Successful haul for Jiu-Jitsu whānau at world champs

By James Perry

Three members of a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club in Hāwera, South Taranaki have returned home from the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships with nine medals.

The team are all relatives and their story shows that a whānau that grapples together, succeeds together.

Whitikama 'Whitz' Kerehoma is the coach of Equipe Tsunami Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Hāwera. 

His daughter, Te Waiariki won a silver in the female yellow kid 4 super feather non-Gi division, and bronze in the Gi division. 

A niece, Rhiannon Tito, won gold in five juvenile divisions, Gi, non-Gi featherweight, and Gi and non-Gi Openweight as well as an extra exhibition match.

Whitikama, who competed as well and won the masters men's Gi purple belt division and silver in the no-gi division, describes watching his young whānau members on the podium as "amazing". 

"I felt like a tangiweto.  You just want some space to kind of absorb all the emotions that you are going through.  We didn't know what we were walking into so for them to even get on the podium is huge."

As a coach, he says he is "beaming with pride" with the success they achieved in Long Beach, California. 

Tito and Te Waiariki have only been doing BJJ for two years before achieving this success. 

Whitikama now hopes that they all stand as an example to others in Hāwera and Taranaki as a whole.

"There are no boundaries.  We're pretty much capable of doing whatever we set our minds to and I just hope it influences a lot of our other kids back home to give things a go.  Not only Jiu-Jitsu, but anything."

As the trio arrived at Auckland Airport their immediate thought was on getting home to South Taranaki.  Whitikama says it won't be long before they get back onto the mat- "getting back to what we love." 

With the Māori BJJ Nationals set to take place in Taranaki over ANZAC weekend in 2019, Kerehoma says if anyone is keen, "train up, find somewhere to do it."