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Gym inspired life changes

Sometimes all you need is a spark to change things. Jay-Jay Wilson, 16, talks to Julian Raethel about how he turned his life around through mixed martial arts.

Jay-Jay Wilson is the first to admit he was heading down the wrong track.

Growing up in South Auckland, he mixed with the wrong crowds and was constantly in trouble.

Drinking, fighting and staying out late were commonplace in the young teenager’s life. ‘‘I was just doing dumb things,’’ Wilson says. ‘‘It really brought my family down.’’

Wilson attended Papatoetoe High School and lived with his aunt, uncle and nine siblings. ‘‘It wasn’t a big house but it was really cool. ‘‘I always had someone there to keep things entertaining.’’ He dropped out of school and moved to live with his stepmother in Glen Eden last year.

Wilson was coaxed into turning up to the local Steve Oliver MMA gym — a visit that would change him forever.

‘‘I was still slipping up a bit.’’ Now aged 16, Wilson has turned it all around. ‘‘My friend kept asking me to join him at the gym but I didn’t want to go,’’ he says. ‘‘Then one day we were at the dairy, I had no money and asked him to buy me some lollies.‘‘He agreed but only if I showed up at the gym.’’

Wilson now trains five times a week for at least two hours a session. He won his first competition at Trusts Arena in the national no-gi tournament for the under-65kg category in August. job. He also got a drainlaying ‘‘It’s changed my whole life,’’ Wilson says. ‘‘Everyone here is friendly, welcoming and helpful. I feel like I belong and realise that crime just isn’t worth it.’’ Wilson will be competing at the NZ Grappler Brazilian Jiu Jitsu No-Gi Tournament on Saturday.

Visit nzgrappler for information.

Story by Julian Raethel in Western Leader Thursday 20th February

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