For Wānaka sisters Leonie and Pheline Rosin, a sport that started out as a means of defending themselves has now elevated them to the world stage.
Nineteen-year-old Pheline and 22-year-old Leonie departed for Europe on Sunday, where the younger sister will represent New Zealand at the WAKO Senior World Championships in Albufeira, Portugal from November 17 to 26.
Pheline said the pair picked up kickboxing about 11 years ago after she got badly bullied at primary school.
‘‘I was about 7 years old at the time, so I was really scared and shy, so my big sister came along to support.
‘‘We just kind of continued on and loved it every step of the way.’’
She said she felt ‘‘pretty confident’’ about her chances at the championships, but acknowledged this occasion would be somewhat unique for her.
‘‘Most world champs I’ve gone to, I enter multiple divisions. So I use one division as my warm-up for some of the more important ones.
‘‘Whereas this one is just . . . one division. If I lose, I’m out. But we’re not going there to lose.’’
As the sport receives no government funding, Pheline is currently raising funds to cover her competition expenses via a Givealittle page.
Leonie, a coach at Diamond Martial Arts in Wānaka and current five-time world champion in kickboxing, said the pair relished every opportunity to compete overseas.
‘‘Being able to see the world and travel, meet amazing athletes, it’s definitely a cool thing to do.’’
While Leonie will not be competing in this championship, she will be on hand as a coach and match referee.
Back home, Leonie said she saw the growth of Diamond Martial Arts as a great way to work with the local community.
‘‘We try and work with the youth as well. So give them a purpose, give them selfcontrol.’’
She said she ‘‘absolutely’’ encouraged anyone who was curious to take up a martial art. ‘‘You know you don’t need to go into martial arts to fight, you just do it for yourself.’’