Patience Kakitie is a true inspiration! Having taken up Karate in 2005 as an adult and competed at National, European and International levels, she has recently been appointed to the board of the English Karate Federation. Penny met her in Wantage and was keen to find out more about her life.
What is your background?
I am originally from London and followed a standard linear pattern of study, leaving home and getting a steady job. I then had the opportunity to live in Edinburgh for a year, followed by Singapore for 6 1/2 years where I worked for world renowned retailer and took the further opportunity to study.. After Singapore I spent a year in Jakarta Indonesia. After a year I returned to the UK as a result of local riots followed the collapse of the Suharto regime. Those were troubling times across SE Asia but I soon settled back into life back in the UK and starting a family felt timely.
How long have you been doing karate? What got you into it?
I started Karate almost 16 years ago, when I first enrolled my son Joshua, when he was 4 years old. I felt quite frustrated just watching and asked to join in. Fortunately, there was a teens class and they were closer to my height.
Do your children still do karate?
My children shied away from Karate, as their club veered toward mixed martial arts and cage-fighting, which was not their passion at all, nor mine. They continued in sport, representing their respective schools at Rugby, Cricket, Netball and Hockey. In truth, I was very pleased that they pursued their own passions, rather than mine.
What do you enjoy about karate?
I have always been very physical: athletics, netball, hockey and judo at school. Then aerobics, tennis, running, spin and crossfit as an adult. To be honest, I did expect to be quite good at karate because of my predisposition to physicality and a determination to constantly review and improve myself.
How does karate help with overall health and fitness and is it good to release stress and energy?
Karate is a great stress buster. It instils confidence and good old-fashioned values such as Respect, Resilience, Cooperation, Determination and really helps to improve memory and concentration. Children and adults benefit equally.
Is part of the appeal of karate the ‘fighting’ element?
Because the Kumite (sparring) must adhere to such strict guidelines in terms of technique, level of contact, speed and good sportsmanship it’s quite exhilarating to participate in. There’s always a handshake or hug at the end. We never really lose; we learn and improve.
There are also Kata (Forms) which are non-contact but allow you to practice and memorise sequences of fighting techniques. These are wonderful tools for developing calmness, memory, focus and understanding in young and energetic children.
When did you decide to start competing?
Competing started as a combination of curiosity and encouragement. Once I had the experience, I was totally hooked!
Are you retiring from competing now?
I would rather retire at the top of my game with my reputation (and joints) intact. But, never say never! I feel that my experience and energy are better placed serving my students and members of the English Karate Federation.
How many other adult black women are in the sport in the UK?
I have no idea of the actual numbers, but clearly adult black women are under-represented, as are women generally. During my 16 years, I’ve been pleased to see numbers rising, however gradually.
How does that make you feel?
I’m very optimistic about the increasing diversity in my sport, but also respect the fact that Karate isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Do you feel you are a role model?
Whether I want to be regarded that way or not, I’m clearly a role model to many. I’m very conscious of that fact. However, if my Karate journey inspires other parents, children, girls and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds to have a go, then it’s a huge honour.
What has been the most challenging experience in your karate career?
My biggest challenge is funding and sponsorship. Most competitive athletes will say the same. It takes a team of coaches, psychologists, nutritionists and physios to mould an athlete. Then there are fees, equipment, travel and accommodation expenses to cover.
What are your aspirations and hopes for the next couple of years?
I have competed every year since 2009 in both Veteran and Senior categories, Regionally, Nationally and Internationally. I’m also an experienced Coach and am now seeing some of my students following in my footsteps. It’s time to pass the baton to them.
My experiences have opened my eyes to the challenges of our developing sport, particularly regarding the financial burden of our international athletes.
As a Board Member of the English Karate Federation, it would be great to contribute to the development of policies and practices that would give benefit to all our members, from grassroots clubs to elite athletes. If we can attract the right level of sponsorship, we can hold more events and provide greater training opportunities at all levels, as well as lessening the financial burden of our dedicated athletes.
How do you stay mindful about the reality of your achievements?
‘Imposter Syndrome’ has followed me throughout my life. I often look at photographs, testimonials, certificates, medals and trophies to reassure myself that these experiences actually happened. Believe it or not, I have a similar reaction when I look at my children…..Did I really do that?
Where do you teach?