A young Kaitaia fighter with autism is breaking down barriers by heading to the World Unified Championships in Italy.
Hikairo Collins has been fighting for three years, but already he has inspired many in his community.
Hit by hit, kick by kick, the 20-year-old is breaking down barriers.
"First time was for self-defence and fitness. Watching everyone else fight kind of made me want to fight," says Collins.
The young man who fights for the Team Taniwhā Muaythai gym in Kaitaia was 6 years old when he was diagnosed with autism. Since the beginning, he has had to overcome a lot of challenges.
Coach Tahuri Tibble (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou) says, “[Hikairo] hasn't got the natural talent, but I guess he makes up for it in the work ethic, and the commitment he brings to the club.”
Family and friends are supportive now that he's off to Italy. Eventually, his mother Paula got her head around the idea of her son being a fighter.
“I was quite shocked. I didn't think he would be into any sort of martial arts like that, but I'm glad,” says Paula Collins.
The young Te Rarawa fighter is ready to combat his opponents at the World Unified Championships which being on the 25th of October. He is determined to show the world he means business.
“Hikairo never gives up. He is a leader for our youth, but also for us,” says Tibble.
Says Collins, “I'm not worried about people who don't think I can get in the ring because I can do just as good as they can.”
Collins, along with the rest of the Team Taniwha fighters, head out this Sunday where they will head to the IOC World Cup in England as preparations, before continuing on to Italy