The dentist who is a knockout fighter
Thursday 24th January 2008, 12:00AM GMT.
GUERNSEY has a world-class martial artist in its midst. In September, Dr Karifala Tarawali moved to the island to join Ash, Foster & Harding Dental Practice.
But when you meet the polite and highly regarded dentist, you would never realise that the 36-year-old is a former Great Britain ju-jitsu and kick-boxing champion.
In 2005, he also represented his home country of Sierra Leone at the World Full-Contact Kick-boxing Championships in Paris.
Kari, as he is better known, won bronze in the light-heavyweight division.
‘The highlight of my career was the world championships,’ he said.
‘I think it’s the first medal that Sierra Leone has won at world championship level.’
A black belt in ju-jitsu and karate and more than competent in kung fu and tae kwon do, Tarawali started his martial arts career at a relatively late age of 18 when he took up karate in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown.
With a Sierra Leonese father and a Russian mother, in the early 1990s he went to study dentistry in Volgograd, south Russia.
It was there that he really began to make his name on the martial arts scene, becoming the Russian karate champion among other titles.
Because of his martial arts skills he was allowed to be taught the Russian fighting system of Sambo, which is used by the country’s special forces.
As he was not Russian, he was not allowed to compete in the national championships, although he points out that he had defeated the top fighters in the contest.
Then in 2000 and still in Russia, he fought in an ultimate fighting competition that has fighters battle it out within a steel cage.
After progressing through the regional rounds, he made his way to the finals in Moscow where he fought the Ukraine national champion.
Tarawali lost the bout, but his opponent was in such a state he could not go any further in the tournament.
‘That was scary,’ said Tarawali about his ultimate fighting experience.
‘The weird thing is that you go into this cage and they lock you in so you can’t run away. The cage is pretty high as well.’
Soon after that Tarawali moved to Burnley to work in a dental practice and it was in the UK that his martial arts career took another leap forward.
After winning silver in the British Ju-Jitsu Championships in 2001, he went on to become the national champion for the next three years.
In 2002 he represented Great Britain in the European and the World Ju-Jitsu Championships in Uruguay.
An injury to his right calf saw him take an early exit from the ‘Worlds’.
He was also the British light-heavyweight champion in full-contact kick-boxing in 2004 and was runner-up in 2005, the same year he went to the World Kick-Boxing Championships.
After reaching the semi-finals he was eventually sent out of the competition by the Croatian champion but had a bronze medal around his neck.
‘He was tough,’ said Tarawali.
Following his successes it was time for him to retire from martial arts to concentrate on his dentistry career.
And after seeing a position advertised in the island with the High Street dentists, Tarawali moved here.
He has been keeping himself fit with boxing at the Amalgamated Boys’ Club in St Martin’s and has been training with Bels football team.
It also turns out that he is a fine sprinter and has been training with the Guernsey Athletics Club.
His best time for the 100m is 11.02sec., which he recorded when he was a student.
He has not ruled out competing for Guernsey on the track.
‘If I can start running like that again and they want me, then yes,’ he said.
However, he does admit that he misses his martial arts.
If he can find somewhere to train that can test him, he might get back into it.
‘I do miss it and it was hard when I retired’ he said.