"Boxing gave me a new perspective. This is the type of guidance I wanted to give to these young people. I want them to learn discipline, endurance, intelligence and power - skills they can take into their everyday life."
These are the words of British actor Idris Elba, reflecting on a newly aired documentary series on the BBC last month. Idris Elba’s Fight School as the show is called sees the actor help set up eight young adults on a five-month boxing training course.
Each of the 8 participants has come up against all sorts of struggles in their lives so far and the actor hopes to draw parallels between them, and the meaningful role boxing took in his life when he was growing up as a youngster.
"When I was young, I joined a boxing club, and my trainer Joe took me under his wing. It was a real turning point in my life, teaching me discipline and control moving forward.
"During my own experience of fighting there was a level of peace I was able to achieve. Boxing requires you to switch off all the noise and focus on the moment, a skill that I believe all people need, especially younger people who need direction.
"Looking back at my own experiences, I’m reminded of how powerful boxing can be on disadvantaged young people, giving them a sense of purpose. This was the inspiration behind Fight School."
Though Idris Elba ended up taking a different career path, what many people may not know is the actor does in fact have a professional kickboxing match under his belt himself.
Back in 2017, at age 44, Elba decided to become a professional kickboxer and committed himself to a demanding and challenging 12-month preparation period. This period was captured by Discovery Channel in a documentary series called Idris Elba Fighter.
Elba ended up defeating the much younger, experienced and, probably, talented Dutch fighter Lionel Graves.
Though Elba was proud of his win, he also saw the experience to prove something to himself in the place where was in that part of his life: “I try to tackle everything with how fearful I am. Am I not doing something because I’m scared of it? And if the answer is yes, then it entices me to want to get over that fear.”
“In this instance, I think there was part of my ego being tested at middle age, too,” he says. “Some people go out and buy Ferrari's or a motorbike; I was interested in testing if my body can withstand extreme training.”
Idris Elba's Fight School is available on the BBC. For those keen to re-watch the Discovery Channel episode, please tune in to Amazon.