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In Uganda, a Kung Fu master spreads love for the craft

NANSANA, Uganda : Children punch, push up and sprint through an open air, dirt-floor lot in Nansana in central Uganda, hoping to become a Kung Fu master or even the east African country's first Olympian in the sport.

They are students of 30-year-old Manisuru Kizza Ssejjemba, who fell in love with the martial art form after watching Jet Li movies as a teenager.

Ssejjemba, who had previously trained in kick-boxing, became so skilled that by 2009 he started starring in movies made by Wakaliwood, a Ugandan low-budget action film company.

"Who Killed Captain Alex", Wakaliwood's biggest film, has nearly 6.5 million views on YouTube.

Ssejjemba has high hopes for his students.

"Even if one person can go and compete in [the] Olympics ... it will be very good for me," he said, a golden dragon emblazoned on the back of his black robe.

Kung Fu is not presently an Olympic sport, but promoters are fighting for its inclusion. It is an event at the Youth Olympic Games.

"I will never give up until Kung Fu reaches (the) top," Ssejjemba said.

His passion to teach others was fostered when he travelled to China in 2017 to train with Kung Fu experts.

"We went there and shot a movie which is known as 'Bruce U'... we got some techniques from [the] abbot, and he told us to come back to Africa and spread Kung Fu," Ssejjemba said.

So Ssejjemba did.

He opened up the Kiman Lee Fitness Club in his backyard where he trains young people between five and 16. Many of his students are girls, encouraged by their communities to gain self-defence skills.

"It has helped me gain strength, steadiness and fitness," said Shirat Najemba, eyebrows furrowed with focus as she practices.

(Reporting by Francis Mukasa, Writing by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Source: Reuters

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