Joyce Juma: From Maternity Leave to Karete Court: The Standard

Kenya’s karate team pose for a group photo at KISE yesterday. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Experienced karateka Joyce Juma believes Kenya has what it takes to win all the medals in the Union of African Karate Federations (UFAK) Eastern Region tournament which officially kicks off today at Kasarani Gymnasium.

The week-long event, which began with referee and judge practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, will conclude on Saturday.

But after returning to the field at the world championship in Dubai last November after maternity leave, Juma, who has been in the game for more than 17 years, said the national team was more than ready to mark his authority in the tournament.

“We are mentally and physically prepared. We are ready for the championship. The preparations were difficult but very rewarding; we have been training together for three months and we are here now,” Juma said.

“I won a few gold medals in this competition. I did, however, take a two-year maternity break and just returned last year. My first tournament was the world championship in November. So this is my second international tournament since I gave birth to my son. But I can promise you with certainty that all the gold medals will stay here at home.

When asked why she returned to the game after giving birth, Juma, who will be competing in the women’s under 68kg category, said: “Well, karate is an art and it’s something you can’t run away. It’s amazing, especially for women; it keeps you fit, teaches you discipline and self-defense. Personally, it’s therapy for me and that’s why I had to come back.

“I would like to encourage young women to enroll in martial arts (karate) because it gives a lot, especially the self-defense side. Living in a cruel world out there, you should at least have something to defend yourself with. And again, as I said earlier, it’s therapy; it feels good afterwards.

Seven countries, including hosts Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Sudan, will take part in the regional tournament which returns to the country for the first time since 2009.

Kenya will be represented by 58 karatekas in the tournament which will feature junior, cadet and senior categories.

But Kenya Karate Federation (KKF) Treasurer Biutha Mosomi said they have yet to secure funding for the tournament from the government.

Kristen T. Prall