11.30am and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings at 6pm. We are located at the Parklands Baptist Church East Gate in Nyayo Embakasi where we help spread the gospel of Karate4Christ. In this project, we charge a modest fee to train children of parents who have steady incomes while we train for free boys and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I have never met the girl that we saved in Bondeni but wherever she is, I believe she must have told her children about that great afternoon when the wind stopped blowing.

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