Africa Games karate medallist and Australia Open Under 63kg Kumite champion, Ofentse Bakwadi’s list of accolades is impressive, more so for a young man who literally “had to be coerced to join Karate”.
Though karate is now a “labour of love” for Bakwadi, as a kid growing up in the football-mad locations of Extension 14 in Gaborone, karate was the last thing on his mind.
“As a young boy, football was my first passion, my sport of choice. I never wanted to train karate, “Shaykex”, as Bakwadi is known explained.
According to Bakwadi, it was his brother, Sensei Mpho Bakwadi, who encouraged him to join the sport.
“I personally did not choose to join the sport. When I was seven, I would try to dodge but my brother would not let me have my way. He gave me no choice, he basically forced me to join it,” he says.
Ever since, Bakwadi has never looked back. More than two decades later, he is still as enthusiastic about the sport as ever.
“As I continued to play the sport, I grew to love it. When my brother won the World Championship, I thought to myself: I can do that as well. Maybe I can even surpass him,” he recalls.
While he is yet to reach the dizzy heights achieved by Bakwadi senior, he is definitely not far off.
Just a couple of weeks ago at the Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) Senior Championships, the Molepolole-born karateka won the men’s individual kata category for a record 10 times in a row. Very impressive for someone who did not want to join Karate!
Internationally, his record is not so bad either.
“I have not done badly in all African Champions Games I have attended as I have always managed to finish in the medal categories. Elsewhere, last year I won Gold in the Under-63 in Australia which I felt was quite a motivation as well,” he said.
Bakwadi still believes he can achieve more. “The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are just around the corner, so the preparations have to start now. I just want to win a Gold medal at the Africa Games and be able to represent my country in 2020. I have to finish second as only the first and runner-up from each continent qualify for the games,” he explained.
Bakwadi still has some regrets about the sport he has grown to love. “At times I look back at some of the frustrations we had due to karate not being an Olympics sport. Sometimes I reflect on what could have happened if I had chosen football or athletics. I ask myself whether I could have been to the Olympics or even been a professional footballer or athlete,” he says.
However, Bakwadi says he is thankful for what karate has done for him as he has managed to achieve a lot in life through karate; not forgetting the discipline it has instilled in him.