Martial Arts Saved My Life, Says Olympic Star Ashley McKenzie

Ashley had seen nothing like it before - this was the moment that changed his life forever.After running home crying and researching on the computer what this 'flip' was all about he discovered it was a judo move...

Every parent hopes for the very best for their child, from the minute they bring them home from the hospital.

But what happens when things don't go to plan?

I caught up with British judo champ Ashley Mckenzie, 25, who tells me 'if it wasn't for judo there's 100 percent chance I'd be in jail right now.'

It's a far cry from his life today where I can reveal the Commonwealth gold medalist is set to be heading to the States after being approached to star in martial arts films, after he was inspired by the stunning new Marco Polo Netflix original out this December.

Born with a whole in his heart, and diagnosed with ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and dyslexia the troubled ten-year-old was written off by his first school. At his lowest was locked in a padded room as his despairing careers didn't know what to do with him.

It seemed like the world was against him as he fell into a vicious cycle of fighting everyday from being frustrated, not knowing what was wrong with him.

Growing up in one of the country's most notorious council estates, fighting everyday, Ashley was told his life would amount to nothing.

Aged 11 he was in the playground when a fellow student stole his Pokeman playing card.

Ashley went to swing at him, when his unlikely opponent flipped him and threw him to the ground.

Ashley had seen nothing like it before - this was the moment that changed his life forever.

After running home crying and researching on the computer what this 'flip' was all about he discovered it was a judo move.

He tracked down the local club and begged his mum to take him.

It was this bargaining tool his mum used to her advantage to get her then uncontrollable son to behave at school - and each week he was good in class, she would reward him with a martial arts lesson in Kilburn.

There's two key things that happened to him - for the first time in his life Ashley was able to focus. The discipline of judo enabled him to transfer those skills to the classroom, and really helped control his ADHD.

His life was never the same again - he was finally learning something.

The second incredible thing that happened was that the coaches saw he had a natural talent for it.

Within a year of training Ashley competed for Great Britain, aged just 11.

'I realised for the first time in my life I was actually good at something. I was finally making my family happy, instead of causing stress for them. If it wasn't for Judo, there's 100 percent chance I'd be in jail, ' Ashley tells me.

'I'd never have dreamed I'd qualify for the last Olympics or win gold at Commonwealth in Glasgow.

It was all about getting my ADHD under control, and I'm working with monkey nutrition fish oils to help this too.

'Back then when I was locked in a padded cell, I'd never have dreamed I'd be on Celebrity Big Brother, have my own clothing range and three calendars, let alone compete in the Olympics. No way! All this when I was told I'd amount to nothing.

I want people in my situation to know that if you want something bad enough, you will overcome anything to get it. Don't give up. I'm so lucky I had the support of my mum and my amazing manager Jade Reuben, who've encouraged me to go all the way. Now parents come up to me and say I'm the reason their children do martial arts, it's given them new hope for their kids.'

The story of his life is like a movie, no wonder he wants to star in one and make his debut into magical martial arts films.

As well as his favourite movie Jackie Chan's 'Drunken Master', he's inspired by the new epic Marco Polo starring James Bond baddie Rick Yune, which uncovers the famed explorer's journey to the center of a brutal war in 13th century China, showcasing exotic martial arts, political skullduggery, and sexual intrigue.

'It's my dream to star in a movie like that. Martial arts is my life, I literally live at my Judo center and train 24/7. To transfer my passion for martial arts onto the big screen would be something else. I'm doing something for monster headphones this week, so I'll be getting some practice in. I can't wait. Just because you have ADHD it doesn't mean you can't find something to turn your life around.'

Watch out Jean Claude Van Damme, looks like you've got competition!

From ghetto to fabulous - Ashley overcame severe behavioral problems growing up in a rough council estate to become Commonwealth gold Judo champ this year.

copyright J Reuben

Ashley would never have imagined he'd be on CBB after overcoming his demons

Copyright J Reuben

copyright J Reuben

Sarah catches up with the inspirational kid as he heads for the big screen

Before You Go