Shaping boys into men with jiu-jitsu

  • 06/11/2016
Chevron Te Whetumatarau Hassett
Chevron Te Whetumatarau Hassett

Chevron Te Whetumatarau Hassett believes that jiu-jitsu is so much more than a martial arts sport.

Hassett is New Zealand's current national Māori open weight champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and believes strongly that this sport has the power to transform people, give them self-worth and enhance their mana.

"It's taught me a lot about keeping cool under stress, under pressure and it's taught me how to be a man, and how to be a good person," the 22 year-old says.

Hassett is in his final year of a design degree at Massey University, and the athlete and artist sees the benefits of practising jiu-jitsu first-hand in the volunteer work he does with students from his old high school, Taita College. 

Te Mangopare o Taita is a mentoring programme for boys from single-parent families and disadvantaged backgrounds.

"A lot of kids there have many hurdles and mountains to climb just to make it to school in the morning.  I don't do it for any other reason other than I care for these kids, for the rangatahi there," he says.

This is not just a lesson in martial arts, but an opportunity for these rangatahi to have a Māori male role model in their lives.

"He's funny, he's a good leader, he knows how to talk to us.  He's inspiring, makes me want to be as good as him," says Taita College student Manaia Fraser.

Taita College's lead teacher Alice Wilson has been running this programme for the past two years and says Chev's workshop is making a bigger impact in their school lives as well.

She's seen astronomical changes in the boys and in the time she's been part of the programme she's developed strong relationships with the students.

"It means that there's someone in school that they can then turn to and I can also can advocate for them. You gain a sense of belonging by being a part of this group and that in turn wants you to be at school and in classes, teachers hear about the positive things that you're doing in that group, the kids develop a sense of belief in themselves," says Alice.

Hassett is determined to maintain a presence in the boys' lives despite his 20 hours of jiu-jitsu training and university studies.

"It's important for me to make sure that I put a foot in the door for these kids to show them that I'm there," he says.

The Hui 

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