NAIROBI － With feet apart and knees bent, Benson Kuria raises his clawed hands as he prepares to pull a kite.
He practices Chinese martial arts in the Kiambu community hall about 16 kilometers east of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
The part-time teacher trains on the weekends with other kung fu enthusiasts. He is part of a growing army of Kenyan youth who took up the sport for its many benefits, such as improving physical fitness.
Since he started kung fu, his strength and endurance have improved a lot, says the 26-year-old. “Kung Fu involves a lot of dynamic stretching that uses most of the body muscles.”
According to Ngaruiya Njonge, chairman of the Kenyan Kung Fu Wushu Federation, eight clubs in the country participate in kung fu. He strives to make the sport known among young people because it builds their self-confidence to master the challenges of life.
He now trains teenagers from the age of 10 and adults in one-hour units in the evening.
Larry Kamau is a member of the Kayole Kung Fu Club in Nairobi, which trains weekly on a local sports field. He says he is drawn to the martial arts because they promote self-defense and non-aggression.
He likes to practice the horse posture, where you crouch with your feet apart and swing your arms in the air. “The sport has helped me improve my endurance,” he says.
Nelson Ikiara, 30, a member of the Dragon Kung Fu Club, has been practicing martial arts for four years. As a child, he said he saw Chinese films that showed kung fu masters practicing their craft.
“I used to practice the moves in the martial arts movies. When I graduated, I decided to join a kung fu club.”
Edward Naliaka, 28, a member of the Muthurwa Kung Fu Club in downtown Nairobi, says he is drawn to the martial arts because they combine physical training and promote courage and tolerance.
“These are qualities that I can use in my work and in social interaction,” he says.
Jude Njomo, a local lawmaker, says kung fu is growing in popularity as a sport, especially among school-age children. More schools will start promoting the sport because of its role in building Sino-Kenyan relations, he says. In addition to the Chinese language, Kung Fu skills can also be taught in schools.