Meet the coach series: George Otieno, Strathmore University Karate coach
He takes his time in answering the questions, watching, as though gathering the precise words, but as soon as the interview turns to his favourite topic: Karate, his face lights up. Coach George Otieno is the coach of Tae Kwon Do at Strathmore University.
George has been coaching Karate since 1987, from when he earned his first Black Belt. This is beside his full-time job, as a prison warden at Kenya Prisons in Ruiru. His victory at Karate has earned him many such opportunities and Strathmore University is at the top of a long list including Banda and Braeburn schools where he serves as a coach.
Born and raised in Siaya County, he tells of many adventurous memoirs which served to steer him in the direction of Karate as a sport, and since joining at the professional level, there has been no turning back; he has been giving all his energies to coaching what he loves best.
Steep has been the climb to acquiring this skill but his determination has always seen him through. He has attended numerous training sessions in Tokyo- Japan, under the Japan Karate Association in Kenya.
Currently, he is a 4th Dan Grader, and he takes his time to explain the different levels in Karate. The Sport, which is also an Art, has two major divisions. This is: Katas- The basic level, and Kumnite, the Sparing level. His explanations are often cobbled up with Karate terms, he soon he realizes this, and takes time to spell it out and explain what they mean.
Under the two divisions, one attains the 1st Dan after four years of training and acquiring the first black belt. One climbs the ladder progressively, by attending training courses, which are in given intervals.
His expertise in Karate has earned him the post of Chief Instructor of the Japan Karate Association in Kenya, amongst numerous opportunities to touch hearts, teach minds and transform lives.
Coach George joined Strathmore University in 2005, where he started off the first Karate team from scratch. Soon enough, a team made up of 25 members was born. In 2006, a year after Coach George had been with them, the team produced a champion at the Kenya Team Championship.
Currently most of his students have made it to finals in tournaments organised by Kenya Karate Federation Championships, accounting for several victories and moments of glory, including : three consecutive first runners up in Katas, Second position at the KUSA games and greatest of them all, first position in East African University games in 2011.
Amidst all his good times in SU, George points out that it has not been an easy run. Being and academic institution he has noticed reluctance in students to participate in karate activities, none the less there are some committed players. The major challenge has been maintaining the players in the team after they graduate. Soon after the players graduate, George has to go back to the drawing board and recruit new members, who often have no foundational skills of this sport.
Even though maintaining graduated players has not been easy, SU management is very supportive through easing this transition. Past players are able to access the training facilities for practice sessions, even as they go on to the world of work.
He envisions Strathmore Karate Club holding numerous black belts, and being a training hub where students who have acquired advanced skills in the sport, can train others. Part of his vision is seeing through a pool of Karatekas which will put humanity in good humour, and which will indulge both the poor and the rich in a sport which enables good health. For this to happen, he argues that Karate must be inculcated into the public schools curriculum, as this would serve our country well.
Karate Students stand out from the rest, he tells of an interesting observation, they exude exemplary discipline which traverses across the training environs because Karate yields the principles of sincerity, truthfulness, self-control, and respect in a person.
Apart from being warden and coach, George is a father of four, and his face lights up as he briefly profiles his children one by one.
He is a man of few words but one can clearly pick out his attention to facts and details.