Masters of Mitchells Plain. Champions of the world
Kung fu is Muhammad Chafeker’s life. It’s been that way for over two decades. He trains relentlessly, mastering the steady movement, disciplined thinking and calculated choices that the martial art demands. The results show in the gold medals Chafeker brings home, year after year, while competing internationally. His success gives the kids in his hometown, Mitchells Plain, something to aspire to. But when local schools invited Chafeker to give motivational talks at assembly, he realised that he was capable of offering them more than inspiration. So a year ago, Chafeker made a decision that’s changing the kung fu landscape in South Africa.
“Any student interested in learning the basics in kung fu, I will give back without charging a cent,” Chafeker said to the schools he visited. The response ever since has exceeded his expectations. Girls and boys from more than 20 schools in the Western Cape have signed up for free lessons. They come to classes full of spirit and enthusiasm. It’s an opportunity to pursue something that was previously inaccessible, and in doing so, they learn to master more than just the sport. “Kung fu develops self-discipline. That ultimately assists our youth in all aspects of life,” Chafeker says. “They become more managed. They become more focused. They develop self-worth, self-respect.”
Chafeker’s commitment to the kids is paying off. When the kung fu master travelled to compete at the annual Hong Kong International Kung Fu Tournament earlier this year, he didn’t go alone. For the very first time, a South African youth squad competed internationally. While their presence alone was an achievement, the kids took it a step further and brought home seven medals. Not bad for an art they’d only been practicing for a year. Kung fu has opened up a new world to these kids and taught them to become the best version of themselves. “Through this, as a medium, we can overcome the negative odds that exist in our communities,” Chafeker says. His own journey shows other children in Mitchells Plain how far they can go. And with Chafeker guiding them, there’s no doubt they’ll make it to the top.