Stuff reporter Gianina Schwanecke has been following Jamie Nepia’s journey since witnessing the scene of the shooting at Masterton in 2018 that nearly cost Nepia her life.
It’s been more than three years since Jamie Nepia was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries after being shot at close range during a domestic violence dispute.
Despite several operations, surgeons were unable to save his injured leg.
Wanting to regain her sense of power and confidence, she began learning self-defense and kickboxing.
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Today, Nepia (Ngati Porou, Ngati Tama) is raising funds to travel to Ireland where she will represent Aotearoa New Zealand as an amputee boxer in the kickboxing and karate world championships.
“I was taken down, but I got back up,” she said.
On the night of December 2, 2018, I was driving down Dixon St after picking up some takeaway after completing my first week as a full-time reporter. When I saw the crowds gathered along the red-stained path, I knew something terrible had happened.
Nepia had been shot in the thigh with a sawed-off shotgun at close range after trying to protect others from the gunman who was facing relatives in a custody dispute.
She was hospitalized for months. Despite several surgeries, she had to make the difficult decision to have her leg amputated above the knee.
I followed his journey through the courts over the next 18 months. The last time I saw Nepia was in 2020 when she gave an emotional victim impact statement at sentencing while still in a wheelchair.
Nepia, now 31, has come a long way since then. “There’s more to life than just sitting in a wheelchair,” she says.
It took her a while to accept, but she knew amputation was the best option.
“If I had kept my old leg, I would have been in pain; I would have been going to doctors inside and out. I don’t even think I would have been able to walk.
Nepia began physical training at Undisputed MMA in Masterton with trainer Emile Johnson, whom she had known for years through her family. She credits him with teaching her to walk using her new prosthesis, then self-defense and kickboxing for increased power and confidence.
Last year, he pushed her to step out of her comfort zone and take on the role of ring girl for the Undisputed Fight series. She also stepped into the ring for an exhibition bout.
Nepia is Johnson’s first female amputee. Having trained and competed in combat sports for 30 years, he found himself learning new things alongside him.
“It’s a passion, and it’s a challenge,” he said. “I went to follow groups of amputees… to understand what they did and how they managed to do it.”
Teaching him to find balance and transfer the weight of his leg to his prosthesis had been the biggest challenge, forcing Johnson to mimic the feeling by standing on his heels.
He credits her discipline with being selected to represent Aotearoa New Zealand as an amputee boxer at the World Kickboxing and Karate Championships in Ireland in November.
Nepia trains for about two hours every night from Monday to Saturday. On days when she can’t train, she still shows up to “learn and assimilate.” “She does the tough jobs and shows up. It’s what made her the athlete she is today.
The first 30 minutes usually focus on strength training and conditioning with a bit of mobility, followed by technique training and a bit of training with the bags – on Saturdays they are 20 rounds.
Nepia said her favorite was when she was able to “go really hard” on guys with ultimate pads, working through different combos. She liked that they didn’t treat her differently. “I train with the boys and they don’t treat me differently. I’m just like everyone else in the gym.
Nepia also follows a “fairly strict diet”. These days, she drinks her coffee black, has replaced the fizz and juice with water, and has a cup of green tea every night after dinner.
People who have followed her story often send her a message when struggling themselves – she tells them to “put some towels on to take some of that frustration out on the bag.”
“I feel like I’m helping. I’m just grinding, doing my thing.
Johnson said in a sport with few female athletes and even fewer para athletes, that was huge.
“There are a lot of para-athletes who don’t want to swim or run. They want to do something different. »
He believed Nepia was one of 20-30 para-athletes competing in combat sports globally and one of only a handful in New Zealand.
She said it was an honor to represent the country on the world circuit.
Nepia is looking forward to the “one-time opportunity” and aims to raise $6,000 through a Givealittle page.