Q and A with Sandra Michelle Harerimana sharing her experience in Karate

Ms. Sandra Michelle Harerimana is a 34 years old Burundian woman who has been practicing karate since 2014 in club RUMURI KARATE Do. PHOTO| COURTESY.

Ms. Sandra Michelle Harerimana is a 34 years old Burundian woman who has been practicing karate since 2014 in club RUMURI KARATE Do, one of the clubs at the Burundi University. She spoke to Joella Nticiteretse on the Stereotypes, challenges she’s gone through while practicing the sport.

What motivated you to practice Karate?
Since my childhood, I have been fascinated by Martial arts. I find this sport beautiful and intense at the same time. What I like the most are the human values that we are instilled in Karate such as respect, honor and loyalty. The above values match my personality. I identified myself without any problem.

How was your first experience in this sport?
My first experience was too disappointing. People laughed at me in a way that they expected me to abandon or give up. It is hard for them to understand that you do your practices seriously. It’s like you are going there for fun. The good thing is that once you start Karate, it becomes hard to stop.

What obstacles or challenges do you experience quite often while practicing the sport?
Most of the time we do training sessions with male counterparts because we are few women. In People’s eyes it becomes obvious that we conduct ourselves inappropriately yet we spend most of our time with our colleagues…On the other hand because of our sport, people tend to rate us in masculine features. You may hear them say we shall develop very soon men effeminate features, and that we may start thinking like men.  To them, playing karate means losing discipline that characterizes a Burundian lady.

How do some of your club members particularly male conceive you?
I remember one day, Our Sensei (master) told a male karateka to fight me. He simply said no to the Sensei and explained that he cannot train himself with a girl. He even added that women have nothing to teach him. So it was not a good thing to experience.

What are those common gender stereotypes based on Burundian you’ve gone through?

Quite a lot of people think that in martial arts violence is taught. Our masters rather teach us to be stress free and to defend ourselves. People who do not know what martial art is, label us like women of character. The kind of women who will never allow their husbands to have the last word. They even tell us that we will never get married, which is totally incorrect because there are some of us who are already married and their families don’t face problems.

One day a male neighbor told me your karate training sessions are useless because I can beat you and I can even do whatever I want on you and you will do me nothing (helplessly).

What pushes you not to cease practicing Karate?
I do love karate, I would say I found my passion in Karate it goes beyond being a martial art. I like self-defense lessons. Those lessons are taught according to one’s physical proficiency. It does not require any weapon.
According to Gichin Fonakoshi, founder of shotokan, shotokan practitioners are urged to abide in an effort to become better human beings. So, I am improving my mind set on a daily basis.

What do you think should be done to promote female involvement in karate?

First off all, Female practitioners should be encouraged. Clubs should  promote and teach karate children, encourage them. Those clubs should organize meetings to help parents understand the importance of encouraging their children to practice karate and stop worrying about the combat moves taught.
The government should make karate like other sports by introducing it in high schools. It is also up to us to give it ours by promoting its advantages so that people could change their mind.

What can you tell to those who do not know Karate is about?

 First of all karate teaches and promotes self-control. This martial art is an incredibly effective way of teaching self-discipline. It asks focus. That’s where someone centers his body and attention or to the opponent. You cannot battle with somebody if you are not concentrated (observe, anticipate and react). In fact, Karate teaches powerful skills such as building reflexes to stand still/ up in front of a threat and reacting in a positive way in a wink of an eye.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here