Pack­ing a big punch

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By LAUREN PRI­EST­LEY

SHE might be tiny but she sure is mighty.

Lit­tle 7-year-old Ash­ley Nes­bitt of Block­house Bay has qual­i­fied for the 2014 Kids World In­ter­na­tional Brazil­ian Jiu-Jitsu Cham­pi­onship in the United States in July.

And she is sure to put up a good fight.

The shy young­ster is one of the small­est jiu-jitsu fighters in New Zealand at the mo­ment and is used to be­ing un­der­es­ti­mated.

She started mar­tial arts train­ing less than two years ago and has been pack­ing a punch ever since, her mum Fiona says.

‘‘She’s so quiet by na­ture and I think that’s the overwhelming thing. People see her be­fore a match and think ‘how cute’ but when she steps out on the mat she comes out of her shell.

‘‘She’s dy­namic. It’s where she be­longs.’’

The de­ter­mined young­ster is the mid­dle child of five sib­lings who all prac­tice mar­tial arts.

The worlds will be Ash­ley’s first time away from home and out of New Zealand.

‘‘I’m kind of ner­vous but ex­cited,’’ Ash­ley says. ‘‘I like win­ning. I’m go­ing there to try and win.’’

She started gym­nas­tics be­fore she was 5 along­side her two older sis­ters and quickly rose to the top of the class, un­til she was selected for the New Zealand elite train­ing squad.

But the fam­ily had to make a tough de­ci­sion when the $200 monthly fees kicked in.

‘‘It’s hard to hear as a par­ent, these world-class coaches say­ing she was phenom­e­nal but we just couldn’t af­ford it.

‘‘At the end of the day she wasn’t re­ally en­joy­ing it ei­ther. So we started look­ing at other op­tions for her,’’ Fiona says.

Ash­ley now holds three na­tional ti­tles and will be com­pet­ing again next month on June 14 – her 8th birth­day.

Her two older sis­ters also com­pete and her younger brother and sis­ter are just get­ting started with the fam­ily sport.

It is a spe­cial bond, Fiona says.

‘‘We see what goes on be­hind the scenes and they don’t ever re­ally stop train­ing. Ev­ery par­ent thinks their kids are amaz­ing – but it’s not just nat­u­ral talent, it’s the hard work they put in as well.’’

The sport has taught her chil­dren self-con­fi­dence, re­spect, hu­mil­ity and how to lose grace­fully, Fiona says.

At the same time it is a set of prac­ti­cal skills, she says.

‘‘In this day and age, I’m a strong be­liever that all girls should know how to pro­tect them­selves.

‘‘If they ever needed to, they could. That’s just price­less for me.’’

Coach Steve Oliver says Ash­ley has what it takes to get to the top.

He has watched her trans­form dur­ing the months prac­tis­ing the mar­tial art, he says.

‘‘She’s just a real nat­u­ral. She’s quite shy and quiet and then through jiu-jitsu she has just be­come so con­fi­dent. It’s not un­com­mon with kids here.

‘‘She just backs 200 per cent.’’

The fam­ily is fundrais­ing to get Ash­ley to the United States to com­pete this year.

her­self

Photo: LAUREN PRI­EST­LEY

Start­ing young: Ash­ley Nes­bitt, 7, is on her way to the world champs.

Go to cen­tral­leader.co.nz to see a video of Ash­ley Nes­bitt do­ing Brazil­ian Jiu-Jitsu.

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