This blog post is part of a series entitled the ‘embodiment of stories’, where we focus on stories that relate to identity and the use of the human body.
At this time, we address the story of Darren Eli, a certified kickboxing instructor with a black belt in Lau Gar.
Darren has been living in Finland for 11 years after moving from the United Kingdom, and I have had the privilege of going to his kickboxing classes for 9 years in various locations in Helsinki. In June 2016, Darren opened his own gym under his business brand, Total Fitness, where his clients continue to enjoy challenging workouts in a positive and dynamic environment.
Passion for sports
Darren has always loved sports. When he was six years old and living in Bristol, his mother’s younger sister introduced him to Lau Gar kickboxing. Lau Gar kickboxing uses basic principles of Kung Fu as well as the movement, punching, kicking and blocking techniques. These principles of Kung Fu separate this sport from other forms of Western kickboxing.
After moving to London from Bristol at the age of 8, Darren continued to practice Lau Gar but felt that his young age was a barrier to fully learn the techniques through sparring, as the other members were much older. Darren turned his focus to football and through commitment made it to semi-professional level by college.
After college, Darren entered university, and it was at this time that he rediscovered Lau Gar. At this stage, Darren met Curtis Page, an instructor that would have a huge influence on his practice. Curtis or ‘little Curt’, as fondly remembered by Darren’s mother, trained with Darren’s aunt in Bristol. It was through Curtis that Darren learned that his aunt was the best Lau Gar fighter in the UK in her category.
Raising the bar
Curtis had ‘high standards’ for those whom he instructed. Darren trained four times a week, fought at National competitions, and achieved his black belt. Darren would eventually represent Curtis club’s called the London Predators Fighting Team in the US and Europe. On this team, Darren won gold at the WKA British Kickboxing Championship allowing him to represent England at the WKA World Kickboxing Championship in Italy in 2002. At this championship, there was competitors from 84 countries and over 2000 participants.
Darren remembers this championship as a day full of anticipation, excitement, and unexpected surprises. He began the day at 6 a.m. and his weight on the scale was 71 kgs that morning. Darren registered for the fight as 70 kgs and if overweight, he would be disqualified. He decided to go running outside in the Italian summer sun to lose the extra kilo. By the time he weighed in for the competition at 11 a.m., he had resumed his lower weight at 69.8 kgs! Although his first fight was scheduled at 14:00, it was not until after 19:00 that he began his time in the ring.
Normally, Darren would watch the other fighters to strategize before entering the ring, but that day, as there were so many competitors, Darren decided to focus inwards. Before midnight, Darren made his way into the finals and won against the former world champion from Slovenia.
The Black Panther of Lau Gar
“After that fight, a guy who I have seen before sitting in the audience came up and told me ‘you were dancing the whole time’. And that is when they [members of his squad] starting calling me ‘the cat’, ‘the black panther’ because I am light and quick on my feet.”
Darren also learned that not only it is important to stay focus on the fight but also to listen to your coach. Darren’s work ethic and the way he perceives life and business mirrors his fighting in the ring. He respects strong work ethic, discipline, and listens to his mentors.
“The way you train is the way you approach life.”
This is visible in the way Darren conducts his classes but also how he established his gym. He built his brand and name over eleven years since moving to Finland in 2005 to be known as a competent and dedicated instructor that respects not only his clients but also the sport and his professional vocation. Darren is a cat, who waits and preserves, until the right time to pounce on his goals.
This story was empowered by Metaphora. We can also help you to craft your story.
“Our mission is to give voice to the stories that honour people’s authenticity.”
Equality consultant and co-founder of Metaphora
*If you have a story that connects to this topic feel free to share it in the comments’ section below.