A WEEK after winning his second Kyokushin world title Sensei Samson Muripo, is nursing the wounds that come with being a champion. The 38–year-old won the 3rd International So-Kyokushin Karate Tournament in Iran last week and is yet to return to Zimbabwe for what is sure to be a hero’s welcome. By Tinashe Kusema

Winning a Kyokushin world title is never a stroll in the park and Muripo’s body can testify to that.“I will need a few days to heal, before I can start light training and go full-on again. If I take it easy, I will heal soon,” Muripo told this paper from his hotel room. Appreciating Kyokushin

Kyokushin takes years to master and its most basic techniques are practiced thousands of times before one can begin to appreciate them. This takes absolute devotion to a combination of much hard work and patience even in the face of slow progress. The ability to gain mastery over oneself to achieve success in Kyokushin is best captured in the word “Osu”.

Osu, roughly translated from Japanese, means “to persevere whilst being pushed”. It is a word you will hear most when interacting with students of this fine martial art. As you enter or exit a dojo you say Osu rather than hello or goodbye.

When responding to anything in class you say Osu, when performing any technique in training you say Osu, and as a show of respect before and after fights you say Osu to your opponent and the referee. This is done, according to one authority, because Osu “means patience, determination and perseverance. Every time we say ‘Osu’, we remind ourselves of this. Kyokushin training is very demanding. You push yourself until you think you’ve reached your limit.

First your body wants to stop, but your mind keeps pushing you. Then your mind wants to stop, but your spirit keeps you going. You endure the pain. You persevere. That is Osu”. Muripo lives Osu While his countrymen have not fully embraced the magnitude of his success last weekend, Sensei Muripo is being hailed as an icon, a symbol of black karatekas and all students of Kyokushin.

However, some still find it strange that a black African has mastered the spirit of Osu. “I think we are beginning to get accepted at this level as Africans,” Muripo says. “When l travelled to Japan in 2009, we would attract attention as black fighters. “I remember one incident when little kids lined up to come and greet me. Afterwards, they looked at their hands curiously, thinking that there would be some black paint left on their hands. Thankfully that is no longer the case now.”

Like a true master of the art, Muripo says winning the world title starts with a long and painful training regime. “I had a gruelling training program in Durban (South Africa). I started sometime in October last year, and would get into the gym as early as five in the morning. “My training programme would see me start my day at five and end at nine in the evening. I would go through my drills, basic training, bag work-out and Kumite training,” reveals the karateka. This was his daily routine for months leading up to last weekend’s triumph.

Added to the hard training are the financial pressures that come with a tournament of this nature. Without a sponsor, Muripo battled to raise the money for the trip to Iran. But as he looks back on his journey to being a double world champion, the sensei believes it has all been worth it. “I would do it again,” he says without hesitation when asked if he would walk that journey again.

“There are no major financial returns to talk of but this is one thing I will never think twice about doing. Passion drives us.” Muripo appreciates what he means to budding karatekas and he is determined not to let them down. “I am motivated by the love to see people doing well in life, by changing the lives of people,” he says. “I am very much aware of the scores of youngsters who look up to me and see a father in me. “No matter how difficult things get in my life, in this sport, I always want to teach my students that hard work and persistence pay off. I want to give them hope in life and instil the belief that dreams do come true if you work hard to achieve them.”


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