At that time Bruce Lee was a popular figure and his tough minded philosophy coupled with the Bollywood “happily ever after” style changed my perception of reality. I started to dream to become one of these strong characters, always tougher and stronger despite any adversary.I was five years old and my older siblings served as points of reference, therefore I took the courage to ask my oldest brother, who was practicing boxing, to take me to a martial arts club cause I wanted to become a fighter. Unfortunately for me, I was considered too young for having such a desire and my request was simply denied.Time passed by quickly, and in 1980’s Russians invaded Afghanistan, and war begun. We saw a strong uprising of Afghan people against the invaders with the help of United States. Sometimes at night when it is quiet outside, I can still recall the sound of tanks and machine gun arsenal that characterized many of my childhood nights. My country was no longer safe and my parents decided to leave everything behind for a new home and a better future.My family amongst millions of other Afghans, fled Afghanistan against the wishes of the government, through the mountainous terrain, with very little food, water and security. It took us 16 treacherous days to get to our neighbouring country Pakistan, but we finally made it.My dreams to become a Martial artist had not superseded me and I was still determined to follow my vocation in one way or another, but other difficulties came into the picture. First, we all knew that our stay in Pakistan was going to be temporary . Second, my family was advised not to leave a young child alone. And third, money started to become an issue for a family of seven. Again I was told to wait.
On Feb 24th, 1989 we landed in Canada and I felt my problems were finally over. I was eleven with a new life ahead of me and my family. What more could I possibly ask for? Suddenly, all my dreams were coming true, and with them my desire to become a martial artist had re-ignited. But my reality once again failed to match my fervid expectations. Immigrant’s life was not exactly the life I was picturing in my young and naive mind. Nothing was going the way I planned. My family’s struggle was not yet to be over. Money, a new language, a new culture became my new enemy, and all of a sudden I found myself waiting again. My good friends were movies, this time Van Dam was my company during my lonely afternoon , I couldn’t get enough of his Martial Arts movies or any other for that matter.
Finally, one afternoon in 1994 my oldest brother came up to me with a great news. He said that he had been thinking about me and my enthusiasm towards martial arts and after conducting a research amongst his friends he had found a club for me. This was the beginning of my journey in the doorsteps of 44 Vaughn Rd. at Young Choung Taekwondo, and despite many turbulences I faced during my journey, I enjoyed every moment and never looked back.
I felt my time was right and the opportunity to be best had arrived. I trained daily with religious discipline, and even though I was a beginner Master Choung allowed me to train with the higher belts who were competing provincially, Nationally and internationally. Of course, I got beat up a lot, but I loved every kick, every bruise and every echo of chest protector and targets. I was a normal kid, not the fastest nor the strongest, but the one with desire. Desire to be like Bruce Lee and to challenge my adversaries like Bollywood movie characters. My desire proved something completely different: I was one of the strongest fighters.
I can’t help but look back on a regular basis and wonder what would have happened to me had I not been introduced to a quality school with inspirational instructors and members. There are many martial arts clubs in Toronto but very few could inspire armies of fighters the way Master Choung did. Very few coaches treated their athletes like brothers the way Tino Dossantos did, and there are very few teams as close as those at Young Choung Taekwondo.
I had other friends who went through the same trials and tribulations of a difficult life and a new opportunity presented to them here in Canada but unfortunately they did not achieve the same level of success because their environment was wrong. Most of them quit halfway to their black belt and the remainder quit right after.
I strongly believe that my success was not only about myself but also about people I was surrounded with, starting from Master Choung and the instructors to my teammates and the Juniors, who are todays national and international champions.
The people we surround ourselves with coupled with the obstacles we face determine our level of thinking and ultimately our end result.