A community-focused martial arts club that began to give children something to do is now producing national champions young and old.
Tākaro BJJ/MMA was started by Corey Governor and his mother Raeleen Simeon about three years ago, running out of the school hall at Te Kura o Tākaro in Palmerston North.
When the club first started it had about 10 people, six children and four adults, but it had grown to about 190 members, adults and children, some of whom were whānau.
“I was here at the school, I work here as sports coordinator,” Governor said. “I was finding a lot of the kids were a bit misled after school.
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“I would see them down the shops and the creek. I started my own Brazilian jiu-jitsu club, something I always wanted to do being a fighter.”
He said they had gone from a small club running out of a school hall, where they had great support from the school and principal Helena Baker, to now having success in the sport and people’s lives.
They took 15 children to the New Zealand Grappler tournament in Auckland two weeks ago, winning three gold medals, three silvers and two bronze.
Governor himself has just returned from the WKA world kickboxing championship in Wales, where he won a bronze medal, while other members have been involved in other competitions.
“One of the biggest things has been taking the cost out of it. We have a lot of trauma kids.
“A lot of kids come to school who haven’t had breakfast. To be able to perform at that level at nationals is huge.”
Simeon said it was great for children to come along, something the Governor echoed.
“It’s not about the money, that’s the difference between us and other clubs,” he said.
“We’ve got that whānau chemistry that laid the foundation for the kids and the community that can strive for higher things.
“No matter where they come from, we’re a low-decile community, when the community supports us we can create national champions.”
He and his mother run the club, and his two sons Kalos and Jahlon have been involved as well.
Governor said they one day hoped to get their own facility and have a fully-equipped gym catering for all sports.
The three fighters who won gold medals at the New Zealand Grappler tournament were Monrad Te Kura Waenga o Tirohanga pupil Harley Hudepohl, 11, Te Kura o Tākaro pupil Krissy Wilson-Tipu, 11, and Benjy Paki, 30.
Krissy won the girls gi yellow belt under-49.5kg division, winning both her fights by arm bar.
She said she was nervous before the event, but happy to win.
She had trained three times a week for 10 weeks leading up to it.
She was one of the first children to join the Tākaro club and said she wanted to do more fights.
Harley won the under-51kg gray belt competition, winning his first fight on points, then the second via submission.
He was also nervous before the competition but enjoyed being there with other young competitors.
Governor was happy to see the hard work of club members pay off and he said the two children would be looking to compete in Australia next year.
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Paki won the under-95kg blue belt masters grade. He had three fights and won the “final big battle” by submission.
“I was feeling over the moon,” he said. “I had an awesome training camp at nationals leading up to it.”
He had been doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for 3 ½ years and this was his biggest win.
The event was even more significant as his son Dominic Kemp, 12, was also there competing and Paki said it was great having the father-son dynamic on the mats.
He was also full of praise for the coaching work of Governor, Simeon and the club’s top training partner Kasper McLean.
It was also a family affair for Harley, with his mother Starsh Te Riini and siblings Tarquin, 15, and 10-year-old twins Shonny and Unique also members.
Te Riini had lost 50kg through training and she said the club had helped her with health and fitness.
She started going after daughter Tarquin had no training partner, so asked her mother to come along.
“It took me months to do my first roly poly because of a fear of falling on my face,” Te Riini said.