WHEN Hemi Keelan discovered his first child was going to be a girl, he stepped up his kickboxing hobby.

''I could see the way the world was going. It's a dangerous world for women so I wanted to teach her how to defend herself,'' he says.

Hemi first took up martial arts in 2005.

''Ataahua got me into kickboxing. I was giving it a go but not really taking it seriously until then.''


Now he has three children with partner Aroha that he has passed his skills onto — Ataahua, 11, Erana-Lee, 10 and Kahutia, 4.

And there's about dozen other children Hemi teaches, and adults, at the Waihi Community Martial Arts Centre in Haszard St.

The centre has continued to grow over the years and is bursting at the seams. Hemi is unsure about the future of the current site and is on the lookout for a new facility.

Hemi is recognised as a top coach and was awarded coach of the tear at the 2018 Hauraki Sports Awards.

Parents of ''pee wees'' and teenagers at the centre praise him for turning their children around.

''We have had some wicked transformations,'' Hemi says. ''We have to work with each other especially doing this as it's a contact sport. We fight each other but we still care each other and that's what we teach — respect for yourself, respect for others and responsibility for actions.''

He is particularly proud at having a hand in the accomplishments of world champions. Most recently Hayden Barnard won gold at the world martial arts games in Thailand earlier this year. A fundraising event was held to get Hayden to the event.

Hemi is also one of Waihi's ambassadors (champions) for the It's Not Ok family violence campaign.


The centre emerged from humble beginnings with one child that Hemi was asked to help.

He's worked his muay thai magic at venues such as a church, a shed at the back of his home in Waihi East, the shed at the back of their Haszard St facility and now the main building which has a room for young children, toilet facilities, a kitchen area and bigger training area. There is a separate area for an office.

But with approximately 40 members coming and going throughout the week, the place is getting busy. Sometimes classes must merge into the main training area, which isn't ideal. He'd also like to start a new muay thai fitness class.

Hemi says he plans to ''push through'' and do what ever he can to keep the centre going. He'll be starting a fundraising campaign soon. If you can help with funds, or have suggestions for a new venue — email Hemi at waihimuaythai@gmail.com

■ Club nights: Waihi Community Martial Arts: Age 7-12 Monday and Thursday at 4.30pm. Age 13 upwards Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays at 6pm. Peewee classes, ages 5-7 years Tuesday and Wednesday 4.30pm. Women only Tuesdays 6pm.