Born in a Rai community ever eager to join the British Army, Thaneshwor Rai, happened to become the torchbearer of Karate in Nepal. Inspired by the kicks and bouts of Bruce Lee in movies and his Japanese master in Singapore, Rai has come a long way in his romance with Karate since early 1970s.
Never compromising on discipline, dedication and patience this Karate guru is credited for enabling Nepal to clinch topmost titles in Karate in South Asia. Now that Rai is officially retiring from Karate at the age of 56, this unsung father of Nepali Karate pours his heart on the how his journey has been till now.
Rai was introduced to Karate while he was working in the Singapore Police under the British Army. However, when Karate was introduced in Nepal, the government deemed it illegal. “We nevertheless practiced underground at night and in secluded locations. It was only after our performance were appreciated in All India Open Karate Championship at Madras by the media, that the government finally legalised this sport in 1981,” reminiscences Rai.
After this remarkable achievement, Rai established Nepal Karate Federation for training people for the next 25 years as a chief coach. However, not much time and effort was needed for Karate to find popularity among general people, as “the physique and psyche of Nepali people suited very much to the game”.
Rai who also holds 6th Dan has participated in scores of national and international competitions, and won accolades. In 1976, he was the first foreigner to win in All Singapore Open Karate Championship at Singapore. Apart from winning medals in many games, Rai has also been honored with many decorations, awards and accolades which includes Gorkha Dakshin Bahu medal and National Talent Award. Recently, he was felicitated with the honorary title of “Ambassador of Peace” by Universal Peace Federation, and Inter-religious and International Federation for World Peace.
Rai who is presently the Deputy Directorof the Nepal Sports council however humbly says,”I feel like the same man that I was when I introduced Karate in Nepal.” The master got most satisfied when the Nepalis managed to clinch 14 out of 16 gold medals in martial arts. “It was a good payback to me for my efforts,” he says. Rai now plans to open his own training center for young students, and wishes that Nepal won more accolades in the sport in the years to come.