Sport | Rangatahi

Former jiu-jitsu champ advocates pushing more troubled rangatahi into martial arts countrywide

Former world Jiu-Jitsu champion Steve Oliver has spoken out about the problems youth are faced with, particularly rangatahi Māori, saying he believes martial arts like jiu-jitsu could help them and push them into greater things.

Martial arts are growing in popularity across the country, due in part to the success of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

With four gyms across the North Island, Oliver has seen many rangatahi walk through his doors including Hakaraia Wilson who is continuing his pro-MMA career in the US after training with Oliver.

“Not everyone likes rugby league or netball. Jiu-jitsu has a hook that a lot of team sports don’t have for a lot of people.

“Typically Māori come from a big family - if you’re not first, you’re last. So a healthy bit of competition is there from the beginning, so they naturally thrive at it.”

Martial arts continue to grow in popularity across the country, due in part to the success of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Thriving in Dubai

With youth crime seen increasing, Oliver believes a contributing factor is there is a lack of programmes for youth to participate in and that already established programmes don’t get enough support, causing them to shut.

Overseas, investment into martial arts such as in Dubai has seen the discipline thrive among youth, keeping them out of trouble. And Oliver wants to emulate it on a country-wide scale in Aotearoa.

“Over the past 15 years the sheikhs, the richest men in the world, have invested in a jiu-jitsu programme in their schools throughout the country.

“I’d love to see their statistics for suicide and crime rates because, from what I see, jiu-jitsu turns people who are a little bit lost into contributing parts of society through years of discipline.

“People start out with potentially bad intentions, ‘I just want to be a weapon’. But to be a weapon you have to turn up, get consistent, learn to be disciplined, control your temper, eat properly - there’s a lot of maturity that goes on through the process.

“At the end of it all, they come back around.”

Public Interest Journalism