Guelph Family Martial Arts

Guelph Family Martial Arts — Ensuring Everyone Has Access During Covid

Learn how GFMA is supporting the entire community through free and by-donation online class, gatherings, and Facebook Live events, to keep community resiliency strong through Covid.

00:20 – Jason gives Nathan his fair warning …

01:20 – How Guelph Family Martial Arts got started

04:02 – Why walking away is the best defence

06:05 – Pivoting to better freely serve the community

10:09 – Friday night Facebook Live

12:11 – Browsing GFMA’s free Facebook content

14:55 – Not looking at your business as a business

15:50 – Seeing how you’re making a difference

16:33 – The importance of never giving up

21:40 – In summary

22:37 – Set up your 1st Zoom call, in 30 seconds

Click the “Connect” tab to browse web/social links …

Jason Bavington (00:02):

Hey, everyone. It’s Jason with DUX — Your Local City Guide and welcome to another episode of the DUX video blog, which is basically taking the world by storm. I … at least we hope it will. It might be a few days out, maybe a few weeks out. But you know, eventually everyone in the world is going to know what DUX is all about, but until that day happens … today we have a guest on the show. We have Nathan, who’s the owner of Guelph Family Martial Arts. Welcome Nathan! Thank you very much for having us on. Hi everybody! My pleasure. Nathan, before we start, um, I just want to warn you, I do have my yellow belt and I do have my orange belt.

Jason Bavington (00:42):

If things go wrong, there might be words. So just wanting, you know, warn you ahead of time just in case things happen. These hands are deadly weapons. Actually, I don’t even know. Can you remind me how many, how many belts are there to black? So ours goes at so probably similar to most who would go white, yellow, orange, green, green stripe, purple, blue, brown, brown stripe, red stripe, and then black belt. And then black belt it goes second, third, fourth, and then all the way to 10th degree. Yeah, I’ve heard that. But orange belt, you’ve got some training then, you know. You know, what can I say? I like it! “I’m a martial artist”. There you go. So yeah, tell us a little bit about Guelph Family Martial Arts, how long you’ve been around, what kind of services and programs you offer, who comes and visits you.

Nathan Skoufis (01:30):

All that sort of stuff. Yeah. So, I started martial arts at six years old. It was just something, my parents got me into, especially my mom. She saw the benefits, you know, martial arts then wasn’t as big as it is now. Now we see it as a mainstream sport, like basketball or soccer. But then it was kind of, a lot of people thought it was almost, you were just learning to fight or it was going to make somebody more violent and things like that. But I think she really early on saw the benefits and things like focus from martial arts, respect and discipline. So she got me involved in it. I remember first going and I really hated going to martial arts class. Didn’t enjoy it at all. Just cause, you know, as a child when you’re saying focus and discipline and all these kinds of things, they’re great words, but is it really relevant to your life?

Nathan Skoufis (02:19):

Not really. You just want to be a kid and have fun and you know, do that kind of thing. You want to be like a Ninja! Yeah, that’s what I thought at the beginning. I thought it was going to be, you know, fun. And then we actually had to put work in and I was like, ahhh, I don’t know if this is for me. I just wanted to meet Jackie Chan. Yeah, that’s it. I just wanted to, I want to be a black belt in the first few months. And so she actually joined martial arts to keep me involved in it. And she said, you know, when something gets really difficult in life — and this is the lesson that I’ve carried with me throughout my life — and martial arts taught me so many things. She said when something gets difficult, you can’t just give up at it, you know.

Nathan Skoufis (02:54):

And so obviously I stuck with martial arts. You know, I’ve been able to represent, I’ve been on Team Canada. I’ve been able to win 23 world titles in martial arts. I’ve got my fifth degree black belt now. So a lot, I think a lot of the things that martial arts has helped me get through and the lessons that I’ve learned all came from that moment — when something’s difficult, you can’t really just, you know, run away from it. You’ve got to be able to persevere past it. And that’s one of the thing I really like about martial arts. I was first introduced to it about, I want to say like 11 years ago, there was just a couple and they were just offering at a community center or a school. Hmm. And you know, hey, take my son and let’s just go try it out.

Jason Bavington (03:32):

That’s awesome. They said, yeah. And they said something very similar to you where it’s about that focus and it’s about that discipline and it’s not about all these crazy moves you see on TV and stuff. But it’s about, it’s basically about thinking differently and being in a different mindset. That’s what I took away from it, which I thought was fantastic, especially not only for adults who can definitely benefit from that, but for children as well. To start your youth from that perspective, it will serve you your entire life, right? And the other thing that I liked that they really said well was they said, you know, the, the, the martial arts is there for you to use, but your best defense is to walk away or to run away. Yep. It’s, it’s really easy to fight. It’s a lot harder to just walk away.

Nathan Skoufis (04:19):

And that’s how I remember it. And I thought that’s really, really powerful. Again to teach children from such a young age that it’s okay to walk away and you can stand proud knowing that that’s like the best thing that you can do. Which I thought was a fantastic thing to teach kids. Well for sure. I think, you know, martial arts, like we start our little guys at three and we have our oldest students up to, you know, over 70 but I like, I think that a big thing that people look at, you know, in martial arts and even what I taught when I was starting that it was totally, you know, physical. You’re getting faster, you’re getting stronger, you’re learning all the moves and that’s all great. But I think the biggest thing for me, and even for the little guys we have now, for any student, martial arts I think is a rare activity in that it connects the physical aspects, the mental aspects and the spiritual aspects of life.

Nathan Skoufis (05:04):

As you said, it’s really empowering when you’re able to control yourself. And we have things that we call principles of the black belt or traits that as a martial artist, we want to work towards. Things like perseverance and respect and focus. These are things that I’ve really been able to use in my life and that have really helped me out. Especially for a lot of people now, with this situation obviously that’s going on I think martial arts has helped me. You can’t always control, you know, the situation that you’re going through. Whatever we’re dealt that, that’s what it is. But I don’t think we’re given things that we’re not able to handle. We just need to find a way. And I think in martial arts what I have learned is whatever the obstacle is, however difficult it might be, you know, difficult times don’t last, but a tough individual does.

Nathan Skoufis (05:50):

And that person will be able to overcome whatever that obstacle might be. And we’ll be able to … obviously we’re all feeling anxiety. We’re all feeling a lot of emotions that all hit us, really suddenly. But martial arts, it helps you. And I found for myself, to be able to calm yourself down, you know, being able to move forward one step at a time. Because it’s so easy to just in whatever position you’re in, there’s a lot of difficult stuff going on around the world. We see that. But being able to try to move forward the best that you can, I think is an important thing that’s helped me in martial arts and something that I’m using now. I agree. It’s definitely, you know, strategy and a mindset where, as you said, tough it out because we will get through this. As of the time of the filming of this blog, we’re still well into the Covid-19 situation

Jason Bavington (06:38):

and so that’s why we’re here on the call today, so that Guelph Family Martial Arts can share some of the things that they’ve done to pivot and shift their business and adapt in this ongoing, every changing environment. So, yeah, Nathan wants to tell us a little bit more about how you guys have changed, whatever programming, your interactions with your students. Martial arts is a very obviously in-person kind of activity. So yeah. Tell us how you guys have adapted to this situation. I think, especially from martial arts and us and you know, how we’re at the studio, it’s a physical business. So I think kind of a big part of our thing is not only martial art instruction but when people come in, you know, it’s a community. You’re seeing how the person is doing, you’re working on a one-on-one basis and obviously there were some difficulty when you’re thinking, how am I going to be able to … you know, we have a lot of people that are dealing with anxiety, depression, fear. We work with students on the spectrum of a lot of different things.

Nathan Skoufis (07:37):

How are we going to be able to, you know, help those people moving forward? Because martial arts offers, I think, an outlet for a lot of people that really is essential and it helps them get through their daily lives, whatever it may be. So when we were thinking, you know, obviously we can’t do the physical classes. Everybody has to do their part in order to keep everybody safe, we’ve shifted everything pretty much online. So our students are still exactly how it would be in class. We’re doing Zoom, things like this for our specific curriculum. And then we’ve obviously realized that some people are going through financial difficulty right now. So what we do as well for everybody to do for the community, we put up free classes, free drills that you can do throughout the week.

Jason Bavington (08:19):

Even if, you know, we understand there’s a lot of difficulty right now, you’ll still be able to do those and you’ll still be able to be active because you really shouldn’t be excluded on something based on, you know, I think what’s going on right now. And as well, one big thing that we’re doing, every Friday we do a workout on our Facebook page and then anyone who watches who can, if you can donate one or two or three or five, whatever dollars you can and all the benefits, all the proceeds go to the Guelph General for our equipment that they can use. So that’s one thing we’ve been doing. That’s one thing we do throughout the year. Different charities we’re involved in, whether it’s the Children’s Foundation or Guelph General or Big Brothers or, you know, a lot of those. So that’s one thing we’ve wanted to continue doing because really the frontline workers and all of the essential workers, we really do appreciate it.

Nathan Skoufis (09:04):

And you know, all the work they’re doing to keep us safe. They are real superheroes. You know, they’re putting their lives on the line every day. They’re still going in. So that’s one thing we for sure wanted to look at doing. And that’s one thing we have done. That’s great. I really, I really appreciate the community approach to it all and you know, pay what you can. And that’s one thing that we noticed out of this whole thing is that the sense of community and the level of community that we’re experiencing, all around us has increased to such an amazing degree. It’s just fantastic, you know, because we’re all in this together, you know, rich, poor, it doesn’t matter what side of the street you live on, it affects all of us in some ways greater than others.

Jason Bavington (09:43):

But at the end of the day, we’re all affected by this situation. It’s a very interesting equalizer. Whatever businesses and organizations and all of us can do for the community to contribute to the overall health and viability of the community is really, really essential. I think that speaks to part of the strength and the resilience that you alluded to at the beginning, which help get us through this, this time in our lives. So, people can go to your website to check out some of the videos or Facebook page, checkout some of the drills you have your Friday night. So the Friday night, is it like a live thing? Yeah, right on Facebook Live and we do it that way as well for some other people, it’s free as well. There’s a big site, which is the biggest site for martial arts around the world, every Friday as well.

Nathan Skoufis (10:34):

So, our workout starts at five o’clock on I’ve been asked to be one of the instructors with, you know, some of the world’s best martial arts, which is a big honour to lead a workout every Friday. And that’s something we do right before ours. So again, anyone who wants to, if you’ve never even done martial arts, our Facebook page or sport martial arts or our website, anything like that, and we, you know, we will get through this together. But I think that’s the one thing, people, we want to realize it’s more of the me, you don’t want to be in a “Me” view, it should be “We”. And you know, I heard a lot of people saying, “I should still be able to go out,” and even though it might, this might not affect me, it affects us all because all the people in the community, you know, social distancing, it might, maybe it’s not going to affect you, you think personally, but it might affect somebody else.

Nathan Skoufis (11:23):

It might affect somebody else, as a grandparent or whatever it might be. So I think we all need to do our part and that shift from a Me to a We perspective as a community — I think is one thing that we’ve done all an excellent job of doing and, you know, really showing that strength is in unity and together as a city, as a community, as a province, a country, global, we’re all in this together. So I really think we need to work that way. And I think we’ve done all a really excellent job. Yeah, I would agree. I think, as Canadians, I think we really, you know, taken our Canadian stance and our Canadian approach to things and we’ve tried and continue to try, you know, as best we can and as patient as possible.

Jason Bavington (12:00):

You know, it sucks to stand in line and it sucks to, you know, possibly be unemployed or laid off for now. But we will get through it and we will see the other side. For sure. So, okay, so why don’t we go check out your website. Yeah. And you can walk us through, you know, one of the videos you have online that people can check out? We actually just uploaded one, well there’s some Facebook Live ones but we have one today working on just a basic roundhouse here. Let me, let me share my screen with you. Yeah, that’s cool. Even on our Facebook page might be the easiest way. Okay. So here we are on Facebook. Where do you want me to go? If you go right to that search bar. And then just “Guelph Family Martial Arts”. There we go. A little bit of a, yeah, right on the top there, that’s the one. And it will be, should be the first video ohh not that one. It will be one a little bit lower. Just a wee up. Oh, there it is.

Nathan Skoufis (13:04):

That’s kind of showing a fun, little exercise of just doing a round house. So that’s kind of one, a little example of what we do and when we upload those every week for people to do as well as our Friday. Oh yeah, that’s Bob. He takes a lot of kicks, but he keeps coming back. He’s able to persevere. Oops, one second. Sorry. Oh whoa. That’s a cool, we do little moves like that, but then if we go further down, I’ll show you guys on the page here as well. There will be some other. So that’s a sport that’s kind of the info about sport martial arts. That’s our studio. That’s the sport martial arts one. And then there’s our studio. We had members that went outside when we drove up and wrote, you know, stay safe and that they miss us all. Yeah. It means a lot for sure.

Nathan Skoufis (13:52):

So there’s a Guelph General video. That one’s I think backwards, but it should skip forward at some point. So there’s just kind of just the basic things I would say, you know, every week we’ll do one. Um, yeah, again, if you don’t feel really, you know, comfortable with the martial arts, you don’t have to, it’s okay for anyone at any skill level to try and, you know, we get out there, we have a little bit of fun. I think one of the main things for working out, it’s really easy right now to sit inside and watch the news. And you know, get really down on yourself for sure. Getting out there, even though we can’t do it in person, we’re working out. Burning some energy will improve your outlook on the day, you know, will give you some mental clarity.

Nathan Skoufis (14:39):

I think that’s the biggest thing and it will change your perspective. I think, you know, obviously what is going on. But yeah, come out, have some fun with us. Yeah. And you’re giving away these videos. This one’s like an hour long. That’s fantastic. And we do it, you know, just for, you know, for people to have fun. That’s really the biggest thing. All the things we do in our business, we never really look at it as a business. We really look at it … Guelph, through my martial arts career, even before I started at our studio has been so supporting and in everything that we’ve done. So I think supporting the community that has done, you know, so many, so many things for us, for me and my family, is a small thing we can do. So where does some of the, have you had some cool stories come out of this whole thing?

Nathan Skoufis (15:21):

Any, you know, interesting feedback from people with all, you know, all these videos and all the support that you’re giving the community. Have you heard anything back from the community? We, you know, our members are really, and I say this even before all this has happened. We have the best members in the world. We have the best community in the world. Uh, the amount of calls, texts, emails, people drawing out out in front of the studio, leaving mail for us I think really shows you. Obviously people say that, through martial art training, we inspire them and motivate them and we encourage them. But the things that they do for us. I think when you go up to a studio and you see how many little guys have been out there drawing on the sidewalk while you’re not able to do there. Or, you know, somebody emailing you and saying, I’m going through a difficult time right now.

Nathan Skoufis (16:04):

I’m at home on my own. And the martial arts training is the only thing that’s been able to help me get through this. You know, we’ve had a lot of things like that and it’s, you know, it shows for me what you’re doing is making a difference. And that’s the number one reason I think anybody should do any job. I think more than any other factors you look at, will you leave your community and will you leave the world in a better place than when you got here? And I think that’s, for me, that’s something I always want to do. Yeah, I totally agree. H ave an impact and make a positive difference in the community. And that’s even when I started my studio, I was in first year of university and people said to me, you’re going to start a business on first year university?

Nathan Skoufis (16:40):

You’re not going to be able to do it. I got a lot of, not a lot of people, but some people that were being negative and were just saying, it’s not going to happen for you. You’re not gonna be able to compete or you’re not able to compete and run a studio now. You’re going to have to pick one or the other. And I think martial arts and having that support system, whatever it might be. You know, we have, maybe I’ve never met somebody that’s watching your video. I want you to feel free, like we’ve known each other, give us comments, send us an email. We are here for anybody. Because that really does help you when you’re going through whatever it is. So you know, starting out in first year university in the studio definitely challenged my time management skills. It was definitely a difficult situation.

Nathan Skoufis (17:18):

And you know, even in this situation you can sit around and say, well this situation is really difficult. You know, I’m not able to leave the house or will you say, okay, I’m going to adapt to the situation. That’s what martial arts has shown me. When you go to a tournament or you’re teaching a class and something’s not going exactly, I always remember this quote, “we make plans and life sometimes laughs at us.” You have to sometimes be, you have to be able to adapt whatever that is because you have people, for me, that rely on me. My studio or the little guys or the adults that they rely on martial arts training, you know, to help them get through. Right now is the most anxious people are going to be. The most isolated people are going to be.

Nathan Skoufis (18:00):

So those are the benefits they seek from our program. So if I just say, you know what, it’s not possible for me to do this until June or July when I reopen, have fun guys and I’ll see you then. I don’t feel that I am, I always tell people about persevering and all that. If I don’t do it myself, it’s not really true to what I’m saying. So I thought that’s one thing we needed to do. And I celebrate you Nathan for, you know, sticking to who you are right from that first year of university. As a fellow entrepreneur, I know exactly what it’s like for people to tell you, “That’s never going to work.” “Are you crazy?” Or, you know. “Go get a real job.” Whatever that means. And all these comments, you know, for our DUX — Local City Guide, people have told us, like from a technical point of view, what we’re trying to do is absolutely impossible.

Jason Bavington (18:44):

But we did it, right? We did it before it was trendy to do it. We’ve been doing this, you know, we’ve been working on the technical part for like 18 months before Apple even had their own home-grown solution to do what we crafted ourselves just through sheer blood, sweat and tears basically. So like you said, and for all the other entrepreneurs watching out there, business owners everything. If you’re passionate about what you do, and you just stick with it. I think that I usually like to add, Nathan, is as long as you’re practicing self care, then continue to do it. No business is worth your health. Not ever, at least not for me. So as long as you’re taking care of yourself while doing whatever you can to grow your business and just grow your passion, then keep doing it. And you know, one day you’ll get there. One day you will get there and when you do, you’ll have like the best smile on your face and you’ll just feel fantastic.

Nathan Skoufis (19:34):

Yeah, exactly what you said. Being a business owner is one of the most difficult things. And I saw firsthand. You’re the first one there. You’re the last one to leave. You’re building a brand just like you guys are doing an amazing job sharing a lot of great stories. You know, you guys are doing a huge service to the community by doing all this. But I would tell people, if you have an idea that you think…What we look at is, is it going to make a difference in the community? And that’s a number one thing as, I don’t even look at it as a business. But just something moving forward. Because you’re going to have those people, and I had those people that said, “It’ll never happen for you”. “This will never happen for it” or people who told me, you know, when we said we were going to do online martial arts classes.

Nathan Skoufis (20:17):

Well it’s not gonna be possible cause it’s a physical business. Like that’s hilarious. That’ll never. Like it’s, you experience this all the time. And I experienced this in competing, you know, people say, “You want to be world champion but you’re from Guelph. That’s never going to happen.” There will always be those people, but you can’t focus on that. I think focus on yourself and you said self care. You need to ultimately enjoy what you’re doing because if you don’t and you’re doing it for like 8 hours a day or 10 hours a day, which you will be when you’re starting your business, it’s going to be super, super difficult to enjoy life. I enjoy it. Like, as much as I started martial arts 20 years ago, to this day, I enjoy it more now. And, that’s not, you know, my passion for it hasn’t really gone down.

Jason Bavington (20:59):

It’s gone up. So it makes it easy going into teacher, going in to do online videos. If it was something I didn’t like so much, I would say, just teaching, punching and kicking. I don’t really want to do this. But I think changing people’s lives, that’s how I view it, it makes it super easy to get in and do that because I love seeing everybody. I love seeing people start over here and maybe they don’t believe in themselves and then in six months they’re super confident. All the areas in their lives have changed through martial arts. I think for me that’s super rewarding and I’m very fortunate to be involved with many of the great lives and families we’ve been able to meet.That’s fantastic. And the fact that you can reach and change so many people’s lives, that stays with them forever, right? Which is amazing.

Jason Bavington (21:40):

So yeah, so Guelph Family Martial Arts. So you guys just to sum it all up. You pivoted your business really, really well. You’re offering Zoom online meetings just exactly like in this video format. You have courses and programs and videos on both on your website but also on your Facebook page, which is great because different people interact with the internet in different ways. Having your Facebook Live is fantastic. That’s another great way to bring people together. And people love Facebook Live events. I don’t know about you, but whenever my phone goes ‘ding’ you have a Live event and I’m like, “What is it? What is it? I gotta check it out.” I love these things. I’ve seen more concerts in the past six weeks than I’ve probably seen in the past six years. It’s fantastic. So yeah, you’re leveraging all these online tools in a very, very beneficial, very practical way.

Jason Bavington (22:27):

And then keeping in touch with your audience through social media. So it sounds like you’ve hit all the really important social media touch points, connecting digitally with your audience as much as possible. And hey, you know what? It takes basically 30 seconds to set up a ozom call. So for those of you watching out there, if you’ve been thinking about setting up a Zoom call, you probably attended one. You might be able to use it for your studio, your business, your line of work. You’re not really sure about it. Just go to the website, install it, set it up and have a Zoom call with your buddy. And it is that easy. Once you do it, there is no stopping you after that.

Jason Bavington (23:05):

So yeah. So again, my name is Jason with DUX — Your Local City Guide. If you’re watching this video anywhere else but on our website had on over there. We got goodies for you there. We’re going to post the Guelph Family Martial Arts website there as well as links to all your social media. So it’s That’s d u x . city and then click on the Blog link at the top of the page and then look for Guelph Family Martial Arts and our blog posts. Again, Jason. Nathan, thank you very much for being on the call. It was very, very … I’m very honored and humbled by what you said and I think it’s great what you’re doing for the community. From your approach and from my perspective it’s fantastic work and I’m going to work on my orange and yellow belt a bit more, I think. We’ll see you on every Friday. We’ll see you on the call. I’m going to watch some of those videos and, yeah, so you know, just work on work on my strength, my core and you know. Yeah, good things are coming. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thanks a lot. Take care guys. We’re going to get all through this. We’ll talk to you soon.

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