Sensei Monwabisi Njomba has taken the lessons he learnt mastering martial arts and used them to develop the minds and bodies of young people in Cape Town.
Sensei Monwabisi Njomba got his start in karate, kung fu and other martial arts as a young man in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape. When he moved to Cape Town in 2010, he had a dream of opening his own dojo, or martial arts gym, for youngsters who wanted to learn both the physical and mental pillars of the ancient arts of self-defence.
“I always had a heart for young people and decided to pursue the idea of opening my own gym. I then started Njomba Fitness Academy [in Khayelitsha] to try to bring young people together through fitness and prevent them from doing wrong,” he told News24.
The academy started small, at the township’s Eyethu Hall and set up with only the most rudimentary equipment and his knowledge of martial arts. But the idea soon found an appreciative audience. Children in the area approached the academy in droves, inspired, like Njomba when he was young, to learn the quick and agile moves made famous by films stars such Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.
Njomba says the principles of karate and other martial arts are not only about strength and physical power, but also about self-discipline and mental focus. “I always kept my head high because I was passionate about karate,” he says, and he is doing his best to instil that same self-belief in his young students.
The academy is not only for the young, with many older residents learning the more delicate though equally fulfilling practices of yoga and Pilates. He also teaches basic self-defence methods to women and organises aerobics classes and fun runs. While the main focus of the academy is martial arts, Njomba ensures there is something for everyone in the community.
“My main aim [for the community] is to keep the young people fit and help elders to live healthy and better lives.”
Right now, Njomba’s biggest challenge is keeping the academy running, and he is always on the lookout for new sponsors and companies interested in partnering with the gym to be able to continue giving the residents a place to make friends, and learn tolerance and healthy living.
“We don’t have proper gear [for karate] and sometimes transport is a hassle when we want to go to championships. But we keep our heads high and try to help the young ones who are passionate about the sport,” Njomba said.
The popularity of the Njomba Fitness Academy is growing, and for the founder himself, its success is the fulfilment of his life’s dream to bring karate to the community. “I really love what I do… I believe everyone needs to exercise in order to live a healthy life.”
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