Kees Hooper-Whiti, 18, is having a few firsts this year.

The biggest one was going to Christchurch for university. Next, and possibly as life-changing is selection for the 60-strong New Zealand Taekwondo team at the World Championships in Germany.

It's not his first overseas trip as a martial artist. He was at the Oceanic Championships in Rarotonga in 2014 and was part of the New Zealand team sent to the National Championships of Australia in 2016, and last year he was at the Word Cup in Dublin.

Selection for the world championships is unique.


"You have to pass through a stringent selection process that is played out over three weekends to qualify for the team, while the World Cup is something you only need to register for."

It costs money, and his mum has been at events around the district promoting the Levin club and raising money for her son. She is travelling with him.

Kees is currently a second dan black belt and has been a martial artist for eight or nine years.

"I started when some of my siblings were doing it, but stopped after a while. When a club started up in Shannon where we were living at the time I joined up again and have stuck with it ever since."

He said he enjoys Taekwondo and now that he is a university student is finding that taking time out to stay fit is not easy.

"Taekwondo is a great way to stay active." He still finds time to train three days a week.

When he's home in Levin he's part of the new club, Phoenix Taekwondo, which trains three nights a week at the Events Centre and he helps out as an instructor. The club has one main instructor and three assistants, and is a merger of two previous clubs.

Kees is one of several Horowhenua Taekwondo practitioners selected for the Taekwondo World Championships: Tom Biggs, Dan Yates and Jane Whakarau, Callum and Conor Mitchell are also part of the team. Some belong to Phoenix, while others go to Palmerston North for training.


Phoenix Taekwondo caters for all age ranges and welcomes beginners. Classes start at 6pm and are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Event Centre, Victoria Street in Levin.