Waikato Wellbeing Project Lots of Little Fires

Rangi Hetet and the Takeover Challenge

Joe Wilson on 3 February 2024

Empowering hearts and minds in the Ngāruawahia community.

Take over your thoughts so you can take over your life…Pono Performance.

"I want to empower women to stand up, to be the change, to be the light for their families, that they don't have to do it alone, that there is a way out. That's what I want to do. That's why I box."

Shani participating in Lots of Little Fires video

“We don't know, it's called unworthy. All we know is that we're alone, but we don't get it because there's everyone around us. It's like, why do I feel like this? So yeah, helping moms to be the light and to be the change … that's how I believe I can impact or how I can contribute, is by helping our mums to respect themselves, love themselves, and put themselves first. We've believed for a long time that everyone else should come before us and I was always someone that put everyone before me. Now I get it. I get like, man, I look after me and I honor me, I have so much more to give. But if I'm too busy giving to everybody else and I'm empty, I can only give empty. So yeah, I like to help our moms to give back to themselves so that they have something to give.”

The Ngāruawahia Bowling Club is the location for today's shoot and interview. We meet Rangi Hetet outside the entrance, and I introduce her to Murdoch. Rangi is tau, still and considered yet filled with a passion and drive to excel in all she does. Right now, that is centered on being her best for the interview and the filming we are about to do this afternoon.

“I’m feeling good, a little tired but good.” Rangi says with a smile.

Never one to complain or make excuses Rangi has been up since the crack of dawn. She has driven up to Auckland and back to work with a corporate client, has sorted her whanau out on her return so she can be free for our interview and to lead her community box-fit class ‘The Takeover Challenge’ this evening.

Murdoch sets up the lights and cameras while Rangi and I catch up and figure out what themes and perspectives we would like to share in the kōrero.

Rangi asks if it would be ok for her to start at the beginning and for her to share with us her journey from a young age. That it is important for her as it will help others understand that she has not always been how she is now, that it has been a journey that so many go through but go through alone and feel alone. We couldn't agree more and welcome Rangi’s honesty and vulnerability.

Rangi takes us back to her childhood.

“Well, I grew up with my grandmother. My grandmother was the cook for the Maori queen at the time. I experienced as a child, and I think a lot of our communities can relate, that my mom and my dad weren’t in a very healthy way. They didn't really have a healthy relationship. There was a lot of drinking and arguing. So living with my grandmother, as much as I felt like I wasn't wanted, I felt safe. I felt like I didn't have to deal with that type of stuff. When I was about maybe 30 or 36, after I started my self-discovery, I asked my mom the question of what I thought was true. And I said to her, I asked her ‘Mom, how come I had to live with Nana?’. She said, but your Nana needed a companion. She needed a friend, and she asked for you when your grandfather passed away (he passed away from a tragic accident). My mom said, ‘your Nana really wanted a companion, and you were my best friend and I had to give you away. I gave you to your nana because I knew you would be a great friend for her.’”

Rangi takes a moment, gathers her breath, and bravely continues wiping tears from her eyes.

“So, these are the tears that I held onto that negative belief that I wasn’t wanted or loved for that long and all I had to do was ask a question and now I'm filled with love. It's not sad tears. It's like a sense of validation and compassion for my mom and for myself that, yeah, I could have asked her a long time ago, but I didn't know, I didn't know I had a voice.”

Tears continue to flow from Rangi’s eyes (and mine), but when asked if she is ok, she replies,

‘Yes, because it was the happiest thing. I finally found the courage to ask the hardest question I had been avoiding my whole life and learned that I was absolutely loved and wanted, I finally understood why, and the weight of feeling rejected and unwanted was lifted.’

The three of us share more tears and hugs. We laugh about how we are all such sensitive and emotional people! How feeling so much can make life such a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Rangi laughs again but then kicks back into her coaching mindset and explains that that is what drove her to become an emotional intelligence and mindset coach. That learning how to be in control of her thoughts and emotions has changed hers, her families and now her community’s lives.

“I believe in our community that we don't get taught that stuff that we don't know. When we feel an emotion, we just get angry. All we know is we're not allowed to be sad, not allowed to be scared, oh you can be ashamed, or you can be embarrassed or you can feel guilty, but you can't be sad or scared.”

I ask Rangi to paint a picture of who she was prior to finding boxing. To help us understand the process and the journey to being the Rangi sitting in front of us today. Rangi smiles and explains.

“Well, it dawned on me when I was working one day and someone said to me while I was at work on a hot day, and I've got black stockings on, a black skirt, a black top, and another one underneath holding in my tummy and am talking to her. And she's like, ‘oh my God, aren't you hot?’ I was like, Nope, I'm not hot. And I had sweat running down my face. And she's like, oh, aren't you? And I said, ‘nah, I'm not hot. I'm not hot’. And when I walked away from her, I was like, I am so hot. Why am I hot? Why am I wearing stockings and millions of clothes in the middle of summer? And the reason why was because at the time, I didn't like the way I looked and felt. I was overweight at the time. I was 86 kgs, and I was about a size 16, 18. My children were about six and seven. I was also drinking a lot of alcohol. I was smoking a lot of weed and I was eating a lot. I was a very unhappy person, and I didn't like the way that those choices were impacting my life and my children. I worked heaps. I did lots of things for everybody. I was always, yeah, I'll do that. I'll do that. I was ultra busy when, in fact, I was really unhappy inside. So, I think my brother at the time, he was a boxing coach, I think he picked up on that. He was like, hey, you should come down and do a bit of boxing. I was like, I’m not really a fighter. He's like, oh, well, whatever!”

It is hard to imagine Rangi being an unmotivated, unhealthy, and inactive person. I have known Rangi for five years now and she has always been one of the most inspiring and motivational people I have ever met. Hearing about her journey to becoming the person she is today is really eye opening and truly makes her even more of an inspiration to me. One of the big turning points for Rangi was witnessing her brother coaching another wahine to box.

“I walked into his gym one day and I saw my brother in the ring, and he was doing his thing. He was boxing, he was actually coaching, and he was padding a young 16-year-old girl. I was just watching her kind of in awe. She was sharp. She was really sharp, and the way she was punching and the way that she was moving, and the way my brother was being ‘just so do it like this, do it like that’ and she just did what he wanted her to do. She looked really cool, and I was like, oh, man, if she could do that, surely, surely I could do that.

Rangi explained how it wasn’t just boxing, to be sharp and athletic like the girl, but also to have that kind of relationship with her brother. To be so connected and to have his respect was something she really wanted too.

“Thinking about then, I've totally evolved now. I am grateful for what I learned back then. I didn't think I could do a lot of things. I never knew I could walk the hakarimatas (Maunga in Ngāruawahia). The first time I did it, I was actually drinking. We thought it would be cool to do that. We only made it halfway, and we turned around and came back down. I was like, ah, that's not a good idea. So, we learned from that. I was like, okay, next time I want to go to the top. I don't want to stop halfway. So eventually I started again. I was walking up. It took me two hours the next time, an hour and a half the next time. So, I was starting to learn this thing called consistency, and just one step in front of the other, one in front of the other.”

It was these small steps of change and building the consistency that paved the foundation for all the future successes to come.

“So, I was regularly going to boxing with my brother. It was very motivating. It was every Tuesday and Thursday from six till seven. And I did that consistently for six months. And over that six months, I started to phase out stuff.”

Rangi soon realised that training twice a week was not enough, that her lifestyle choices had to change if she wanted to achieve the goals and happiness she was aiming for.

“I used to eat full bread every meal. It was either in the sandwich or I had a pie in it, or I had four pieces of bread. I was taught as a child to eat lots of bread because we didn't really have a lot of money. So, we'd eat bread with everything, bread with pasta, bread with chips, bread with potato, mashed potato.  I was always eating bread. I was always drinking coke. And this was me trying to phase out drinking, bread and unhealthy food and trying to phase out smoking weed, because I didn't want to do that anymore.”

What I love about hearing Rangi share her journey is that it is relatable to so many of us. It is the simple things in life which cause us the most stress. When we cannot control our urges or impulses for short term satisfaction over long term happiness, we are constantly a slave to our thoughts. The constant battle of having self-respect and self-love to do good things for our heads, heart and body is one, that as Rangi explains, is a daily habit and one that can be made so much easier by sharing the journey with a community all on the same waka.

Rangi takes us back to the moment that she transformed her mindset from being who she was to a professional boxer.

“So yeah, thinking back to the girl my brother was training, I'm just watching her. If she could do, honestly, if she can do that, surely, surely me as a 30-year-old, a 16 year old girl, 30, surely I can do that.”

Rangi explained how she built up the courage to ask her brother if she could train for an actual fight.

“I will never forget what he said. He kind of ignored me the first two times, can I fight? And he's talking to other people. Next time I can I fight. And then he looked at me and he goes, what do you want to fight? I’m like, yeah, yeah. And he said, ‘if you're going to fucking fight, you give up that fucking drinking and that fucking weed’. I was like, it was kind of like, where did this come from? So even though I was quite taken back from that, in my head, I was like, I've already thought about this. I'm not actually a fighter and I didn't want to go into this and get knocked out. I don't want to embarrass my brother.I don't want to embarrass myself. And I was kind of in a state of shock that, how could you say that to me? But how right are you? I was like, how dare you? how dare you? But yeah, and I was like, yep. I didn't say any words. I just said, yep, yeah, you have my word. So from then it was like, fuck, I'm going to be true to this. He's just allowing me to do this. So we started training and I made it my business to stop drinking. And I was glad that I did those step-by-step things. I did it because I knew I could. But then when it was time to just shut it off, as soon as he said that I was like, oh, am I actually ready? Am I ready for this? Am I ready to honor my word? And I was like, yeah, I am. I dunno what's going to happen. But yeah, I am. So I did. So that's how my journey started. As much as at the time it hurt when he said what he said, it is probably one of the most pivotal turning points in my life.”

Rangi’s ability combined with her incredible dedication and commitment to boxing led her to multiple wins and very quickly she rose through the national ranks.

“Yeah, I became the athlete I had dreamed of being. I was training every day. I was obsessed and with it came sporting success, accolades, the body, the abs, the lifestyle and the recognition. It felt like I had it all.”

Having seen video footage of some of Rangi’s boxing fights, I can say without hesitation, she is one mean and skilled fighter. Power, skill, focus and a relentless drive to be the best have taken her to the heights of her sport and in a very short period of time.

“On the outside, everything looked great. I had achieved the goal I set out to achieve. But inside there was still something missing. I was not being a good mum again but now for completely different reasons. I was so focused on boxing that everything else was pushed aside. I’d get up before dawn, do my runs and sprints, come back, shower, get the kids up, make breakfast and get them ready and off school. I’d go to mahi and then come home and train again in the evening, cook everyone dinner, do more training and then go to sleep. I thought I was doing great. Everything was getting done. But in reality, I wasn't really there, I was going through the motions but not being a present mother and wife.”

There were more signs that things weren't quite right. Rangi’s body started to fatigue. She recalls doing sprints with a group of other boxers, younger ones who she would usually beat and outperform with ease. But she was falling behind. Even when she was giving her all, they looked like they weren’t even trying and still beating her. Rangi’s response to this was to train even harder. To push through thinking somehow, she had let her fitness fall. But the reality was that her body was giving out. It was slowly shutting down and one day, just as Rangi and her whānau were about to fly to Australia for a much-needed holiday together, she got called into hospital in response to some terrifying blood test results that showed her body was shutting down in a very serious way. Her family flew to Australia and Rangis’ mum drove her to hospital.

“The doctors and nurses said, ‘You should be unconscious right now’. People who come in with a hemoglobin count that low, they either are going to pass away, or they pass away. And I'm standing there and they're like, we can't even believe you're standing here talking to us, telling us what to do. They took me around into the bed. I had to go into the emergency part. They started hooking up all these things, and then they brought out the blood. I started getting the blood, and then I just clicked, and I just looked up and I saw these cords and I was like, holy shit. And this thing, this moment had to make me stop. And then I just looked at my mom and I said to her, and I just felt it in my body. I just felt something in my body. I was like, oh, mom I’m really sick. I'm sick. And she cried. She's like, whoa, you get it, finally. As I was kind of surrendering to it, I felt this. ‘It's all good. I got you.’ I don't know where that came from, but I felt like I could trust it. It was scary. Then I did, I trusted whatever it was, and it just went out like a tv, like those old school tv’s, and it just went like that. It went black. And then I was out.”

When Rangi came around, she couldn’t stop thinking about the voice she heard, the internal feeling that allowed her to trust that she was going to be ok. As her recovery slowly progressed and Rangi was able to get back into fitness and training, she contacted her boxing mental performance coach, a man called David Neithe. She was so focussed on getting back to boxing but this time with a balanced approach, having realized how boxing had been an escape from facing up to and working through her own self-worth and limiting beliefs.

David asked her the question ‘Why do you box? What is it about boxing that motivates you?’

Rangi laughs at the initial response she gave,

I was just determined. I want a title, I want a title, I want a title. And he said, you know, already are the people's champ. You already are a champion. You already know that. I was like, Hey, why? How does this make sense? I want a title. And he said, well, so why do you want a title? What is it about boxing that you like? What is it about boxing that you like doing? I was like, why? Actually, I want to empower. I want to empower battered women to stand up or to be the change, to be the light for their families. That they don't have to do it alone. That there is a way out. That's what I want to do. That's what I'm doing. That's why I box.

David replied, ‘You know, you already do that. Did you know that you can actually take it to the next level? you can be like me.’

‘Like you?’ Rangi replied, ‘You're like, New Zealand's number one mental performance coach and he goes, ‘yeah, and you can be that, for Māori woman.’

This was such a pivotal moment in Rangi’s life as it made her self-reflect deeply about why she thought she boxed and what impact that had been having on her mental, emotional and ultimately her physical well-being.

“I signed up for a neurolinguistic programming course with the Tadd James company, and that was on the advice of my performance coach. He goes, I want you to do this thing. I saw the price. Ooh, I can't do that. But it kind of started ringing my head. I was like, maybe I can be like him. Maybe I could do that. So, I did my personal training, started a few box fit classes, and started my journey there.”

This course enabled Rangi to really learn how to understand her thoughts and beliefs and it led to some stark realizations.

“NLP showed me all the limiting beliefs. How my thoughts were creating the shit in my life, how I wasn't able to see my worth, how I was trapped in my past. Not by choice. It was just there. And it was like ‘ah, that's why I thought my mom didn't love me. That's why I couldn't see my brother could actually ‘see’ me. I was like ‘what the heck? What? Oh, that's why I was smoking and drinking, and now I've got another addiction called boxing.’ Like, ‘oh my God, it all makes sense.’ So then I quickly signed up for the master practitioner. When I finished my master practitioner, it clicked that man, we actually live very fearfully. That's what drove a lot of my outcomes. That's how I was able to achieve lots of things that I did, because I was afraid of being judged. I was afraid of letting people down. I was afraid of failure because I didn't believe I was good enough. I didn't believe I was worthy. So I couldn't see people's love for me. I didn't have it for myself. I couldn't see how great I was. It wasn't until I went inward and started to really question why am I believing the things I'm believing and I'm settling for this stuff? Why am I not happy? Why am I not happy with everything that I have? Why can't I be grateful? I say the words, but I don't actually feel it. So, my master practitioner helped me to break through a lot of those limiting beliefs.”

As soon as Rangi had made her own personal breakthrough, the new focus clearly emerged and leads us on to where we find ourselves today.

“Completing the master practitioner in NLP qualifies me to be a mindset and emotional intelligence coach. That's what I like to work in. That's the area that I like to work in is mindset and emotional intelligence mindset about how to have a mindset to achieve goals, to get things done. Positive affirmations believe in it, seeing it, going after it, taking action. Emotional intelligence. I believe in our community that we don't get taught that stuff that we don't know. When we feel an emotion, we just get angry. All we know, we're not allowed to be sad, not allowed to be scared, or you can be ashamed, or you can be embarrassed or you can feel guilty, but you can't be sad or scared.”

Our interview is almost over. Rangi wanted to explain the backstory to why she is who she is today and how that lays the foundation for the mahi she leads in her community. She explains how the box-fit ‘Takeover Challenge’ and her Mountain walking groups are all just community fitness ways of sharing her insights, her mindset coaching and her joy with others so that they don’t feel alone and that they can learn to make change in their own lives.

“I came back to my community from getting my qualification, I was like, yeah, I can be your coach. I can do this. And then nobody wanted, they're like, no, we don't want your coaching stuff. Don't want to do that. I just want your box fit classes. It's like, no, no, I can help you. And I named this program Mind Fit Mamas. And they're like, no, we just want boxing. Okay, can you just do boxing? And I was like, damn, stubborn. Stubborn. I was. And then I was like, I came up with a light, light bulb. I was like, okay, I'm going to call it the takeover challenge. So, the takeover challenge, what I wanted to do was infuse mindset and boxing. So, my strategy was ‘here's a boxing class’ and they didn't know that there was going to be bits of mindset coaching in it. I've not seen it like that before, but I just thought this is a great idea to help bring, because boxing can sometimes be like a sticky plastic… I know why people want boxing because they just want to escape. Well, that's an assumption. I used it to escape, and I didn't want to enable that. I wanted to empower people to take over their life. So, I called it the takeover challenge, and I explained it with the five Cs, which is courage, curiosity, compassion, commitment, and communication. So those were the five pillars or values of this challenge.”

I can’t help but be in awe of Rangi. She really is one of those incredibly driven and high achieving people but with a heart full of compassion that extends to anyone she meets. I ask her if she has any final words she would like to share. She laughs acknowledging she can talk a lot!

“I guess I want to be someone that people can believe in themselves. People can go ‘far, if she could do that, I could probably do it. I wonder if I could do it.’ I want to be someone that's like a torch in the dark, and I want to sit with people in the darkness to help them find some light in their life. There was once upon a time that I was someone that was in the dark, and I didn't ask for help. I just did it all myself. And when I did that all by myself, I felt alone. I felt even more unworthy. I couldn't accept love in my life, and I nearly died just because I thought I was going to let people down.”

We hear a knock on the door and realise we have been talking for almost three hours!

“Shit, I better get ready for the ‘Takeover Class’ Rangi laughs. “They will all be arriving anytime now. I’ll get set up and I’ve told them about you guys filming the session and they're all good.”

With a big hug, we thank Rangi for her time and openness in sharing her story. Murdoch and I get set up to film the boxing session and let Rangi get to her mahi.

…After the session, we spoke to some of the community members who have been with Rangi for a while. They spoke so highly of her and were willing to share their thoughts and thanks on camera. Here is a collection of testimonies from just a few of her crew.

Testimonials from the community for Rangi…

“Getting fit at the same time, making new friends, but not any friends. Just friends that actually uplift you, empower you, inspire you. I used to wear different masks in different places, which meant that I wasn't being myself. Every time I went to ‘Takeover’, I was being myself. They allowed me to be myself, which was amazing.”


“She makes me feel welcome, makes me feel comfortable. Not one that I was to step out of my comfort zone within myself. I thought, nah, nah, I can't do that. And then said, come on, come on. Okay, let it all out while we're in this raw here I was okay. And she brought it out of me and I feel more confident and yeah, thanks to her.”


“My daughter went for a real rough patch at the age of 14. I thought she was the problem where what it really was was that I needed to learn how to communicate with her. So Rangi taught me how to just listen and not to put my own perception of myself onto my daughter, what it was. I was like, oh, she's exactly like me. So she's doing all this crazy shit that I used to do, which was not even the case. So I had to learn to just listen. So Rangi has changed, not just my own life, but my whole family's life, just with learning how to communicate.”


“It's inspired me to come out of my comfort zone. I've always been shy, never liked doing stuff like this, talking in front of people, but yeah, just the way she explains how you should feel about yourself out there and carry yourself is, yeah, it's a big difference.”


“I think she's doing a lot of her coaching without me really knowing, because I'll always come away from her with new ways to navigate through the things that I'm going through in my life, which is actually quite a lot. So yeah, it's like having a free coach alongside my walk in life, which yeah, helps me with a lot of things. I just have new ways of thinking about situations that have happened as an adult. They are rooted from my childhood. So we went for a walk up Pirongia and I did the crying thing. Somehow. We're just walking, she's talking and I'm listening and I'm just in all these tears and that was a huge breakthrough for me recognizing a childhood trauma. And I just felt so free from that. That one thing that I never knew was there.”



“Well, ever since Rangi has come into my life, I have been doing a whole lot of new things like walking mountains at five 30 in the morning. They're just not things that I would've ever done before. Just being confident in myself and standing up for myself, getting straight to the point of things and yeah, I really can't imagine life without a need to be honest. Yeah, it's a lifetime friendship that I need in my life and my children.”


“Rangi makes you feel welcome and welcomes people and so yeah, I'm happy where I am and I'm stoked where everyone else is at too. It's been a few of them that have done a couple of rounds with her now, and just to see their progress in the program is cool just from them listening and learning from her, whatever she's teaching us. So yeah. Cool. She's good.”


“Thank you Rangi. Thank you very much. Thank you, cousin. We love you. Keep doing what you're doing. Thank you for bringing our community together. In a positive way. In a positive way. Bringing out the best in them as well as myself and Au and Yes. Keep going man. Lovely.”


“I really can't imagine life without Rangi to be honest. Yeah, it's a lifetime friendship that I need in my life and my children.”


“There's just not one thing. There's many things, and I can't just put it all in one, but Rangi has changed me, actually. I've changed myself. Rangi just helped me on the way just to become me again.”


“She's a big inspiration. Yeah. There's so many things you can say, but yeah, there's probably not enough.”

Watch the video here


Sharing Lots of Little Fire
Feel free to share this story on social media and tag @lotsoflittlefires
When sharing please credit: Joe Wilson and Lots of Little Fires