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Akmal Farah

2020 Sports Honouree

Master Akmal Farah has practiced taekwondo for twenty-five years, competing as a Canadian national athlete at the World and Pan American championships. In 2009, he opened his own school in Markham, Ontario, called Authentic Taekwondo. His journey getting to where he is today is nothing short of remarkable and an inspiration to all.

He came to Canada from war-torn Afghanistan in 1989. Being bullied as a newcomer, not knowing how to dress and speak like everyone else, and seeing his family struggle to adjust and make ends meet, made it very difficult to grasp where he fit in. Fortunately, somewhere deep in his heart, he knew he was more than what people mocked him for, and he just needed positive guidance and direction.

In 1994, Akmal was introduced to taekwondo by former Olympic team coach, Grand Master Young Su Choung. His school was buzzing with current and past champions, and Akmal says that when you’re surrounded by such ambitious individuals you can’t help but be motivated to follow their example and set great goals for yourself.

Fast forward thirteen years, when Akmal retired from competition in 2007, he knew his passion was to learn more and share martial arts, first coaching a High Performance (HP) Taekwondo team in Burlington, Ontario, comprised of eight to fourteen-year-olds. He vividly recalls the first day when his students were practicing, and he had to direct them on proper techniques. After his demonstration, the students’ eyes were all lit up. In that moment, he knew that he was doing something incredibly special.

Shortly thereafter, Akmal opened his school, teaching people of all ages. He says that the general purpose of martial arts is to be physically active and learn self-defence; however, coaching High Performance is very unique in that you also have to incorporate how this applies in competition. By 2011, Akmal had developed his own HP team, all with serious aspirations for the Olympics. He mentored and trained his athletes tirelessly. His work ethic and giving of himself, exceptional; believing, and knowing firsthand, that young people need goals and direction. In 2013, their team earned first spot for the Youth Olympic Qualifier in Taiwan, and their first gold medal at the Pan American Championships in Queretaro, Mexico. It is no wonder why many individuals now travel from far distances to train with Akmal.

Akmal says the unexpected rewards are in the lifelong relationships that have come from working so closely with these athletes and their families. He says that giving is almost a selfish act, because when you give it’s so rewarding. You feel amazing because you’ve made a difference. People remember, and they also learn from your altruism and pay it forward.


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