Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Former Kickboxing world champion now fights  a new battle for his son

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Soana Aholelei | Reporter / Director

Frustrations over able-bodied drivers in disability car parks highlights former kickboxing champion’s  care of son with cerebral palsy. 

Pili Jason Suttie was known as a hard man in the ring, a former six-time Muay Thai World Champion Kickboxer with the nickname “Psycho”. 

A nickname given to him by his former coach. 

“For a first (time) fighter, when you get hit hard like that, in the first minute of your first fight, it usually shocks you. But it did the opposite to me and that’s why he called me psycho.” Pili recalls. 

But these days the father of four is fighting for something different and is just as passionate.

And that passion came to the fore in a recent Instagram post, where he highlighted the need to keep disabled parking spots free for those who need it.

“I’m creating awareness, you know, maybe they won’t pack in the mobility carpark, maybe they’ll let us go first,” 

“If I’m fast, it takes me 30 seconds to get out of the car, then takes me another 30 seconds to put him in the car, so we can’t run in and out.

 “This really infuriates me sometimes,” he says.

Pili is passionate about this issue because his 11-year-old son Phoenix has cerebral palsy.  And he transports him around in a purpose-built vehicle.  

When Phoenix was born Jason and his wife Arna’s life changed.

“Cerebral palsy. He’s got brain damage over all parts of his brain and what they said is that oxygen didn’t get to his brain sometime before birth,” Pili says.

“Phoenix when he was born, he didn’t sleep much at all. He’d wake up between five and 18 times a night, between five minutes and one hour every time.

“He never used to laugh, he never used to smile, he only cried.”

In the last few years, the family has  fundraised for Phoenix to have stem cell treatment overseas

“After a year or two, we got the stem cells and he slept through the night after that. He slept through the night and our house just changed. 

“Like our house was on edge. Me and my wife would have arguments about who slept the most.”

Thanks to the treatment Phoenix is making progress at home with the help of family and a nanny communicating by using a special eye-tracking device, controlled by Phoenix’s eye movements.

Day to day activities can bring its challenges at times, especially out in public and when feeding Phoenix

“So, my son gets fed through a peg and a hole in his stomach.  For years people would stare and it would annoy me even kids and then I’d say, ‘oh yeah he’s just getting food’ and they would ask questions,”Pili says. 

“They were just so surprised to learn that actually that’s how he’s getting food. It makes me feel better to realise that they’re just interested. They weren’t staring, they weren’t being rude.

“Adults, they have no excuse. They’re not allowed to stare,” Pili says sternly

Jason and Arna own the Elite Thai Kickboxing gym in Penrose and when he’s there Phoenix takes in all the training.

“Phoenix loves the gym. It’s food for his eyes,” Pili says. 

“I’ll just place him where I think he’ll want to watch and sometimes if he’s getting bored, then I’ll bring one of the fighters over that I’m padding and I’ll just go ‘ten kicks, ten kicks’… and I just call out to Phoenix and he cracks up, he loves it! Yeah, he loves it!”

It may be a far cry from the Muay Thai World Championships but Pili Jason Suttie will always be a fighter but just a little calmer.“Fighting for my son? Yeah, I guess so, I don’t know. I would say he’s brought some calmness to the psycho.”



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