Striking back

I met the male and female boxers of the Elan Sportif club in Mulhouse in 2009. Young people with difficult, sometimes broken lives, having experienced failure at school or in the professional sphere, marked by traumas, some of them without family support, suffering identity issues, and all of them looking for a way to strike back.

These portraits speak as much of their relationship with boxing as of their personal stories.

Two coaches began this adventure in a social cultural centre on Mulhouse, in the east of France. They discovered a total, brutal rejection of society. In consequence they sat up their own club in 2006 to provide a structuring activity. They were immediately successful, helping young people to find a place in society. A women’s section opened in 2008.

In educational English boxing, punches are thrown without violence or force, but with a pronounced mastery of style. It is a highly technical discipline which calls for solid self-mastery. Through these two aspects – the individual (pushing oneself to the limits) and the relational (the confrontation with others) – the coaches succeed in combining education and sporting progress.