•The Kenya Kickboxing Federation is led by Iraki Kangéthe (president), David Okiya (vice chairman technical), Willie Ngángá ( Secretary General), and Takid Master (competitions secretary).
•Kenya has not made any international appearance since 2011 when the team attended the Scandinavian Open kickboxing Championship in Europe.
There is no doubt that kickboxing is struggling to make its presence felt in the country and indeed, behind the scenes a lot is going on to ensure this is achieved.
But before I delve deeper into the sport, I know you must be asking yourself what kickboxing is all about.
In simple terms, kickboxing is a sport that involves punches and kicks and it is usually played in a boxing ring.
There are different versions of it, including Muay Thai, Japanese kickboxing, sanda, savate, and full kickboxing which is more popular in Kenya.
Full contact kickboxing is different from the other forms as the opponents strike with the fist and padded foot anywhere above the hip. The use of elbows, knees and un-padded shins is prohibited.
Long pants and foot pads are mandatory. The boxer also needs a mouthpiece, hand wrap, gloves, and groin cups for males.
The Kenya Kickboxing Federation is led by Iraki Kangéthe (president), David Okiya (vice chairman technical), Willie Ngángá ( Secretary General), and Takid Master (competitions secretary).
Since its inception in 2004, local kickboxing has struggled to find its way to the top and things seem to get harder as days go by.
Kenya has not made any international appearance since 2011 when the team attended the Scandinavian Open kickboxing Championship in Europe.
Master, who also doubles up as the national coach, says he longs for the days when the sport would shine on both local and international scenes.
He attributed the reasons why the sport is currently in despair to majorly Covid-19. "The pandemic was a major setback to the sport in the country but this is not to say things were better before then," he noted.
“Kick-boxing in the country is not where it is supposed to be and I guess we (the federation) are sleeping on our potential. We all need to take responsibility and push the sport to the next level. I wouldn’t blame the government or any stakeholders for these happenings,” Master revealed.
He added: “ We cannot abandon our responsibilities and expect the sport to grow. As the federation, we need to wake up and pull up our socks. When we work as a team (which we try to), it will be easier for us to address the government and tell them what we want.”
Master got into office as the competitions secretary in 2007 and after six years, he got the honours to become a national coach. He narrates that since then, financial challenges have been a pain in the neck for them and they struggle to put together the tournaments.
Currently, Master says they are hoping to spread the sport to the grassroots—and the first step will be to stage the Kenya Open Kickboxing Championship on December 17 in Nakuru.
According to the Sports Act, they must be present in at least 23 counties to benefit from government funding. The sport has only thrived in Naivasha, Nakuru, Nairobi and Mombasa counties.
“At the moment, we sponsor all our events…we do not have an external financer. It is very challenging to organize events because we are forced to dig deep into our pockets. It is up to us to show the government and stakeholders that we are worth the support,” Master lamented.
He added: “We are hoping to host the championship but so far, finances are giving us a headache because we have to cater for everything. We are not certain of the event but hopefully, things will unfold before D-day.”
Shortly, Master hopes that all the martial arts practiced in the country including karate, taekwondo, and kickboxing will come together and form one body. He believes this will prevent them from seeking financial help all the time.
“Every time I meditate, I see a time when all the martial arts will come together as one body. This will help avoid asking for help from the government all the time. In case we want to go out for a tournament or organize a local one, we can be able to raise funds towards the same and support each other,” Master says.
He adds: “I know people from these different disciplines because I grew up with some of them. I believe we can organize a meet-up and see the way forward. We also need to see how we can develop our government through sports and not only draw from it.”
He also hopes next year will see them invite other countries for tournaments and also travel out of the country to gain the experience and exposure they need.
Master also looks forward to a time when kickboxing will be introduced in schools. Many, however, may wonder why Master still holds onto the sport dearly despite the tonnes of challenges in the federation. This is why: Master grew up developing his skills in the sport.
Born on July 7, 1984, in Juja into a family of seven (three boys, four girls), Master lost his mother in 1990 after which his father remarried. Master says his stepmother never treated him well and that forced him to seek refuge in his elder brother’s house.
“My stepmother used to punish me a lot. Sometimes, I tend to feel like she was preparing me to be a fighter. After some time, life became difficult because I couldn’t bear the harsh treatment. I escaped to my brother’s house. Anyone who knows Nairobi well knows that Dandora is a tough place to live,” he narrates.
Master adds that he wanted to know how to defend himself in the harsh Dandora neighborhood because of the muggings. He says he started training at the age of 12 and made it to the taekwondo national team at 17. In 2006, when he was 22, Master got interested in playing kickboxing and since then, he has never looked back.
“Life in Dandora pushed me to start training in martial arts and I started with an art called Won-wha-do. After around three years, I switched to Taekwondo. Many people, especially adults, used to ask me to train them and that gave me the morale to keep going. I believe martial arts are my calling,” he says.
He adds that at some point, he worked as a house boy to pay for his training because he couldn’t afford to miss classes, adding that passion is what drives his love for the sport.
“Many people usually ask me why I would sponsor events with the little money I have and all I can say is I have the passion. I would do anything to see kickboxing grow in the country and spread to the grassroots,” Master said.
He married national kickboxing champion Cecilia Moraa and together, they are blessed with eight children (seven sons, and one daughter).
He says his wife and children were also drawn to the sport and it didn’t take long before they learned the skills. “My wife and kids just love kickboxing…I didn’t have to force them to do it. It was something that happened naturally and I always feel good about it,” he adds.
Master believes corruption is what kills the sports in Kenya, citing some disciplines which started over 30 years ago yet haven't made any mark.
Master has appealed to Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba, to focus on building all the sports disciplines and not only football, rugby, and athletics.
“I would want him to look at the development and the glory we can bring into the country and invest in us. They should also make sure the youth in sports are supported effectively because most of them do not have jobs.”
He has called on the National Police Service to incorporate the sport among its activities to create job opportunities for the talented youth.