Karate in Mauritius
It cannot be realistically determined when karate began in Mauritius. There are no books, records or documents regarding the origin of karate in the island.
But it is generally accepted by Mauritian karate devotees that immigrants started the original martial art concept in private spheres in the late nineteenth century. The secret techniques were handed down from father to son, from family to family, generation after generation. Training was done “à huis clos”. Practitioners would go to great lengths to guard private techniques. Either it was practiced among members of the same family or in small private groups of relatives and friends. It was never done on a club basis as football and volleyball as it was not considered as a sport. This secrecy over the techniques of karate kept it in a shell and it did not develop and spread out as other sports.
The coming of Japanese and Korean fishing vessels to Mauritius in 1965 opened a new era for Karate. Since that date they have anchored regularly in the harbor of Port Louis.
Some Mauritians got the opportunity to learn a few Karate techniques from the Japanese and Koreans; others were more lucky as they received a regular training from them.
Many Karate clubs sprung up in most of the towns. Karate gained an immense popularity and it achieved national acceptance in a relatively short time. The main clubs which were based in towns opened up branches in the rural regions. And regular championships at club level were held.
Later, some Mauritians who got such training from the Japanese or Korean here flew to Japan and Korea on their personal initiative to pursue higher training. And when they came back, they shared their new knowledge of Karate with their fellow countrymen.
IDEA OF FEDERATION
In the early 1970’s, Karate became so popular in Mauritius and in all African countries too – that the need for a federation grouping all the Karate clubs was strongly felt. The idea of creating such a federation made its way among top Karate practitioners and it received a wide applause.
CREATION OF FEDERATION
In 1977, upon the personal initiative of Honourable H. Ramchurn, Minister of youth & Sports, seven main clubs of the Island grouped together to form the Mauritius Martial Arts Federation (MMAF).
On the 27th August 1977, exhibitions were given by the seven Karate clubs, under the distinguished patronage of the Minister, to mark the official launching of the MMAF.
CALENDAR OF ACTIVITIES
Since its creation, the MMAF has prepared annually a well-stuffed calendar of activities. A rapid glance at the calendar shows among others: – the organisation of the Annual National Championship, group coaching sessions for all Club students in every part of the island, and the supervision of individual club tournaments.
Saturday 12th August 1978 is written in gold letters in the history of Karate in Mauritius. Two Mauritians (Georges LI YING PIN and Noor DULLOO, President and Secretary respectively of the MMAF) flew to Dakar, Senegal to participate in the First African International Meeting – held from the 14th to 19th August 1978. “L’UNION AFRICAINE DE KARATE” invited Mauritius to send its representatives to that Meting and the Ministry of Youth & Sports officially sponsored the participation of the two representatives of the MMAF.
That was followed by a Mauritian delegation being sent to Abidjan, Ivory Coast in May 1979.
And in November 1979, a team went to Reunion Island.
INTERNATIONAL FUNCTIONS AND MEETS
The MMAF is affiliated to various international bodies. Its President, Georges LI YING PIN has been elected 1st Vice-President of “L’UNION AFRICAINE DE KARATE” and also as an Auditor of “L’UNION AFRICAINE DE TAE-KWON-DO”.
STRUCTURE OF THE FEDERATION
The MMAF runs as any other federation. It has an Executive Committee elected by its General Assembly of delegates. It is fully registered in conformity with Mauritius laws and it is duly recognized by the Ministry of Youth & Sports.
It regroups the seven main clubs of the island and its total membership exceeds 600. But the total number of practising Karatekas may well range from 4,000 to 5,000 (including those from the numerous mushroom clubs which have proliferated and are not recognized by the MMAF as they are not run by qualified instructors). KARATE is practised at various levels – in Municipality-sponsored groups, in industries, colleges and schools, army and police.
A person possessing a black belt delivered by a bona-fide international body does not qualify him for automatic recognition by the MMAF. He has to undergo a test to be conducted by the MMAF Examinations Board and he has to satisfy the criteria set up by that Board to get recognition.
An instructor, apart from possessing a black belt delivered by the MMAF Examinations Board, should have a suitable knowledge of pedagogy and should prove his teaching ability when undergoing the tests to be conducted by the Board. And it is only in the light of a satisfactory assessment of his proven capabilities and teaching ability, that the Board will award him an instructor certificate which is endorsed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Individual membership is not granted to independent persons. A person can only become member of the MMAF through his respective club.
OBJECTIVES OF THE FEDERATION
The MMAF is a non-profit making organization. Some of its objectives are:
To promote karate as an art and sport and also any other martial art associated with karate
To raise the level of martial arts practiced here
To fight the defamatory arguments leveled against karate which has been called savage, barbaric, uncivilized and phony as a result of the false image depicted by the great number of karate films being projected here
To set the true image of karate and other martial arts to emerge
To establish a code of ethics to guide the conduct of martial arts devotees
MMAF AND THE MINISTRY OF YOUTH AND SPORTS
For its running, the MMAF has as far as possible drawn from its own fund. But in so far as purchase of expensive equipment and expenses covering travelling abroad is concerned, it has to rely to a great extent on the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Though the MMAF is government-sponsored, it has jealously kept its independence. It is an autonomous body; decision-making is the sole right of its executive committee sanctioned by General Assembly. The MMAF frames its own policy.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports is showing a greater concern in karate because of its increasing popularity not only in Mauritius but in the neighbouring islands as well.