Brothers get their kicks together
Play fighting at the Rowe household has the ability to turn serious thanks to the abilities of brothers Don and Otis, who are making their mark as kickboxers.
The brothers are upping their training for their biggest event yet – the WAKO Junior World Championships in Serbia in September – and they will head overseas as part of a 13-strong New Zealand team.
Don, 16, is in year 12 at Hamilton Boys' High School and has been in the sport for about the same time as 11-year-old Otis, who is in year 7 at Melville Intermediate.
After Don's friend earlier drew him to Muay Thai, a back injury and a trip to Thailand in late 2008 lured him into kickboxing.
"Just from seeing all the kickboxers over there, made me want to get into it," Don said.
"So we came back and joined up to a kickboxing gym, because in Muay Thai you can't fight until your 18."
That was the clincher for Otis also, as getting in the ring was the real attraction.
"You don't have to train for three years before you can get a fight," he said.
"I just like kickboxing because there's more variety (in terms of the different disciplines)."
The duo joined Phantom Kickboxing in Melville early last year and have continued training with them.
The club has about 40 members, with 10 of those actually fighting.
"On Mondays and Thursdays it's a public training," Don said.
"We do pad work, light sparring and fitness, then on Fridays the group of us 10 fighters travel over to (Phantom) Te Awamutu because they've got a really good gym with a decent ring and lots of bags."
"Quite a bit of it is fitness," Otis said of the sport.
Josh Clarke is the coach at the club and both Rowes are in awe of him.
"My coach is my first idol. He's so much more dedicated than anyone I've ever seen before," Don said.
And in terms of "famous people", Croatian Mirko Filipovic is their favourite.
Making the junior world champs is the biggest achievement for both boys so far, although Don's national under-17 open weight title win last year is also a highlight.
"It was quite a big achievement, especially cause I hadn't been in the sport that long and there were a lot of people that had been doing it since they were five, so it was good to come along and do that well," he said.
At the world event he will compete in the 16-18 years heavyweight division in both the semi contact and light continuous disciplines, while Otis will contend the under-12, 42-47kg semi contact.
The competition will give the brothers an insight into how talented some of their overseas opponents are.
"In Europe the sport's a lot bigger," Don said. "It's going to be pretty hard.
"I kind of have an idea of the skill level. There will be some really really decent fighters, because it's under-18 and I'm 16."
But coming up against older guys doesn't overawe him a great deal.
"It's not scary, the worst that can happen is you get knocked out and that's it. It just means I have to train a bit harder."
The cut-throat nature of the competition means that the boys could get to Serbia and be eliminated in their first fight, in which case they will stay on and train for a week.
But Otis has high hopes. "I'm looking forward to having the experience of going overseas and competing. I want to get gold."
And Don has already thought about making a living through the sport.
"Not so much in New Zealand but if I was to travel overseas there's definitely the potential to make money over there," he said.
"I'd like to take kickboxing as far as I can. Chances are I'll break a leg or something in a couple of years doing something silly, but I'd like to go as far as I can. And even if I couldn't be a professional I'd still do it just for fun."