After years of winning tournaments nearby and abroad, kickboxing champion Nathan Skoufis decided to finally join Team Canada and represent the country, at least for the next year, he told The Post on Thursday.
The sensei has been asked several times to join the national team but the 25-year-old owner of Guelph Family Martial Arts decided to give it go this year and officially joined the team two weeks ago.
Because of his Greek and Canadian citizenship, Skoufis did have a choice between the two countries, but the Guelph-born athlete said he chose Canada without hesitation because he was raised here.
Skoufis, speaking to The Post while standing amidst dozens of trophies, some several feet high, said he’s been doing karate — specifically kickboxing — for 19 years, but it hasn’t always been easy.
“For me, I really wanted to give up when I was a young student,” he said, explaining that until he got to a higher level, he would ask his parents if he could quit, but his parents told him that “when something gets difficult, you can’t just give up at it”.
Through this, Skoufis realized that if he gave up every time he encountered a barrier, he would “not get where I want to be”. His perseverance paid off when he won a world championship at the age of just 13 in 2007, a defining moment for his life. In the 12 years since, he has won 16 titles.
Another critical accomplishment that got him to where he is today was when he reached his blackbelt, he told The Post, saying that it is usually one in 10,000 that are able to get to that point.
The sensei said the trophies that are at the front of the dojo help to inspire the students he teaches six days a week, as he was once a white belt but they, like him, can be a champion, too.
In the coming week, Skoufis will receive a Team Canada package in the mail and start representing the country at tournaments, including several in Europe this fall. As for his students, he said that he will still be running the studio he opened himself and that they should not be worried.
He started the Guelph Family Martial Arts studio, located on Woodlawn Rd. West by the Goodwill, from the ground up, starting with one class a day. Now, Skoufis runs six to seven classes in a single day for children as young as six all the way up to his oldest student, age 77.
When it comes to why he started his own dojo, Skoufis said “I knew what it did for me, not only as a child but now in my adulthood, developing life skills that I’ve taken with me the rest of my life”, describing the impact he has been able to have on the community and the lives of many individuals.
It is this local impact that won him a Youth Champion award at the Multicultural Festival over the weekend “for his extraordinary contributions to the community”. Now, he will be taking his determination and positive attitude abroad, representing Canada but also Guelph.