HARARE - Record breaking Zimbabwean marshal artist Wilfred Mashaya didn't become a karateka by design.
He had to master the art, under pressure, in a desperate bid to protect himself from street bullying.
One wouldn't afford a normal life in Mufakose, a then notorious ghetto to the east of Harare, unless if one was a well-known someone whose talent in sport or academic work was on the street walls.
The likes of talismanic Kaizer Chiefs and Zimbabwe Warriors midfielder, Khama Billiat, as well as Black Rhinos Queens and Mighty Warriors captain Talent Mandaza come from this ghetto.
Yes, they both hail from this ghetto and certainly the pair has a few stories to tell.
But Mashaya was not a talented footballer like Billiat and Mandaza, and neither was he one of the brightest in class.
He had to stand for himself in a community where virtually everyone was a bully.
He convinced his parents to part with some few dollars to have him trained in martial arts at a local hall.
He perfected the art in a flash.
Even the community was shocked.
No one, including Mashaya himself, even realised the boy had inherent talent, maybe till recently.
And the art he acquired as a mere boy became sort of an addiction.
He couldn't live without it.
When he joined the Zimbabwe Republic Police in 2009, his superiors saw in him a potential national champion.
They decided to help him. He complied by putting in a lot of work representing the force in national competitions where he almost always conquered.
With his superiors' support, his journey to stardom began.
And it has brought with it national and continental records.
His maiden global contest in Kobudo was never easy in 2016.
But he managed to clinch silver, igniting in him a dormant belief that he would one day make world headlines.
He followed the dream and between 2017 and 2018, Mashaya has been in the news in Africa and beyond.
The 38-year old fighter last year became the first African to win the Kobudo World Championship.
He subsequently became the first athlete, from this continent to be inducted into the Barcelona Hall of Honours. He was inducted into the Serbian Hall of Fame earlier this year following his listing into the Heroes Hall of Honours in Venice, Italy, last year.
The reigning Zimbabwe Sportsperson of the Year capped it all by winning the Sportsperson of the Year in the Regional Annual Sports Awards (RASA) held in Windhoek, Namibia, in May.
And he has been inducted into the London International Hall of Fame, Europe's oldest and longest running Hall of Fame.
He couldn't attend due to financial constraints and had to be honoured in absentia.
"I never knew I was talented though I just had this liking to watch action movies.
"Look, I never wanted to become a fighter in my life. That wasn't in me but then the environment that I grew up in forced me to learn some basic skills of this art as I needed to protect myself from street bullying.
"It got into me and I eventually mastered it into a sport which l would eke a living out of, thanks to my superiors in the police force who encouraged me to pursue it," said Mashaya.
The now Zimbabwean representative of the International Association of Bodyguards said he was humbled after the latest honour.
"Although I couldn't be part of the event in London due to lack of finances, I am very much satisfied with the achievement.
"I never thought that one day I would be as celebrated as I am today. I am very humbled and I believe the sky is the limit.
"I will continue working hard to achieve even more".