Personal and professional growth through the medium of Martial Arts

September 6, 2021

Jesse Puata was “a bit of a mongrel of a kid” when Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) planted a seed that grew his life into a different shape, and harnessed his abilities on and off the mat.

Jesse started training in BJJ, with his father, at the age of 14 and his natural talent at the sport would see him earn a raft of national and international titles. Together, he and his dad built up a successful chain of gyms across New Zealand, with eight schools in the group at its peak.

Six years ago, Jesse went out on his own. Now his company Ronin Coalition offers classes, competition training and workshops through facilities like the New Plymouth MMA Studio. Jesse is passionate about building professionalism and entrepreneurship in the New Zealand martial arts community, and teaching practitioners how to use it as a springboard for their own career success.

Ronin Coalition has a number of learners completing Skills Active on-job qualifications, including the New Zealand Certificate in Sport Coaching (Level 3) and the New Zealand Apprenticeship in Facility Operations (Level 4). Jesse is also in the process of becoming a registered Skills Active assessor so that he can support his trainees.

“We have a collective of experienced coaches, coaching developers and mentors throughout the industry that we can call upon for guidance and support,” he adds.

Jesse’s complete belief shines through when he talks about the power of martial arts to change everything.

“To be fair, I was a bit challenging for my teachers,” he says. “I was expelled from kindy and primary school; I was fighting lots. Then I got into Jiu-Jitsu which gave me a positive outlet and taught me how to learn. From there, my whole life pivoted.

“But without that unique opportunity, I would have ended up in jail or going nowhere very quickly, because I hadn’t figured out who I was.”

Alongside his passion for martial arts, Jesse has built a career in the oil and gas sector. However he knows that for some people the martial arts are their main chance. So he wants to make it easier for others to be recognised for their skills, which can then be put to use both in and outside the martial arts world.

Jesse is promoting what he calls a sector succession strategy, by encouraging his own people, and others across the sport, to complete industry qualifications that will grow and enhance the coaching, management and operational skills they apply every day running gyms and teaching martial arts.

Not only that, he says, but these programmes formally recognise the graduates and their knowledge through the NZQA framework. They can use this on-paper validation to expand their careers in martial arts, or take it into other jobs and industries.

“There are lots of talented people in our sector. So if we can build a strong industry around what we do well, and organise and grow together, then who knows what we can achieve,” Jesse says.

“The apprenticeship is all about: Here is how good organisations work, right down to the fine details. So wherever you might end up – in a gym, a pool, a studio, as a coach – it means you have got the transferable skills to operate at that level, and you’ve got a piece of paper to verify that.”

Industry training “futureproofs” what Jesse and his team are doing by ensuring their methods, attitudes and practices are current, he adds. It also helps the trainees and apprentices to contextualise their learning and make it relevant to their work. 

“If I can help to make people see the value of using industry training, then they will be proactively looking to level themselves up. That is how the martial arts industry pump gets primed. You need more than just one catalyst – it takes many,” Jesse says.

“Being able to contribute to sector succession and create better opportunities for future generations is an honour and a privilege for me.”


Media contact for Skills Active

Esther McLaren

021 195 5127

About Skills Active

Skills Active Aotearoa is the transitional industry training organisation for recreation, exercise, sport and performing arts. We are a non-profit organisation, 50% owned by Māori shareholders, and funded by government to promote careers and workforce development in our industries, work with those industries to create world-class qualifications, and support workplaces to train staff.