Bulwer Park After Dark: Glenwood’s Karate Kids

Bulwer Park is both the physical and spiritual heart of Glenwood. Once a space that residents avoided at night, it is now, through a series of renovations and updates, a bustling centre of community activity at virtually all hours of the day.
As part of embracing this vibrant space, the Glenwood Collective is embarking on a series profiles, examining the different ways locals have made Bulwer Park their own. Join us as we talk, learn, and becomibetter neighbours and community members.

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Every evening, around sundown, an excited group of young children gather near the outdoor gym in Bulwer Park. Ranging in age from 7 to 11, they seem an unlikely group. At first they run around and play on the equipment, but as two kind but serious-looking men approach the children quickly become focused. These kids haven’t come to play, they’ve come to train.

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This week the Glenwood Collective sat down with these two men, Lucky and Blaze, two recent immigrants from the DRC, who volunteer their time to teach children about the importance of fitness, friendship, and self-discipline. Through a daily regimen that encompasses karate, acrobatics, and capoeira, they’ve made Bulwer Park their community centre and classroom. This was our conversation:

Lucky and Blaze

(Blaze largely spoke for the pair as Lucky has only been in SA 6 months and does not yet speak solid English)

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GC: How did you two meet?

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Blaze: I’ve lived in the area for a few years now. I would come to exercise here in the park and train at the gym. A few months ago I noticed Lucky here training and practicing martial arts- we started talking and decided to train together. I was his first friend here in Durban! He was very glad to find someone else from the DRC as he only speaks French and Kiswahili.

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GC: What is your martial arts background?

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Blaze: I had no prior training before I met Lucky! I was just a fitness enthusiast and liked to exercise. However, Lukcy is serious. He has certifications in Karate and Capoeira and is an accomplished acrobat. He has taught martial arts everywhere he has lived, including the DRC, Tanzania and now South Africa. He also competed in Uganda. So we train together, but I am learning from him as well.

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GC: How did the children become involved?

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Blaze: I started bringing my own son with me when I trained, and he had a lot of fun participating with us. However, when we looked around we noticed a number of other children here, on their own, with nobody looking after them. Before they would just run around and play, but they started getting interested in what we were doing and asked to join. Now they are excited to come everyday, they train with passion and high energy. It’s been an amazing transformation to watch.

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GC: Why did you choose the park?

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Blaze: We both live in the neighbourhood so the location is very central for us. The community around this park in the evening is excellent, it’s a very good atmosphere and we have a good relationship with the other people who exercise here. The gym and park are very popular. It feels safe and healthy. However we would really be happy if the drinking fountain here was fixed. We would also appreciate a bathroom.

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GC: How would you like your class to develop in the future?

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Blaze: Right now we are all just having fun, but in the future we would love to form a martial arts club, a formal group with uniforms that the children could be proud of. Of course we always welcome more people to come join our classes. It would be great if we could form an official Glenwood team and think about competing against other communities.

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All (children and adults) are very welcome to join Blaze and Lucky’s martial arts classes. They train each weekday at 5pm next to the exercise equipment in Bulwer Park. 

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