Karate Travellers in Kathmandu

Stuck in Nepal’s lockdown, transcontinental martial arts duo decide to make the best of it

Their names are so unpronounceable for Nepalis that Gereltungalog Erdenetsogt has the nickname ‘Ge’, and Giovanni Viradi calls himself ‘Gio’. The two world travellers have been stuck in Nepal since March because of the COVID-19 lockdown, but like it so much here that they have decided not to be repatriated on evacuation flights.

Ge and Gio met last year in Laos, and were immediately drawn to each other by their passion for the martial arts. They came to Nepal on a trek, have been here ever since, teaching children karate and taekwondo.

“We considered going back, but Nepal made us feel at home and there are really good people who have been helpful,” says Ge, who is from Mongolia. Gio is from Italy and says it did not make sense going back to his country at a time when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak.

Many foreigners stay put in Nepal, Sonia Awale and Marty Logan

Travellers stuck in Nepal help locals in need, Sonia Awale

Despite their different cultural backgrounds, the two are united by their zeal for martial arts. Besides giving martial arts tutorials to children in an orphanage in Panauti, the two have also been regularly recording a ‘Quarantine Self-defence Series’ on the terrace of their house in Swayambhu and posting it on the Internet.

“Karate can have a social focus and can be used as a powerful took for the empowerment of women and for anti-bullying campaigns,” says Ge, who adds that the lockdown period in Nepal has given them time to train, meditate and reassess their lives.

Ge, 32, was brought up in a nomadic lifestyle in the Mongolian steppe, got tired of a sedentary career in Shanghai and quit for a backpack life. On the other side of the world, thirty four-year-old Gio also quit his job as a chef in England and also headed out into the world.

Girl Gurkhas, Monika Deupala

Their separate trajectories brought them together in Laos last year, and they decided to explore Asia, pursue their interest in the martial arts. and are known by their Instagram handle, Karate Travellers.

“I was hooked to Bruce Lee movies when I was a kid, and did not like cartoons,” recalls Gio. “Dad even took me to a karate dojo and encouraged me to take part in tournaments.” Ge is also sporty, is experienced in taekwondo and nunchaku, and the two are a perfect fit.

The two put on their dobok karate robes every morning, set their tripod on the terrace to  record their choreographed karate tutorials with a backdrop of the stupa on the hill, and post them online.

Every Asian country has its own karate tradition, and the two train with locals to learn the nuances, and add to their repertoire. Gio explains: “We started to use karate as cross-cultural bridge, travelled different countries used martial arts as language to communicate with people from different cultures, and for self-improvement.”

For free-spirited travellers like Ge and Gio, the lockdown could have been like prison, but they have turned it to their advantage. Says Ge: “We decided to make lemonade out of sour lemon by keeping our minds busy and our body fit.”

With Nepal’s international flight ban set to be lifted in three weeks, the two may not have to wait much longer to go out into the world again.

Kathmandu airport gets facelift during lockdown, Raju Banskota

Monika Deupala


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