Nine year old Masai Keipeile is a Karateka like no other in Botswana. And not only that! The youngster, who has wowed Batswana with his Karate skills, has a big heart.
Born without the use of his lower body, the nine year old is a living epitome of the saying ‘disability is not inability.’
While many a people in his situation would have given up their hope of being karatekas, Masai, who now holds a yellow belt in Karate, ‘has never let his body tell him he cannot do it as his lower body does not operate.’
Growing up with a Karateka father, Masai says his love for karate started very early through watching his father as well as his love for martial arts movies.
It was this exposure that eventually propelled him to want to learn the sport, something which his family approved despite his physical limitations.
According to his father, Jerry Ditlhong, despite the physical limitations, letting the young Masai do karate was an easy decision.
“Naturally he is an energetic guy; even on a wheelchair he is full of energy. He does a lot of things that require a lot of energy and he manages,” his father Jerry Ditlhong explained.
According to Ditlhong snr, who happens to be a Sensei, as soon as Masai expressed his desire to learn karate, he started slowly training and helping him to do small exercises like push ups as he can only use his upper body.
As the youngster grew more stronger and more confident, Ditlhong approached renowned trainer Shihan Mpho Bakwadi for assistance to allow him to join his normal karate class and Masai has never looked back ever since.
A year since joining normal karate classes, Masai has now graded to yellow belt and is now a permanent feature in Karate circles, with him being called to do demonstrations at various Botswana Hayashi Ha karate events.
However, with no Karate competitions for the physically disabled in Botswana, the young champ is now casting his eyes abroad to compete.
“I wish to go to overseas to be a Karate World Champion and win gold medals,” a confident Masai said.
According to the athlete himself, being a karateka helps him go on with his life as it allows his to learn more every day and not to let anything stand in his way.
A sign of his bullish character, an ambitious Masai, who is said to be a straight A student, says he intends to be a medical doctor, something which his parents believe he can achieve.
“He has a strong mental character. As young as he is, he is well informed he reads a lot and this motivates us as parents,” his father Ditlhong said explained.
According to Ditlhong, through his son’s participation in Karate, he is hoping other kids with physical limitations like Masai’s who love karate will be inspired to take up the sport.
Through Masai’s dedication and success, Ditlhong says the leadership of Botswana Hayashi has now decided to start bringing awareness for kids with disabilities but having interest and passion with karate. This also to reach out to parents to see that there is such a class for disable children.