Kickboxing: Vaughan's determined to win

By Kathy Webb

Janna Vaughan is a health promoter at Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga in Hastings.

She runs creative, educational programmes for the community, teaching the benefits of eating well, proper healthcare and general wellbeing.

In her other life, outside work, the diminutive 23-year-old is a champion Muay Thai kickboxer with her sights on a world title in Russia.

At a glance, it's a life of two halves, extreme contrast. But in reality, Vaughan the health promoter and Vaughan the New Zealand Muay Thai lightweight champion live by the same principles - fitness, health, diet and mental discipline. And that's the way it's been since she was about 10 when she followed her brother into kickboxing while living in Palmerston North.

Since then Vaughan has won the 2008 South Pacific lightweight title and the 2009 New Zealand featherweight title.

In March, she became the national Muay Thai lightweight champion again and in September, she plans on heading to St Petersburg, Russia, to win a world title.

More than 100 countries will have Muay Thai kickboxers there and her 54-57kg class could have representatives from up to 25 countries.

However, to get there, Vaughan has to raise $6000 to cover her costs. Her mother's family and church in Moerewa are organising a fundraising dinner and she has applied for sponsorship but expects she will have have to find more cash on top of that.

Another aspect of her preparations is diet. Wanting to lose several kilos before the big fights in September, she has adopted the Paleo nutrition system, a strict regime which bans all processed foods, dairy products, sugar, grains and bread in favour of protein, fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and some fat for energy.

Such disciplined living is nothing new to Vaughan, who went flatting when she was 15 and her parents split up. She didn't want to go to the Far North with her mother.

"I knew if I went up there I would end up pregnant and doing nothing. I wanted to pursue my sport and education."

Vaughan completed her secondary education at Freyberg High School, Palmerston North, did a bachelor's degree in physical educationat Otago University while training continually and fighting occasionally.

During these years she was supported by her coach, Ben Ahipene, who took her into his family circle when her own fell apart.

"He sort of adopted me, like a whangai [foster child]."

In more recent years, while competing at higher levels, Vaughan has devoted a huge part of her life to kickboxing.

"It's a demanding sport once you get into the fighting business. It's a drain on your social life and relationships because it requires so much training and diet and mental training and focus. It kind of consumes most of your life.

"It takes a strong family to get you through. The pay-off is mana, making your family and your trainer proud, setting a good example for the people you love. When I go home, everyone gets motivated because I set that example."

Kickboxing involves punches, kicks and blows from elbows and knees. Injuries such as shin bruises, black eyes and broken noses and knuckles are common but Vaughan says rugby is more dangerous. S

he should know, because she's been playing rugby since she was 5 and has been a Manawatu and Otago NPC rep. She is also a member of the South Island Maori and Central North Island Maori teams.

She's now in a Hawke's Bay squad which will be trying out for places in the 2016 Olympics Sevens and, if that weren't enough, this season she has taken up netball and is "doing all right" although she's surprised at how rough it is for a supposedly non-contact sport.

"Yes, I'm pretty busy, but it's all about managing your time.

"It's just a lifestyle. It's what I do, so it's not difficult."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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