Ugandan Kung Fu fan passes on skills to youngsters

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Shaolin monks practice martial arts at Pagoda Forest of Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng City, central China's Henan Province, July 8, 2021. Located on the Songshan Mountain, Shaolin Temple is the birthplace for Shaolin Martial Arts. (Xinhua/Li An)
Shaolin monks practice martial arts at Pagoda Forest of Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng City, central China's Henan Province, July 8, 2021. Located on the Songshan Mountain, Shaolin Temple is the birthplace for Shaolin Martial Arts. (Xinhua/Li An)

Five-year-old Hasifa Nakirijja is becoming popular in local media and among netizens in Uganda because of her amazing skills in Kung Fu (Chinese martial arts).

Nakirijja stays with her parents in the shanty town of Katooke, north of the country’s capital Kampala.

The person behind Nakirijja’s skills is her father, Manisuru Ssejjemba, a man-on-a-mission who in 2017 made a journey to a Shaolin Temple, thousands of kilometers away in China.

Ssejjemba set up a makeshift training center behind his house where he trains youngsters to help promote the Kung Fu culture in Uganda.

Yet the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted his training sessions as the government stopped public gatherings to limit the spread of the virus.

Before the pandemic, Ssejjemba was training 17 youngsters and seven adults. He said that more people were signing up to join.

Although the training sessions were drastically scaled down, Ssejjemba is now teaching his daughter Nakirijja.

He told Xinhua in a recent interview that since schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nakirijja now has more time to train.

Usually before starting his training sessions for Nakirijja, Ssejjemba first demonstrates his own stretches.

Clad in his red Chinese attire, Ssejjemba stretches out for about 45 minutes as he is closely watched by Nakirijja. Then he jogs around the training center and performs different Kung Fu skills, as some children and adults in the slum area peep through the papyrus mat walls of the center.

Ssejjemba’s passion for Kung Fu started in 2003 after he watched several Chinese Kung Fu movies. His favorite actor is action star Jet Li and his favorite movie is “The Forbidden Kingdom.”

“I love his movies a lot and he is the one who inspired me to love Kung Fu and also to practice,” Ssejjemba said about Jet Li.

“I like it (Kung Fu) so much because it helps the body to be physically fit and also builds the brain,” he added, noting that Kung Fu can also be used for self-defense.

Ssejjemba’s skills in Kung Fu have led him to film acting. He joined Ramon Film Production that owns the movie studio Wakaliwood, which makes low budget films in Uganda. He has acted in several local movies which have Kung Fu scenes.

He joined the Country Wing Chinese Kung Fu School where he improved his Kung Fu skills. Through the Kung Fu school and Wakaliwood, Ssejjemba said he and three other colleagues traveled to China for about one month in 2017.

They camped at Shaolin Temple in China to learn various drills from different masters.

“When we went to the temple, I saw a lot of techniques, those people in fact practice a lot,” Ssejjemba said.

Ssejjemba dreams of setting up a similar Shaolin Temple here in Uganda so Ugandans could learn Kung Fu and other Chinese martial arts.

He is optimistic that the COVID-19 pandemic would soon come to an end so that children and adults in the neighborhood can come back and resume training.

“I am optimistic that after COVID-19, we will have 100 plus people who want to join,” he said.

For now, he is concentrating on training his daughter Nakirijja, whose dream is to become a star in Kung Fu movies. Enditem

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