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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.
Leonie, 22, and Pheline, 18, left for Europe yesterday, where the younger sister will represent New Zealand at the WAKO Senior World Championships in Albufeira, Portugal from November 17-26.
Pheline, a five-time World Martial Arts champion, 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."
"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," Pheline said.
"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 raising funds to cover her costs via a GiveaLittle page.
"Being able to see the world and travel, meet amazing athletes, it’s definitely a cool thing to do," Leonie said.
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 "absolutely" encouraged anyone who was curious to take up a martial art, even if they were not interested in fighting competitively.
"You know you don’t need to go into martial arts to fight — you just do it for yourself."