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Martial arts champion using experiences to inspire Guelph youth

Nathan Skoufis.
Nathan Skoufis. Nathan Skoufis/Guelph Family Martial Arts

Nathan Skoufis entered the world of martial arts at the young age of six. Since then, he’s accumulated 13 world titles, opened his own business, and attended the University of Guelph full-time, all at the young age of 23.

Skoufis is no stranger to the community that surrounds Guelph: he attended Aberfoyle Public School before heading to Centennial CVI. Skoufis not only gives back to the community in his martial arts efforts, but also uses his experience to motivate and influence local youth to follow their dreams and overcome mental and physical odds.  Skoufis gives speeches across the community, and offers his audience an outlet at his martial arts studio.

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When Skoufis was ten-years-old, he came very close to quitting karate. His mother joined and offered to do the same if he stuck with it. Skoufis recalls instructors telling him, “I don’t think you should stick with it because I don’t see you reaching your goal.”

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Now he’s the first person to unify both the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) and National Blackbelt League titles — winning both in the last year. Skoufis won the NASKA title for the third straight year.

“I remember people telling me ‘You aren’t going to be able to do that because you’re from Guelph, you aren’t from a major city.’”

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Nathan Skoufis / Guelph Family Martial Arts
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Skoufis' NASKA Championship Ring. Nathan Skoufis / Guelph Family Martial Arts
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Nathan Skoufis. Nathan Skoufis/Guelph Family Martial Arts

Skoufis opened his “Guelph Family Martial Arts” studio when he was 19 years old, and a first-year student at the University of Guelph, despite people advising against it. He wanted to provide an outlet for those who might be battling with anxiety, depression or simply don’t have that chance to discuss these issues with anyone.

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“To have the opportunity to be in that position is rewarding,” Skoufis says.

His efforts to give back don’t end there. Skoufis attends many literacy days and anti-bullying assemblies at schools around the community.

“I always tell people it might not be a smooth path to your goal,” says Skoufis. “Mine was one definitely filled with ups and downs. Try to be determined, stick with it and you can persevere.”

Skoufis holds a gala every year with nearly 100 sponsors that gives to various charities including the Guelph General Hospital and The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.

“We want to leave this world in a better place than when we came here,” Skoulis says.

Skoufis credits his mother as his biggest influence in not only his competitive career, but also life in general saying, “My mother has been the biggest supporter and motivator in my life. When I wanted to quit she said, ‘You know what? You have to stick with it because in life, when something gets difficult you don’t give up.’

“She made so many sacrifices for me and my brother, driving all over the country and to the U.S., just to train with people. We would leave right after work and we would return to Guelph around 12:30 a.m., sometimes 1:00 a.m. and still get up early for work. I wouldn’t be in this position without her.”

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READ MORE : Mississauga man works to guide others to a better life through karate

Skoufis says he would urge anyone to join the world of martial arts.

“I have changed so much as a person, just being involved. Not only the life skills, but what you discover about yourself physically is different than any activity that I’ve ever been involved in,” adds Skoufis.

“It connects physical development and mental development.”

When it comes to what’s in store for his future, Skoufis says there are many options available for someone in his position. He could chose to compete professionally and aim for the world of MMA after training with the likes of Georges St-Pierre.

“The MMA option is definitely something people are frequently telling me to follow,” Skoufis says. “Mostly because of the karate-style success that has been seen in the UFC from the like of  Stephen Thompson, who recently competed for a championship.”

There’s also the option of going Hollywood and becoming a stunt performer like many others from the world of martial arts have done. But what Nathan is really looking to is the option of representing his home and country.

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“Karate is in the early stages of being implemented into the Olympic Games,” adds Skoufis.

The goal would not only be to qualify for the Olympics, but to bring a gold medal back for the entire community and show everyone that if you work hard anything is possible.

Until then, Skoufis will try to balance all his responsibilities and if the opportunity arises, he is definitely open to it.

“Even though I’m 23, I feel like I’ve been in the martial arts scene a long time,” says Skoufis. “Just looking around and appreciating everything is something I’m really trying to do because you never know how long it’s going to last.”

You can listen to Nathan’s Interview with CJOY News below:

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