Thursday, 9 March 2017

15 Year Taekwondo Anniversary Speech

Let's give credit to our amazing MC’s. I had given Dylan and Belinda this responsibility to be the Master of Ceremony and despite exams and training they certainly have not disappointed.   
So young and so talented.

It’s a real privilege and an honour to be with you all tonight.  Thank you for coming.  We have so many friends and family here today.  I am truly grateful. Master Matt Ross, from All Star Martial arts, Mr. Jason Phinney from Chu’s martial arts, Master Shekib Foroughi from Master Foroughi’s Tiger Kims and all the members and friends of Authentic Taekwondo.  

Authentic Taekwondo is a special place of learning and sharing, butwhat is "Taekwondo" and what does it teach us? Perhaps because we have been in it for so long, Taekwondo is a journey of self discovery and it challenges to figure out who are we and how we respond to things.  How is Taekwondo symbolic of life?  Maybe the real question is how can we find our purpose through taekwondo? 

Before I attempt to answer some of these questions, I’d like to say that, I feel blessed to be working with such a talented group of individuals by teaching something that I am so passionate about.  I must admit it’s really easy to teach Taekwondo at the same time it’s really hard.  It’s easy because I teach exactly what I learned as a high performance athlete.  I loved the trainings, the competitions and all that came with it.  My family is here and they can attest to the fact that I trained daily for many years.  So now I teach that same sense of dedication to these guys and they’ve happily accepted.  Teaching Taekwondo is also easy because watching my students grow into fine young men and women is truly a pleasure and incredibly rewarding.  

Teaching Taekwondo is also really hard because it requires great discipline because you have to go against some of your inner most desires, like saying no to ice-cream on a hot sunny summer afternoon because you have competition coming up and you have to make weight.  I also have to teach people to be kicked, by accepting that bumps and bruises and sometimes broken bones are a normal way of life.  That by trying you have a high probably of being hurt and perhaps it will require great effort and it will not be easy but in the end it will be worth it.

So as teachers we have a choice, we can teach them the Authentic way of what the martial arts was meant to be or we can water it down and pretend like we’re kicking and punching but we’re really not. 

So now going back to the main question… what is our purpose and the truth is our purpose redefines itself over time.  As we dig deeper we find out we are capable of so much more and so our purpose either changes or it becomes even clearer.   As many of you may know, I got married in this very same hall a little more than a month ago. My beautiful wife, Megan is now pregnant with our first child.  With all that’s happening in the world today, the question, I ask myself is what kind of a world do I want my child to live in?  

Since working at Authentic and teaching Taekwondo, I realize I have the power to influence people in many ways.  I can make a difference in a few individuals lives and as time moves forward, perhaps  make a difference in our little community, and as we travel, maybe we can make a difference in the world.  We certainly live in a country that gives us that opportunity to be the example for the world to follow.  To quote Viktor Frankl, “when we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourself”.  So by going through hardship, the constant struggles, the ups and downs of competition and failures, the bumps and bruises and possible broken bones, we realize that life isn’t meant to be easy, but we can face our fears, despite the pressure and anxiety and know that we’ve felt this way before and overcome it and we can certainly do it once again.

These are tough lessons and we are progressing because the fruits of our labour is right here in this room.  But I cannot take all the credit because I have a great support system.  So I would like to take the next few minutes and just thank all the people who have been incredibly supportive throughout my endeavours...

I’d like to thank my wife who is incredibly supportive of my desire to teach and I would like to thank my family who has always stood by me and backed me up every time I’ve needed them.

I would like to acknowledge a few individuals who teach at Authentic and shape the future generation of martial artists.  

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Kick That Changed Our Game

Recently it was announced that Manny Pacquiao would be sued for many reasons and also because “The fight was not great, not entertaining, not electrifying. It was boring, slow and lackluster,” according to a lawsuit filed in Texas alleging racketeering, a claim usually reserved for organized crime.  If lacklustre fights and dull events were the case, then everyone should be suing Taekwondo because that's what it has come to.

It seems ever since the introduction of Electronic Chest Protectors the games has dramatically changed for the worse.  It is definitely not entertaining, electrifying and sure is slow and boring.  Why?  Simply because a cut kick (strong, yet unappealing) is used for offence and defence.  It also debilitates opponent and therefore reduces exchange and slows down the pace of the game.  If cut kick is used constantly throughout the match, it creates a bland action-less match.

While it was said that back kick is the strongest kick in Taekwondo, I'd say that cut kick is probably a close second and also can be thrown much more frequently.

Majority of the male gold medalist from the last world championships, were quite effective with cut kick (Tazegul being an exception).

Notice the men's division was dominated by Iran with three gold medals.  Although, Iran has always been a dominant force in Taekwondo, their top 3 fighters were cut kick pros. 

Hajizavereh - Gold -74 Kg

The Tsunami - Gold -58 Kg

Mahdi Khodabakhshi won his final match with 12point gap

At the same time, one of Taekwondo's greatest athletes won most of his world and Olympic titles by being famous for cut kick.  Steven Lopez was using cut kick long before front leg was popular because back leg delivered much more power.  Although most his matches were not the most exciting, nevertheless he was a strong and effective fighter who knew how to set up his points and defend with the cut kick.  

Steven Lopez - 5 time world Champion and 2 time Olympic Gold

So now the secret is out that the cut kick is an effective kick that can hurt/disable opponents while becoming more popular amongst world class athletes.  Many schools are now teaching the foundations of cut kicks to their beginner students.   This means that the future of our sport will continue to see the rise of cut kicks despite the removal of bottom sensors from the e-socks.

I agree that the removal of the bottom sensor may reduce scoring by cut kick, however, I also believe that changing the rules by reducing "Kyongo's" such as grabbing, pushing or moving to avoid a cut should be allowed and could potentially create much needed excitement for our sport.


Akmal Farah is former Canadian national team member, current coach and owner of Authentic Taekwondo in Markham.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A message from the President

Our people is our business.  When we see our students develop into fit, healthy and confident individuals, that is confirmation that we are on the right track. However, if the lessons are to be ingrained, we need time.

Our students progress because of the fundamental life lessons Taekwondo offers. Many life skills such as discipline, confidence and perseverance are taught on a daily basis.  When these lessons are used daily, we see the incremental progress. Coupled with results from school, competition and social settings, we can see the seeds we plant blossoming into beautiful gardens with all types of flowers.

Authentic is more than just a place of learning martial arts and fitness. We are a family, where each member takes care of the other much like their own.  Whether we are in children’s class or high level competition travelling abroad, our members stick together and help each child/athlete as though they are their own.  

Children are very impressionable.  Watching our adults behave in that caring manner, they learn and follow the examples with their classmates and teammates.

The future of Authentic Taekwondo looks bright because of the amazing people we have among us.  We continue to strive for greatness in all aspects of our life and encourage our members to seize the moment and aim high.

I would like to take this moment to congratulate all our black belt candidates and thank them for their dedication to our art and family.

Friday, 26 December 2014

It's been a great year. Thanks for being a part of it ;)

In the past several weeks Facebook has been encouraging members to reflect upon their year based on the pictures and status updates.  I think Zackerburg did not do a decent job of showing all that happened, so I have decided to do one on my own… in my blog.

The general consensus among my athletes, parents and colleagues is that 2014 went by too fast.  While I try to understand the concept of time in all its mysteries, we can agree that each of us is allotted 24 hours and that time moves the same for everyone.  However, what is important is what we do with the time available to us.

The year started with Canada Open in Montreal where some of the top athletes from North America, South America and even as far as Taiwan and Australia were in attendance.  Our athletes fought against some of the top Athletes winning Gold in the Cadet division and many other matches while gaining valuable experience.

Josh Cleghorn, 2014 Canada Open Cadet Champion

The most valuable lesson we took away from Canada Open was that if you are going to drop significant weight prior to the tournament it is important to give yourself ample time then replenish with proper nutrients.  Sounds like a rudimentary lesson but an important one nonetheless.  

We took the lessons from Canada Open and applied them to US Open the following week.  US Open is one of the most prestigious Taekwondo events in the world, where more than 70 countries and 2000 athletes compete in a 4 day event.  We had 4 athletes attending this event and we walked away with one gold in the Junior division and 1 Silver in the Cadet division.

Dylan Nadler, 2014 US Open Junior Champion

March was an exciting month as we had prepared for the Youth Olympic Game (YOG) Qualifications for more than a year in advance.  All the preparation to qualify our athletes division by gaining points internationally, competing nationally then representing Canada and securing a spot in Taiwan.  The lessons from this trip is not only in competition but Geography, culture and teamwork.

Taipei city is beautiful

Taiwan was a beautiful country with great food and friendly people.  People spoke English well and kept their streets, stores and neighborhoods clean..  The food was exceptional as we treated ourselves to healthy yet delicious food on a regular basis.  We enjoyed hotpot almost daily as we prepared for competition.  Dylan's first match was against Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Dylan fought well, took the lead in the first round, gave up some points in the second round and tried to catch up in the third but not enough to prove our win.  

April we attended some local games where refereeing continues to be a problem but with the help of experienced Ontario ref’s we will slowly rid the problem.  Though, the association needs to play a greater role in creating an environment for all participants to thrive which includes the athletes, coaches and referees.  

The Canadian National championships were held in Toronto in the beautiful Westin Harbour Castle hotel.  This was an important game for Cadets as it would ultimately decide who would end up representing Canada at the first world Cadet championships held in Baku, Azerbaijan.  While all our Cadets fought with intensity, Josh Cleghorn cruised through his division, representing Canada and also becoming team captain.  Congrats in following in the footsteps of your teachers, champions and leaders.

Team meeting at Nationals

July was an exciting month as most of our athletes were training in Korea for several weeks and ended the trip with competing at the Korea Open.  One of our athletes, Josh Cleghorn, was preparing for World Cadet championships.  While the world championships were being held in Azerbaijan, Master Ali Ghafour was getting ready to marry his long time girlfriend.  July was a month of celebrations, training and learning.

Josh and Dylan trade jerseys with Ausie athletes
Sean training in Korea
Gianluca and Dylan before the next practice

Friends who push each other in training and competition

September and October brought the beginning of another academic year and a new era of fighting for most of our juniors who were preparing to fight seniors.  It’s a big step forward but our athletes were ready for this challenge as they faced their rivals.  One by one, they proved their ability to sustain grueling exchanges and end up on top.  A new beginning in a new class but our juniors demonstrate veteran skills by taking Gold in several divisions.   While our athletes proved their athletic abilities, they were also put up to new challenges coaching and mentoring the next generation of competitors.

Team meating after the Junior and Senior provincials

October was also a tragic month as I lost my father who was suffering from Dementia and Alzeheimers.  Watching my father’s casket being lowered into the grave was probably one of the most difficult moments of my life.  Though, I am happy to say that my father lived a fulfilling life who sacrificed everything to escape the war in Afghanistan and allow his children to live a better life and better opportunities.  I think my father would have been proud during his funeral ceremony as we transcended cultural, religious and even gender boundaries.

My father and I waiting for our flight to Toronto (1989)

As most of my athletes, parents and colleagues showed up at the mosque and  despite our religious difference, their presence gave me great emotional support. I thank them for it as it allowed me to give greater support to my family in our time of need.  I realized my family is much bigger and these individuals are an important part of mine and each other’s life.  These athletes will steer each other to success through perseverance and a unshakeable belief in themselves and each other.  The good times are easy, it's the tough times that count.  That is when the quality of an individual is tested... through hard times.

My Taekwondo Family

The way we behave today will be the traditions of tomorrow

As the lessons continue to pile up, the best lesson was saved for last.  As one Cadet athlete summed it up with a little quote “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, some people just hate peaches”.  As Dylan and I went to Pan Am Open Taekwondo championships in Portland, Ore. where he beat current US National champion.   As he was fighting the second National team member, the ref decided to blatantly rip us off because he felt threatened that someone else was telling him how to do his job.  It was unfortunate state of affair to see a referee who takes an oath of doing the right thing end up going against it, but unfairness is something we have to get use to as well.

Understanding your athletes is as crucial as their technique

The year ended with our Black Belt test and Winter Training camp but the lessons and our development continues.  I have learned another valuable lesson in my journey to personal development after I completed the 5 km waterfront marathon.  I realize there are those who will race alongside you, compete against you and there will also be those who will stand on the sidelines and cheer you on but each and everyone one of them will make you better.  Be appreciative of those around you and enjoy every minute they share because none of us know how much longer anything will last.

Here is to 2015 and beyond.  Cheers!!

Monday, 17 November 2014

A parent letter about his Child's development at Authentic Taekwondo

Hi Master Farah - just wanted to let you know about a couple things:

1.)  We had a parent/teacher interview on Friday with Logan's teacher.  His report card was really good but the thing the teacher told us she was impressed with was Logan's leadership ability.  She said that whenever they are lining up to go in and out of the school or classrooms, he's the first to make sure everyone is in line and their line is straight.  She also said that he never hesitates to help his classmates if they are struggling with anything.  The first thing that came to my mind was "line leader at the club" lol

2.)  When Justin won his Gold medal at the tournament, Logan was so excited that he came over to me (I was watching Xyris spar) to let me know.  He said to me "Dad, I'm so happy because I feel like I won that medal with him".  When I asked why, he explained "I train and spar with Justin so I feel like I helped prepare him for the tournament!"  As someone who has played basketball at a competitive level for a good part my life, Logans sense of team and camaraderie made me more proud than any medal he could ever win.

While a lot of people would be quick to say these qualities of leadership, teamwork and camaraderie (amongst other qualities people have mentioned) are a result of our parenting, I have to credit you and all the positive role models Logan has at the club.  So I just wanted to thank you for helping us instil these amazing values in Logan at such a young age.  We are fortunate to have found a club and group of people that have such a positive influence on our son, nephews & nieces.  Thank you!  See you on Monday...

Thursday, 13 March 2014

If you Love your Journey, You will get to your Destination

As I wait for team Canada Taekwondo athletes and coaches to arrive at Pearson International airport, I wanted to take this opportunity to send a message to all my friends and family.  First, I want to thank everyone for their incredible support in “My Coach Video Contest”.  On twitter and Facebook you have been liking, commenting and sharing to the point that I think we might soon be trending.  J.  With all that is going on, I feel like I'm living the dream because I do what I love while having the support of my family, friends and my people.  By the people I mean my Taekwondo people, fitness and fellow Martial Artists.   It's a great feeling to have a career that I love and work with the people that uphold a high standard for development and ethics.  Though, we must persist with our efforts, not only to maintain our level of competitiveness but  to reach new heights in more prestigious arenas.

Though, this journey isn’t without naysayers and those who will stand in your way.  During my competitive years, I was surrounded by many elite athletes but also many who threw more excuses than kicks.  The most common excuse that stood out in my mind was "you can’t make Taekwondo a career" and "I have to put food on the table."   When I opened a Taekwondo school, there were those who felt you cannot have an Elite high performance program while maintaining a viable business.  Once again, I believe I stood the test of time.  The most shocking part was when someone from our Taekwondo Association told me you cant make fighters from the suburbs of Toronto.  “they’re too soft”.  I strongly disagreed, because it doesn’t matter where you come from, what matters is where you want to be. 

So once again, the journey continues.  While I'm here, I would like to take this moment to thank those who have mentored me and those who continue to support and stand by me.   Also, thanks to those who have taken the time to vote for me in the past few days.  I hope you continue to vote and share with your friends and family.

The journey continues, and it's a great one.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Fighting the best of the best

Fighting the best of the best
By Rob Nadler

I wish the parents of all the athletes at Authentic could have seen what Paolo and I saw over the past 12 days. We saw our kids face what was likely their greatest challenge yet. And they excelled.

On March 6, we dropped our kids off at the airport and watched them fly off to Europe as a team – not as children. They flew to Hamburg and had just one day to adjust to the new surroundings and a 6-hour time change before weigh-ins for the German Open. Jetlag and nerves led to a poor night’s sleep, with a couple of the kids getting only 90 minutes sleep before they competed.

At the German Open, Crystal was a superstar. The others all competed well, but Crystal was focused, driven and in the right mindset. She won her first match against the Netherlands before losing a great match against Belarus in the round of 16. And when each athlete’s day came to an end, they spent one-on-one time discussing their matches with Master Farah before writing detailed notes on their accomplishments and setbacks from each match.

Paolo and I then hopped on a flight to Italy to see his family and to let the kids train on their own. They had quite rigorous training sessions daily in Eindhoven, with the Netherlands national team as well as BC and Quebec teams. When we arrived in Eindhoven on Friday, they were all truly ready to compete. Master Farah took every opportunity possible over the week to share his stories, review their videos, watch other taekwondo competition videos and simply prepare them mentally for their next challenge. They learned more about competition preparation than ever before – but he also taught them some incredible life lessons.

The Dutch Open was equally as daunting as the German Open, but our athletes were much more prepared, mentally. They had seen many of the competitors in Hamburg and knew that they were not outclassed. Crystal competed on an ankle she had unfortunately rolled in training and was defeated by the French national team. Andus shined and won his first match against Denmark before losing a hard-fought, high-scoring battle against the French national team in the round of 16. Gianluca fought incredibly well in a very close defeat to Kazakhstan; I don’t think either of his European competitors ever made contact with his head! Dylan had a great day, competing in four matches over nine hours. He beat Italy, Germany and France before losing by one point in the semi-finals to the Netherlands. He won bronze and was proud to wear the Canadian flag over his shoulders on the podium.

We realized that we are at a disadvantage. The Europeans have Open tournaments monthly, where teams are well-funded and compete against competitors from every continent. While traveling abroad and facing foreign competitors is rare to us, it is a regular occurrence for them.  They are pushed to excel, and learn by fighting literally the best in the world on a frequent basis. Despite the disadvantage however, our athletes never looked out of place. They were well prepared, highly skilled and incredibly competitive. They deserved to be there.  I loved seeing that, and wish you all could have seen it as well.