Kung Fu is slowly finding its foothold in Botswana. In fact it is already growing in leaps and bounds as evidenced by a number of academies setting their foot in the country.
One of these is the Francistown based White Tiger Shaolin Kung Fu and Positive Children Academy, a fully-fledged Shaolin Kung Fu academy founded by a Motswana Master (Sifu) Maclean “Young” Gaethuse in 2013.
From its humble beginnings back then, the academy which is housed in Ngilichi properties in the Ntshe location of Francistown has grown tremendously and now boasts of close to 200 students. The school targets both children and adults but mostly children from as young as three years of age to 16 years.
Shaolin Kung Fu which is also called “Shaolin Wushu” is one of the oldest and most famous styles of fighting which traces its roots from China. According to history, this sophisticated method of fighting using hands, feet and weapons was founded by an Indian Monk and supposed founder of Zen Buddhism Bordhidama sometimes in the 5th and 6th centuries.
Although part of it has also been transformed into sport over the years, it is used as some form of meditation, installation of discipline and exercise to promote healthy living.
Over the years this method of fighting has ignited interest across the world including taking the Hollywood movie industry by storm. For movie fanatics, the word “Kung Fu” would ring a bell especially as one would immediately think of famous movie stars such as the late Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Lee. These famous Kung Fu movie stars are also real life kung Fu martial artists.
Speaking in an interview with the Sunday Standard last week about his academy, 38 year old Gaethuse who hails from Francistown said that his fully registered institution is growing in leaps and bounds and sparking interest across the country.
“We are currently working with another Kung Fu Master in Maun, Steve Steve who also runs another academy. Their type of Kung Fu is called Maun Traditional Kung Fu but it is similar to ours. He is our partner and more often we train together. In fact we are a team,” he said.
Gaethuse says the main objective of his academy is to shape a child’s character in among others, aspects of self-defense, mental alertness, leadership skills, respect, discipline, decision making, improved school grades and obedience to authority.
He also said Kung Fu helps one develop a balanced physical and cognitive development and individual excellence. He also added that this kind of training and sport helps promoting the making of future responsible citizens.
“Our training is much popular with pre-schoolers and primary school children. The training programme reduces juvenile delinquency and anti-social behavior among children. This has immediate and long term societal value, being the reduction of crime and well brought up children and that is one of our main focus,” he emphasized.
Gaethuse whom himself is a revered Kung Fu Martial artist began martial arts training in 1985 while residing in Shakawe. He was trained by a Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu Master, Hing Wang Kimm who was staying in the country and working for Chinese contractor then. The Chinese Master relocated to his native country in early 90’s.
“The training was very tough all of my friends ended up quitting and I was left alone. I almost quit but my mother encouraged me to continue and I carried on. He encouraged me to train and become a Sash” Master which I did. My training covered from Tai Chi to Wing Chuin” By the time I was doing Standard seven I was already a black belt,” he said ending his statement with a chuckle and showing off some of his photos.
He also added that he learnt several methods of fighting in Kung Fu which he trains his students among others, the tiger fist, drunken fist and praying mantis.
Contrary to beliefs that Kung Fu trains its students for fights, he said the sport trains people to avoid fights at all costs and be disciplined.
“Kung Fu trains students to avoid fights at all costs and be disciplined. But it prepares them for intense self-defense. Its major emphasis is on discipline and respect for others,” he said. Although Shaolin Kung Fu was never established as a profit making business, he makes it clear that he charges his clients affordable fees mainly to be able to run the institution.
Narrating some of the challenges he is facing, he said that he is currently faced with shortage of qualified Kung Fu instructors. He is however optimistic that the problem will be resolved in due course. He also added that they will soon have Kung Fu competitions with other African countries such as Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
“The good news is we have sparked interest from three Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu instructors who are willing to join us at our academy. These instructors live in the country and are impressed as they feel that we are promoting their Chinese culture,” he said.
Gaethuse will on the 2nd of November 2018 go to China on a benchmarking exercise with some of his partners and students. They will return on 2nd of February. He is expecting to meet with some Kung Fu Masters in that country.