Born to be an actress, made to be a martial artist:The story of Delphine Uwase,Some have known her as Soleil in a Rwandan Movie Series dubbed “Bamenya Series” from which she sometimes showcased some martial arts acting in various scenes.
Being one of the females who do so, with a black belt in Karate, one may need to learn a thing, two or so about her life as an actress and a Karateka in particular.
Soleil, real name Delphine Ortha Uwase, a businesswoman with various talents in martial arts and acting.
She is currently living her dream in acting which has also become a source of inspiration to venturing into martial arts.
Uwase started playing Karate in 2007 at the age of 12. She was at the time a Senior Two student.
“The idea of joining Karate was inspired by the love I had for action movies. I loved to watch American actress Cynthia Rothrock acting in movies like ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘Angels’,” she recalls in an interview with Weekend Sport.
“I, therefore, read more about her life and learnt that she was an actress who was in more than 8 martial art competitions and became the champion in them all. I joined Karate because I loved her martials arts acting,” she adds.
Uwase knew she was not going to reach Cynthia’s level winning championships but “I wanted to at least walk in her footsteps and try to maximize in the least of what she could do.”
Like Cynthia, Uwase could also be seen doing some Karate acting in some scenes of the movies that she featured in.
Finding niche in martial arts
Passion drives Uwase to spare time for martial arts and that helps her to never stop learning new things in Karate.
That devotion motivated her to open ‘Kigali Elite School Academy’, a Kicukiro-based martial arts school which, besides gym and aerobics services, gives training sessions in Taekwondo, Kung Fu and Karate.
Uwase juggles martial arts and acting which she thinks complement each other. She is often seen doing some karate demonstration in some movies which, she says, she does to encourage more young women to venture into martial arts as well get out of their comfort zones and show what they can do with their talent, just like she does in Karate.
Making a name in the cinema industry and martial arts presented so many opportunities for Uwase who has achieved celebrity status thanks to the two professions. She, for instance, landed a deal to become the brand ambassador of Shaza Fashion, a fashion line located in Kigali.
Besides, martial arts also help her maintain her body shape right while her karate skills have at some point saved her life when she got attacked.
“I once got in a situation where Karate helped me to defend myself when thieves attacked me at my place sometime back. I used my Karate techniques and got myself out of that situation,” recalls the actress.
Motivation and challenges
Uwase has never supported the idea that Karate is a man’s sport. Martial arts have become her every day motivation since she realized that people, especially her friends, admire what she does while she also receives positive feedback whenever she posts a video of her Karate sessions on her social media platforms.
That way, some people have been inspired by her way of Karate acting and have since found themselves loving the sport. Some joined her school, others or elsewhere.
“Using Karate in my scenes has made people love martial arts,” she said.
However, there are some other people who often find it hard and strange to see a girl doing martial arts like her.
She shared that some say that she will find it hard to find a man to marry her, assuming that she doesn’t have Rwandan values. But she is ready to prove them wrong.
‘Karate is for all and actually helps you to be a critical thinker and sustain those norms. I didn’t join Karate to fight. It is for peace-building instead,” she said.
Uwase holds a Black Belt and 1st Dan in Karate, which is quite a big achievement worth celebrating as a woman.
She also has a bronze medal which she won during the Rwanda National Police 50th anniversary before she stopped attending Karate competitions.
She pays tributes to late Sensei Samuel Niragire who trained her from scratch to become who she is now in the sport.
“Sensei [Niragire] is the man behind the person I am today. He never stopped reminding me that doing Karate is my daily duty. I always owe special thanks to him,” she said.
Besides being her passion, Karate has become her source of living in a way or another, after opening a martial arts school with her colleague Jean Claude Nkurunziza.
People aspiring to learn Karate and other martial arts pay some amount of money as training fees to join.
“Karate connected me with so many people and so I managed to open that school with my business partner Nkurunziza. Unity is power. I couldn’t do it alone,” she said.
Message to women
Uwase is convinced that the martial art industry is growing given how it fared back in the days.
She, therefore, urged her fellow women to venture into the sports irrespective of what people may say about them.
“I would like to encourage fellow women to join Karate and martials arts in general because you don’t know what the future holds. Maybe this can get you somewhere,” she said.
“Karate has nothing to do with violating cultural norms and values. You can do Karate and you can still be a woman of values. If people can do Karate well, then Karate can also do them well,’ she concluded.