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How the art of Karate is challenging gender inequality without even mentioning the ‘G’ word

There’s no male macho talk and no disrespect.   As an instructor  at the ‘front yard  dojo,’  Jacklyn is the authority. 

Clip #303
There’s a small affiliate  Shotokan Karate club at Four Mile in Lae.  
 
Since it started  two years ago, the membership has grown to close to a hundred.  They have students of various ages ranging from  6  to 25.

They don’t have much in terms of training equipment.  They train in a front yard on the bare earth.   Cameraman Raguel Kepas, sets the camera down in front of two kids as they  do a set of knuckle push ups unprompted.
 
“If they can do it, so can I..” its that kind of attitude that  draws  me to places like this where small community efforts  bless the soul and spirit.
 
Clip #315Many of the kids don’t have uniforms.  It is difficult to get good quality  karate uniforms in Lae.   A good set costs anything between K150 and K300…in Port Moresby.  It’s  too much for   kids whose parents struggle to  pay for school fees, bus fare and food.
 
But in the eyes of the  students, you can see the determination to  become  serious  representative karateka of  Morobe and PNG.  The determination  and  discipline can be seen in the eyes of the older  students who, drenched with sweat,  come back for another round to kick a  plastic wrapping tied to a coconut tree as a homemade kick pad.
 
Clip #284The  club was started by two senior students and first degree black belts  – Jacklyn Barney and Manu Mekere.   The Four Mile club is a branch of RAM Shotokan Karate Club run by Sensei Rickinson Mekere at the Lae Secondary School.
 
What also stands out  is the number of girls who have signed up.  Many of them inspired by Jacklyn who has represented Morobe and Papua New Guinea in international  karate events.
 
Clip #306There’s no male macho talk and no disrespect.   As an instructor  at the ‘front yard  dojo,’  Jacklyn is the authority. 
 
“Many of their parents are really happy that we’re training them,” she says.
 
It made me think about  all the hyped up talk about gender equality  and  balance.   Here’s a club that is taking the lead  in a very small but important way in a community where physical abuse  against women and girls is widespread.
 
Clip #312“One… two…” she yells demonstrates simulated kicks to the head. The target, is the much abused plastic wrapping on the coconut trunk.  She steps back and lets the students  follow her lead.
 
“Lavendar!  Guards up!” she yells as another girl ‘head kicks’ the coconut trunk.
 
While Jacklyn dreams of taking a team to a competition in future,  she says  this club serves a greater purpose.  Both her and Manu point out that karate has given an opportunity to many to break the cycle of alcohol  abuse and violence.
 
“My dream is to get as many young kids into karate. Because, if we leave it too late, they will start drinking and taking drugs by the time they’re 13 and 14.
 
“They have to see that there is a way out.  That they can go on to represent PNG and their province,” says Manu.
 
Clip #272When the numbers become to large during training  sessions,  Manu and Jacklyn split the group.   Manu’s mob are usually the pint sized aspiring karateka, aged six and upward.
 
“Sometimes we have to move to another yard.  There are so many of them!  Yesterday, we had several parents sign up as well.  I just didn’t have the forms for them to fill. I had to rush off to get them printed.”
 
Recently,  karate was declared an Olympic sport.  This now means Papua New Guineans  have a shot at the world stage if there is determination and support.

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