Kenyan-Born Taekwondo Master Thimangu Kicks His Way To 7th Degree Black Belt

(from right)Patrick Thimangu with taekwondo visitors from Gambia. PHOTO/WEBP

By Christine Ojung’a

NAIROBI,Kenya -When Patrick Thimangu delved into Taekwondo in Nairobi in 1986 under master and sixth degree black belt holder Ernest Olayo, he never knew that the sport would take him places.

The now US based master instructor recently surpassed his teacher’s accolades, by attaining a seventh-degree black belt title in the game.

In his quest for the new crown, the 58-year-old took required and elaborate tests in Chicago under his 87-year-old senior teacher, Grandmaster Duk Gun Kwon, who he met in 1991.

During the exercise, Thimangu performed high level tactics involving attacks, defense, evasions, kicks, punches, blocks, including a written 10- page thesis.

These were reviewed by three world grandmasters, and approved by the South Korea based World Taekwondo federation that gave the homework a clean bill of health.

By achieving the feat, Thimangu now becomes the first indigenous Kenyan to become a seventh-degree black belt holder in the sport.

“Getting to this level is very humbling. When I began taking taekwondo classes at the Kenya Taekwondo Association gym in Nairobi, following a mugging incident at the Nairobi Central Park, I had no ambition, dream or idea that I would even one day get a first-degree black belt in the game,” Thimangu stated.

“But here we are, 38 years later and I’m teaching the sport in the US. I’m trying to inspire others to invest in taking care of their mental and physical health. No matter how old you are, that is what taekwondo is all about. “

Thimangu practices and teaches modern taekwondo, which is commonly known as Kukkiwon or the Olympic style taekwondo.

Kukkiwon is a martial art that originated in South Korea after World War II. It is practiced by millions of people around the world. It is one of the two martial arts that are amateur Olympic sports, along with Judo which is a Japanese grappling combat game.

Apart from teaching the game, Thimangu is the owner of Arch Taekwondo School in St. Louis, US, where he is also a master instructor. He has lived in St. Louis for 20 years.

Under his guidance, over 100 players have managed to attain black belt certification since he opened the taekwondo school.

Patrick and his son Benjie. PHOTO/WEBP

Among those who have attained the title include his son Benjie, who is currently a university freshman and a third-degree black belt holder, and his daughter Eva, an eight-year-old eighth grader, who is now a second-degree black belt achiever. His wife Rachel, even though does not practice taekwondo, has been a great supporter of the trio in the sport.

Thimangu is grateful to those who have been prolific in his taekwondo journey including his two grandmother whose resilience to make ends meet for the family inspired his dedication in the sport.

” Of course I didn’t get to this level on my own. The global village did it. All my teachers, my family, my fellow taekwondoin, my students and my friends here in the US and in Kenya have kept me going all these years. For that, I’m eternally grateful and indebted to them.”

Thimangu moved to America in 1990 to study for a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism and communications.

The inspiration to leave a 15-year journalism career in America and start his own business came from a desire to live a healthier lifestyle. He also wanted to motivate others, especially adults, to do the same – which is important in a country facing monumental health problems caused by obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

” While many people only know and even practice taekwondo for its sport aspects – that is a small part of the martial arts- often geared only to the young, serious taekwondo practice involves human development for people of all ages, through practice of well-rounded mental and physical fitness exercises,” says Thimangu.

Some of Thimangu’s trainees.PHOTO/WEBP

Thimangu has been in the forefront in the promotion of the game in Kenya. In 2016, he hosted and led a two-day seminar in Meru for 35 taekwondo teachers.

Late last year, he helped four Kenyans to earn a fourth degree black belt and qualify for Kukkiwon certification as International Taekwondo Master Instructors.

The Kenyan teachers are Kennedy Njoroge Kimemia, Moses Mairan’ga Mungai, Paul Muthokia and Cosmas Kimathi Mwandiki.

Patrick Thimangu in numbers

10: Number of pages he wrote in his taekwondo thesis

15: Years he practiced journalism in America

20: Years he has lived in St. Louis, US

38: Years he has been in the US

Over 100: Number of players he has inspired into various black belts degree titles

58: His age

1986: When he Embraced taekwondo in Nairobi

1991: When he met his current 87-year-old senior teacher and Grandmaster Duk Gun Kwon

2016: Hosted and led a two-day seminar in Meru for 35 taekwondo teachers

2023: Helped four Kenyans attain fourth degree black belt certification and qualify as Kukkiwon International Taekwondo Master Instructors.

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