Girls empowered by girls-only judo class

By Talisa Kupenga

In an effort to increase the number of female judo fighters on the mat, Gisborne Judo Club is leading the way with a 'girls night' so females of all ages can learn self-defence. Fifth Dan Sensei Kiki Velloza says the initiative has proven popular and she is excited to see the numbers of Judo girls on the rise.

These girls could be the Gisborne Judo Club's potential future fighters.

Kiki Velloza, Ngāti Porou says, "So I got all the girls that do Judo during the week, offered them a free class on Friday nights and then invited their mums, their sisters and so all the boys, because it's girls only, can have their mums come down so that's how it started and we've been doing it for about a year and a half now."

Velloza started the girls’ class because of the decline in female fighters, but also to equip them with self-defence tools.

Velloza says, "So If we had everyone on the mat on one night I would say we'd have about 45 girls, and we've got some new mums as well so I'm really happy.”

But what do the girls like most about Judo?

Jasmine (10) says, "You can make lots of friends and learn lots of moves for how to defend yourself in life.”

"Like you're going to flip them over onto a mat,” says Grace (5).

Kaiawha (11) says, "I like it how all the girls can join up together and get to know eachotherand just be away from the boys."

"To not be scared to flip them and like not be scared to go out there,” says Lexi (11).

Velloza is also NZ Olympic coach and manager for Perth-based Ngāti Porou woman Darcina Manuel.

Jason King, 5th Dan, Kapa Judo ki Tūranga says, "Kiki has spent alot of time with Darcina at various tournaments around the world and I think they gel really well."

Velloza hopes to see a rise in female fighter numbers. She and Manuel leave for the Rio Olympics this Wednesday.