With the help of the Uganda Taekwondo Federation and Master Lee (the founder of Uganda Taekwondo); in March of 2010 we tested our first masters of Taekwondo in Rwanda. We had trained them for seven months after they had trained on their own for four years. It was more a filling of gaps and an updating of techniques that was needed.
Seven of the original trainees were ready, more than ready actually. They had waited since 2005, when a master from the Republic of Korea had arrived and spent six months training whoever was willing in the art of Taekwondo. After he departed, they continued on their own training daily and holding onto Taekwondo as a source of hope for themselves.
You see, each of them, had been affected deeply by the genocide of 1994. For example, the future president of the federation who later became a neurosurgeon, was sustained and overcame much of his grief through practicing Taekwondo. In his story, his family had gathered at their home on the fourth day after the genocide had begun. His neighbor, if I remember correctly, was the Secretary of Education and had put this then teenager’s family on a list to be killed. On that day, the killers entered the compound and killed all they could find. This young man, with great heroism hid three of his siblings in the attic. Every day for the next ninety – five days, until the genocide was stopped, he would leave the house, walk past the bodies of his family and search for food in order to sustain his young siblings. God had used Taekwondo in those years afterwards to help him face his trauma and build confidence as well as come to trust in other people.
We must realize that the story of Taekwondo in Rwanda and sport development here was much greater than any initiative of mine, for it was intertwined with the stories of all these future masters as well as that of Rwanda.
Witnessing the joy for these young men as they took off their red belts and put on black belts instead is something I will never forget. They had overcome such incredible obstacles to arrive at this point. They had overcome a history, oh too recent, of prejudice to the point of genocide, and now welcomed all Rwandans to train and be in this new family.
I never could have imagined, just seven years later, as I write this blog, what God would do with them to not only bring hope to their lives but as well to many more in the nation of Rwanda.