Producing world-class fightersSave
The goal for the Far North's newest martial arts institution is to produce world-class fighters and keep local youth out of trouble.
As both founder and head instructor of the recently formed East Coast Muay Thai, Motu 'Emmz' Trego noted well over two dozen enthusiasts, the majority of whom are local children, were coming from all over the east coast to train with the club regularly.
"Our kids were getting up to mischief. [We wanted to] Let these kids come into a safe environment, give them Muay Thai as a pathway," he said.
Many of the younger members had signed up following the fallout from the controversial closure of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Rangiawhia last year.
"There where only three of us when we started halfway through last year," he said.
The club now had 35 names registered. The manner in which things had taken off had surprised everyone and Trego said it was "very humbling".
Witnessing a crowd of 30 gather above Matai Bay for the Friday evening session earlier this month made it hard to imagine anyone was still left in the nearby village of Whatuwhiwhi.
The turnout might have had something to do with the big dinner the club cooks whipped up, allowing everyone to sit down to eat together and celebrate week's end.
Smiling at hearing the scene described as resembling one big happy family, Trego said that ECMT had been borne of Far North Thai Boxing Kaitaia.
He and a handful of others had only decided to form their own club because of the time, energy and cost in travelling to Kaitaia to train three times a week.
"We love FNTBK and respect what they have done for us," he said.
Since its establishment, a number of fighters have represented ECMT at various martial arts shows across the upper half of the North Island over summer.
Next month, three youngsters will travel to Auckland to try out for the New Zealand team heading to the 2017 IFMA Youth World Championships in Thailand later this year.
That includes Lfah Trego who, at age 10, doesn't actually need to trial. He's been given automatic entry into the national team after winning silver in his age/ weight grade at the 2016 worlds, along with Manu Tepania (age 13, 60kg division) and Isiah Kerehama (11, 34kg).
As the club's most experienced fighter, Lfah has had 12 fights with 10 wins and two losses, Manu has won all of his four fights, while Isiah has a five win/ three loss record.
With no doubt all three would qualify for the national youth worlds team, Trego said the focus now is to raise the money necessary to get everyone - fighters, instructors and caretakers - to Thailand.
"We are not looking for fame, we are looking for an opportunity for these kids.
"There's no other way to expose our talented kids. We have started fundraising ... Got our first sponsorships," he said.
Any further offers of assistance would be greatly appreciated.
"If that can help get our kids there, then we are in the running line to get a gold medal.
"It's like Lotto, you've got to be in to win."
Trego pauses for a moment as a ruckus breaks out nearby - two adult men sparring in the outside DIY ring nearby had begun launching haymakers at each other in the balmy evening only to tumble through the 'ropes' - actually No.8 wire - and lie giggling together on the kikuyu grass.
"There was nothing out here for our kids. There is now!"
- For more information, contact Emmz Trego (021)268-4442.