Standing in front of a line of people, a man wearing a black Brazilian jiu jitsu gi with a brown belt performs a karakia.

He has just welcomed them to his new gym and thanked them for coming.

"Alright, guys, thank you again," he says when he's finished.

"Hands by your side."

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They all bow, bringing their raised arms down and slapping the sides of their legs in unison as they bend forward.

We are at the Te Maru Jiu Jitsu public open day and that was an open mat session getting under way.

Outside, under a gazebo, plates of delicious-looking tacos are waiting for the athletes, along with fresh fruit and water. Music is playing, kids are blowing bubbles and playing with balloons.

The brand new jiu-jitsu gym is located on Ashley Pl in Pāpāmoa East, a quiet street in a growing commercial area off Te Okuroa Dr.

Maketū husband and wife team, Nicholas and Michelle Te Aute, both 30, are the owners.

Nicholas was the man in the black gi (uniform) and brown belt.

Te Maru means "the shelter" or "the safe place" in Māori, he explains to the Bay of Plenty Times.

"That's the kaupapa behind this," he says.

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"We want to create a safe environment for people to come and learn Brazilian jiu jitsu."

Michelle and Nicholas Te Aute have just opened Te Maru Jiu Jitsu in Pāpāmoa. Photo / Andrew Warner
Michelle and Nicholas Te Aute have just opened Te Maru Jiu Jitsu in Pāpāmoa. Photo / Andrew Warner

Nicholas was born and raised in the Bay of Plenty, before spending time in Australia and then coming home to "start something positive".

"I really just want to share the jiu-jitsu that I've learned from around the world and bring it over to the Bay of Plenty."

He has been training in martial arts for close to 20 years – taekwondo, Muay Thai kickboxing and now Brazilian jiu jitsu.

He says their gym is for all ages and experience levels – from beginner to advance. Everyone is welcome.

And, looking around, that is who is here today.

Some are wearing jiu jitsu gi, others aren't. There are white, purple, blue and brown belts (signifying where the athletes are in the grading system).

The open day started with a free kids' class, which went over basic movements and fundamentals – nothing too hard just yet.

That was followed by an adults' class, which also covered the basics – takedowns, side control, and submissions.

The final hour has been set aside for the open mat session, a chance for anyone to grab a partner, "have a roll" and have fun.

Nicholas Te Aute (left) leading a free adults' class at the Te Maru Jiu Jitsu opening day. Photo / Andrew Warner
Nicholas Te Aute (left) leading a free adults' class at the Te Maru Jiu Jitsu opening day. Photo / Andrew Warner

Nicholas says jiu jitsu is not a seasonal sport. In fact, it's not even just a sport.

"This is something you take with you throughout your whole life. It's not just about the sport, it's about the lifestyle."

He says they teach self-defence and control, but also discipline.

"We teach people how to act off the mat as well as on the mat – how to be a good person in life, that's the main focus."