Skip links

Risk versus Reward: Mindset Shift to Push Forward

with Master Akmal Farah

In this episode of Breaking, we sit down with Master Akmal Farah, CEO and coach at Authentic Taekwondo in Markham.

Master Farah began his Taekwondo practice in April of 1994 and in 1997 he went on to win his first Canadian National Championships in the Bantam weight division. He credits his motivation and inspiration to Grand Master Young Su Choung and Coach Tino Dossantos. Master Farah has competed at many world championships, Pan American and other international events successfully. He has finished top 8 at the world championships and earned a bronze medal at the Pan Am Championships, through 4 years on the Nationals Team. During his tenure on Team Canada he served many terms as its team captain, where he now brings that same dedication and drive to Authentic Taekwondo.


• Fleeing a war-torn country and immigrating to Canada.
• Learning to make sacrifices at a young age for his family.
• Adjusting to a new lifestyle and not taking things for granted.
• How he dealt with racism in the 80s and 90s and how it has molded his stance on bullying.
• Helping children understand how they can use their voice to communicate how they feel instead of using physical violence when faced with bullying.
• Taking losses as lessons.
• And much more.


Find Master Akmal Farah at



Muhammad Kermalli –

Triena McGuirk –


Min Woo Park & Diana Hong @ 6 Story –

Episode Transcript

*This transcription was made for your convenience. Please excuse any mistakes the automated service made.

Akmal Farah: if I went home and told my parents, I was being bullied, they would’ve been. Like what’s wrong with you? What’s that we just ran away from bombs and killing and . All that stuff.

Akmal Farah: And we left and you’re complaining about bullying. Like, what is that?

Akmal Farah: I was the youngest of my siblings. I used to stand up with my brothers, so I was, yeah, but they were like, well, if you’re going to be a tough guy at home, then you better be a tough guy outside too.

Akmal Farah: You know, you, you all, you know, standing up to your brothers, but then outside people are saying all these things, you and you’re not saying anything. So it was, I remember that in the back of my head and I was like, you know, what, if something. You know, a racist word to me, or it makes fun of me or something like that.

Akmal Farah: I’m going to tell him, don’t say that, like, that’s not cool.

Triena McGuirk: Welcome. This is frog. And can you just tell us a little bit about who you are and to start our conversation today? Um, yeah.

Akmal Farah: Thank you so much. Um, so my name is . I am a, uh, former Canadian national champion national team coach, and the current owner of authentic TaeKwonDo. Um, I am a father of two beautiful kids and, uh, I have a lovely wife named Megan, um, and, uh, we just currently actually moved to Markham so I can be closer to work.

Akmal Farah: Um, I’ve been living in Canada and obviously a Canadian citizen from 32 years now. Um, and, um, yeah, I would love to have the discussions on, uh, on the journey so far.

Triena McGuirk: Thank you for being here today. It’s really amazing to have you. Um, so I guess just starting with your journey, you mentioned like you you’re, you came to Canada, so that’s a huge moment.

Triena McGuirk: They’re just coming to Canada on this. What was that journey like for you in coming to Canada?

Akmal Farah: Um, so obviously, you know, coming, coming to Canada and not speaking English very well, um, you know, not really knowing how cold Canada can get, uh, was, you know, it had its challenges. Um, but, uh, at the same time, I think those challenges were important in my development, um, as the person that I am today.

Akmal Farah: Um, I think it’s made me more resilient and tough because of it. Um, and as I was mentioning earlier, I actually had a talk with, uh, uh, some students from grade six to eight, uh, just last week about bullying and anti-racism. And, you know, one thing I mentioned right from the get-go is that I would say, you know, majority of the school, if there was a hundred people in that school, I would say 99 people in that school were incredible people.

Akmal Farah: They were very kind, they were very welcoming, they were very loving, but there was always that one person. That made that, that, uh, that environment or that feeling, um, really, um, you know, bitter, how old were you when I was 11, 11? I was 11. Yeah, absolutely. So I was aware of, you know, the, the, the war that was going on in my country.

Akmal Farah: Uh, I was aware of, um, you know, the neighboring country that we visited Pakistan for about a year, I think, year and a half. And what environment was over there. And then obviously, you know, um, applying, you know, living in Pakistan as refugees and then applying for, uh, immigrant status to come to Canada. Uh, so I, I remember, you know, even in Afghanistan, like, uh, the war that took place and, uh, you know, in the middle of the night, my parents would wake us up because we’d hear gunfire and then like rockets, you know, flying over which

Muhammad Kermalli: city in Afghanistan, Kabul.

Muhammad Kermalli: So you’re in like

Akmal Farah: the Capitol in the Capitol.

Muhammad Kermalli: And, um, and that’s where your family. There for how many generations. So like

Akmal Farah: yeah. For as long as we can, we can go back. Yeah, we were. Wow.

Muhammad Kermalli: Yeah. So you’re there. This is like Homeland home home. And do you have any memories of before the war started? A war

Akmal Farah: started?

Akmal Farah: So I actually, um, like

Muhammad Kermalli: when was it, like, I remember when you were just a kid, it’s funny because when he gave the introduction, it’s everything that you are today. And I’d like to meet the guy before that. Uh, you know, so I’m thinking way, way back, um, when you. Yeah. Happy days in Afghanistan. Do you remember that?

Muhammad Kermalli: Or? Yeah,

Akmal Farah: absolutely. You know, I, you know, eat is one of the festivities in Afghanistan. It’s like Christmas and I remember it, you know, you, you, you wear new clothes, you know, your parents give you money and you know, you can go and spend it any way you want. And as a young kid, like six, seven years old, that’s huge, you know, you can buy anything you want, there’s a lottery.

Akmal Farah: Uh, you go and visit with your cousins and you know, the weather. I know you just, I just remember the weather, like it’s sunny and it’s beautiful. Um, and obviously, you know, it’s, it’s a nice time we’re chasing our cousins. We’re playing tag, we’re doing all these really fun stuff. And that’s what memories that’s, you know what I actually think about the kids now who are actually isolating indepen demic, your memories as a child, is playing with other kids and running around and being out and about and being free.

Akmal Farah: Absolutely. Uh, so those are, those are my experiences, you know, going to school. Um, uh, you know, uh, walking home with my friends, you know, as a very young kid, you know, seven years old, six years old. Um, and, and it was, it was a very safe, uh, you know, very free environment. This was going

Muhammad Kermalli: on up until what age?

Akmal Farah: So it was around, um, I would say probably eight years old, eight, nine years old. Yeah. So the war had already kind of began in 1979. There was a lot of political things that were going on. Um, and then around 1987, uh, you know, because it had been going on for so long, people were like, you know, they’re kind of like telling my parents, like this is going to end soon.

Akmal Farah: So where are you going? So,

Muhammad Kermalli: and it was, it wasn’t yet like a military kind of a conflict. It was political conflict, people just arguing about stuff. There was not yet. You wouldn’t see, you would hear the guns, the guns and the bombs going off. It was like, obviously there’s an eight year span of. Ray was, I’m just trying to understand a little bit better.

Muhammad Kermalli: So you go from happy days running around in the streets, you’re hearing rumblings. Right. And when it first starts, how did that feel? Like? So we

Akmal Farah: were seeing like the Russian tanks driving on our streets, like a fleet of them as a child. Yeah. And we knew like, we, we, we just see them.

Muhammad Kermalli: What about the first time you saw that dude?

Muhammad Kermalli: Did that look like normal to you? It was like,

Akmal Farah: well, we knew that we knew that they weren’t really there for us. Like we somehow we knew that, but now you look back and, you know, you, you, you study this, the events that were happening and you realize that they were actually there to just kind of maintain the peace.

Akmal Farah: You know, they, they wanted like a peaceful neighbor, a stable, a stable political neighbor beside them. There was a lot of, um, so from 1934, until 1974, we had, um, Zahir Shaw who was the king and the. Peace and stability and prosperity. Um, and then his cousin over through him and then his cousin a year and a half, two years later was killed by another guy.

Akmal Farah: And then, so then there was this everyone’s trying to claim power. You know, there has never really been a peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan. Maybe I think 1929 was once. And then obviously when the. Took over and then they were some

Muhammad Kermalli: synthetic child or this like turmoil was already something kind of happening in the background.

Muhammad Kermalli: Okay.

Akmal Farah: Yeah. And that, and the only time it was like, stability is really within the Capitol. The outskirts were kind of like, you know, uh, agriculture, uh, you know, not really as well developed as, as the main city. Um, but regardless like we lived a very good life. My dad worked for the United nations, which was, you know, uh, huge for, uh, and then my mom worked, which was huge.

Akmal Farah: She was a teacher, a very common, um, work for women in Afghanistan. Um, so we, we didn’t, we had really no reason. We had a beautiful house. We had our whole family there. There was no reason for us to leave. Uh, so everybody was like, why are you going? It’s like us who live comfortably here who have developed, why rock the boat?

Akmal Farah: It’s going to end? No, I was, I was too young and I was kind of like kept out of that. Yeah.

Muhammad Kermalli: Luck is the younger, are your siblings too as well? I haven’t know. Some of them. You know, but, um, so, so speak to that a little bit. Like, did you have any idea, like why you’re going, did you ask, did you ever

Akmal Farah: wonder, I did an ask.

Akmal Farah: It was kind of like we were going on a family vacation. We’re just packing up, but don’t tell it, but don’t tell anybody because it was a communist state. And so we were leaving the communist state. And so if they find out that you’re escaping, you could, you know, you could

Muhammad Kermalli: be jailed and a lot of that growing up too, like you would notice a family, well, you wouldn’t know everything, but you would know what you needed to know.

Muhammad Kermalli: You wouldn’t know not to talk about it. You would not, you would know that. And that was made like clear. This is one of those things. Well, you know, we just don’t think about it. Well, also culture there is like, if you talk about it, it’s like, maybe like, I don’t know, but like, that’s a feeling I got, it was like, we talk about this one, like, you know, like your, your child, but then you’re being brought into this world that is already.

Muhammad Kermalli: That way. Right. And then you’re moving. So carry on. Yeah. Yeah. I had no

Akmal Farah: idea. So my two oldest brother, they were of that age, where they were, they were going to be recruited into the military. And I obviously, I believe that my parents didn’t believe in this war, so they didn’t want their sons to be fighting for a cause that they’re kind of jive with their feelings.

Akmal Farah: And they were, I think, 14, 15, just about time, where they get a bit of facial hair and, uh, you know, they’re, the soldiers are walking around the markets, you know, looking for 14, 15 year olds. And the worst part is they just, they just check, check your ID and then they just take you. And then you hear from the military, his office, your son is in deployed.

Akmal Farah: Yeah. Wow. And then where this is going on, obviously I see the soldiers walking around, checking people’s passports and, you know, ID, ID cards and stuff like that. My parents actually sat my two oldest brother first. Uh, and, and, um, they, they were sent out first and then we were going, gonna follow them out, uh, because they were so scared that they were going to be recruited.

Akmal Farah: So they sent them out first. And so they kind of like, uh, yeah, they’re kids, they’re 14, 15, but he’s like, okay. Um, you know, I don’t know the exact details of how they did it, but there are people that will, you know, you pay them some money and they’ll, they’ll take your kids out into safety, take them to a safe space.

Akmal Farah: And then we would go there. And then together as a family, we would go to the neighboring country. And you

Muhammad Kermalli: remember this part and you, your, your brothers, you coast to them, you’re spending time. How do you feel about like two of them? Gone all of a sudden I’m

Akmal Farah: like, what does that? So it was actually really scary because they actually got caught on the way.

Akmal Farah: Yeah. And you know, my mom actually said this to me about a month ago and he’s like, even though we told a deep, you know, not to say anything, he told one of his friends, he’s like, I’m leaving. So his friend came and he’s like, yeah. So he’s already on his way out. And his friend came and knocked on the door and is like, I’m looking for a deep.

Akmal Farah: And he’s like, oh, a deep is blah, blah, blah. And he’s like, no, he actually told me he’s leaving. And my mom was like I specifically said, yeah. Yeah. So, you know, obviously, you know, you have this loyalty, you’re developing this loyalty with your friends too. So you want to be like, Hey, you know, you’re my friend, but I’m gonna say goodbye.

Akmal Farah: You want to say goodbye, but you can’t, you know, and it’s, you know, even your, your relatives, you know, your cousins and your uncles and your aunts, your, your

Muhammad Kermalli: brothers. So, you know, you can say goodbye. Yes. And now in your brothers are the first ones to go and then you leave. Do you ever feel like I remember this happening?

Muhammad Kermalli: We left for different reasons, obviously when we were moving, but do you ever, like, w where are you not able to take something with you that you want it to take? Whatever happened? Um,

Akmal Farah: something. So, this is actually a funny story because I was really good at marbles on the streets. So playing with marbles, um, you know, so, um, I had, I had a huge collection of marvels, I would say maybe like a hundred, if not 200 marbles.

Akmal Farah: I had beaten all the kids. It was, yeah. So yeah, so we were, we were out of our house and staying at this person’s house who was kind of like the safety place. And then from that, we were going to leave in the middle of the night and my brothers still make fun of me to this day. And it’s like, I asked my parents if I can go and get my collection of marbles.

Akmal Farah: And they’re like, no way though. So there was nothing to it. Yeah. I worked so hard to earn that. Yeah. So you leave

Muhammad Kermalli: these marbles. I mean, everyone’s talking about like life and money and you throw marbles.

Akmal Farah: Yeah. Yeah. That’s my currency. That’s my street. Crap. You have to

Muhammad Kermalli: give that up. Right. And, and you’re, you’re walking.

Muhammad Kermalli: You have any realization at that point in time looking like, how did that feel? Because then now you’re going to somewhere. And it’s like, I call that like your first loss, like, you know, like you’re like, you know, that, that, that you’ve experienced. Um, and now


Triena McGuirk: was caught too though. Like they missed that part.

Triena McGuirk: So they got

Akmal Farah: caught. So there’s checkpoints when you’re going from one city to another, there’s all these. So I think they looked at their papers and they didn’t believe them. And they just said they just turned them back. Luckily, so nothing really bad happened. Yeah. They just turned them back. And then, so, you know, instead of leaving two days from now, it took us a week longer to leave.

Akmal Farah: Um, and then. We all left together, but remember, um, you know, I don’t know exactly the kilometers from Kabul to, to pitch our Pakistan. Um, you know, I would guess probably like 500 kilometers. I’m not really sure, but the terrain is very mountainous and it took us 16 days to get there, uh, through, down the mountains.

Akmal Farah: Lauris, uh, you know, from one truck to another, you know

Muhammad Kermalli: yes. With your family or not where you like being consolidated.

Akmal Farah: So once we get out of the city and, you know, in a, in a, in a car, then we were put in a truck with a whole bunch of other people that are waiting to get out too. And then, then you move to another point and then we’re asleep, we’re sleeping at, at mosques or random places.

Akmal Farah: And then from there, they feed us a little bit of tea and some bread. And then from there we can solve with another group that are going this way. Then we go there.

Muhammad Kermalli: So why this is important to, for me to try to understand better is that like. You know, it’s like, you’re moving from your old self to like a new self that you don’t even know what it’s going to look like yet.

Muhammad Kermalli: In this case, you don’t have a choice. And many, a times when you’re trying to move from oneself to another self, there’s a choice that we stay because our marbles are here. Right, right. And that’s the lock, right. I call them the golden handcuffs. Right. So that locks us in. And what’s interesting to me and this, like for our purposes and understanding the journey that experiences here, you had no choice and you had to leave the marbles.

Muhammad Kermalli: You don’t know where you’re going, the new person who is you’re going to be, or what awaits you. And you’re now gaining like a sense of realization that it’s not necessarily where all my friends are. Uh it’s. I don’t even know these people. They don’t even know me. So your foundational pieces, you go from having streets.

Muhammad Kermalli: Forget the future. Now the foundation’s gone and you’re starting to become aware of this, but you have no choice and you’ve got to keep going. Did you, uh, you, you already made one attempt and it was like, it was like you’re as much as you could to go back and get the marbles you told. No, I love that in a way, you know?

Muhammad Kermalli: I mean, I, uh, I, I sympathize for the moment, but it’s like, he couldn’t write, even if there was space it’s too late now. So did you ever try to make other attempts along the way? Did you ever have thoughts of wanting to go back while you’re this kid going through this, through the terrain, through the lorry, from sleeping in these places, you, you had a comfortable lifestyle and th was there ever a part of that that you can recall going?

Muhammad Kermalli: I just want to go back,

Akmal Farah: you know, and I’m sure you can relate. It’s like kids are very resilient. I find working with kids over the years and it’s like, Genuinely, I was just living the experiences. I was really living the experiences. I remember you didn’t miss your friends? Um, no, I, it was like, I was, I was on this very exciting

Muhammad Kermalli: experience you saw?

Muhammad Kermalli: Yeah. Yeah.

Akmal Farah: I had my core family. Right. I mean, I think that made a huge difference. The fact that my brothers were there, the fact that my mom and my dad were there. Yeah. We were all traveling together, you know, and I was looking at, you know, I remember there was one point where we were at some place, but we had kind of like, we didn’t know where we were going, but I remembered.

Akmal Farah: So I was kind of like saying

Muhammad Kermalli: than it is like in wonder about the future and, and all of those things that you valued before. Oh, you still

Akmal Farah: valued them. You still value that, but you don’t know, you don’t know how long they’re going to be gone for maybe, you know, in about a month, you know, it’s only been a few days we’re still tracking and the excitement kind of continues.

Akmal Farah: So we’re going, you know, I remember there’s one point. I don’t know how true this is, but they were like, you know, uh, everybody hide because there’s jets overhead, they’re very high up, but hide and then hide your nails and stuff like that too, because they can see you. I don’t know how true that is, but you know, little things like that.

Akmal Farah: This is like, I remember that detail and I remember, you know, being scared, like, okay, we have to hide and kind of keep ourselves away from the jets that they can, they can see us. And then once it kind of flies over, then we get up and can continue doing what we were doing

Muhammad Kermalli: before. So, you know, it’s interesting to me there is that you see it’s that whole, um, how else can I say, like the windshield and the rear view mirror, right.

Muhammad Kermalli: So he’s looking at the windshield. He just keeps looking at the windshield and he’s excited. You’re excited about the future instead of, um, thinking about. What’s left behind and that enough call, it distracts you to keep going because you know how many kids you hear, I want to go home. Like, there’s that feeling?

Muhammad Kermalli: I want to go home. You never had that feeling. I know. I find a

Triena McGuirk: lot of, in my experience in working with kids that have come from, like I was saying before, like I worked in schools where 80% of the, the kids, the constituency were new immigrants to Canada, and many of them were coming from situations such as yourself.

Triena McGuirk: But I find it so interesting. Just hearing it from a reflecting from an adult perspective, because you just keep moving forward. And when your, your family. You know, is not living in a state of fear. They’re fearful, they’re fearful of things that are around them and being cautious, but your parents must have been engaging in some way to say, okay, like, they’re smiling, they’re engaging with you.

Triena McGuirk: They’re moving forward. You had some kind of

Muhammad Kermalli: where people smiling,

Akmal Farah: um, your

Triena McGuirk: parents, your poor parents, when you, because when you do

Muhammad Kermalli: these 10, imagine people smiling for this

Triena McGuirk: parents. Well,

Muhammad Kermalli: but aside from your parents, you, you, you notice like, is this a fun thing or is this a serious,

Akmal Farah: I could see the nervousness in their faces.

Akmal Farah: I could see it, but you know what. I obviously, I credit my parents for making that judgment call to say, let’s go, you know, we have everything here, but we want to make sure our kids okay. I really, really do. And I, you know, I didn’t know that I didn’t know that at all. And I also gave my mom a lot of credit.

Akmal Farah: She was a very strong woman for her to be like, no, I know my husband is comfortable here and I know we have a decent life, but I can’t see my kids going through that. And really like, even the, to the tracks, like my mom really took charge, you know? And a lot of people, you know, um, you know, kind of like stereotype the, the, you know, the Afghan or.

Akmal Farah: South Asian or the middle Eastern women, but you know what? Yeah. They have no idea. They’re on the show. They’re my mom is incredibly strong, incredibly resilient, incredibly tough. It’s not an inside. Yeah, absolutely. You know, the way she brought us up, um, you know, uh, she really took charge of the family.

Akmal Farah: And even through the tracking, there was points where we could have been left behind like, oh, this truck is full wait for the next one. And my mom was stepping up and saying like, no,

Muhammad Kermalli: we’re going to get on that about surrounding yourself with the right people earlier on, we were talking about this. I’m just trying to observe the, the, the situation from, um, just from an abstract point of view.

Muhammad Kermalli: Right. So here’s like leaving the old, going to the new, no choice. Right. And, uh, support that’s there. I mean, that seems to kind of extend out a lot in the story that you’re talking about. Uh, even though you’re unaware of it, So in that case, like life made a choice somewhat for you, but, uh, that’s the other part, is that, had you been able to make that choice?

Muhammad Kermalli: Right? Sometimes what, what is it that, that, that we want to do? Go get the, you know yeah. Like, you know, different plan. Yeah. So I love that about it. So carry on. So you went to, again, ended up in,

Akmal Farah: we ended up in the shower, um, you know, right away. My parents put us in school, which was great. Um, you know, they stayed there for awhile.

Akmal Farah: Um, you know, I think I was in grade four over there.

Muhammad Kermalli: People speak the same language.

Akmal Farah: So we actually went to a refugee school where there was an Afghan. Yeah, there’s a lot, there was all Afghans. Uh, there, the teachers were Afghan, they were teaching us about science, about math. And, you know, we were learning a little bit of English,

Muhammad Kermalli: um, as far as like a different kind of a school, uh I’m in Pakistan, I’m in a certain specific, special situation.

Akmal Farah: I don’t think I was too aware of what was going on. I just like, okay, well this is the new life. And so here we go. Let’s go to school. Yeah. Do do our best. Yeah. Um, and then from there, we, we kind of moved to Islamabad. We, you know, we, we were getting ready to kind of like, um, move to Canada and it was closer to the embassy where I think a lot of the interviews and stuff like that were happening.

Akmal Farah: So we, you know, we moved Islam about, and then from Islam about, uh, finally in 1989, how long were you in Pakistan? I think maybe a year and a half. Yeah. And so we were maybe like about a year or something in, in per shower and then maybe another six, seven months in Islamabad.

Muhammad Kermalli: When you were at school, going to school in the shower, or even in Islam, a blood from the time that you were there, did you notice any other kids around you.

Muhammad Kermalli: Not to be okay with the situation or, you know, acting out or whatever you want to call it. That situation.

Akmal Farah: I didn’t notice anything like that. I think we were all just kind of like, you know, you get to see our friends and hang out and be a part of something. Yeah. And actually, you know what, I still have a friend from the shower who moved to Montreal.

Akmal Farah: We still stay connected. Yeah. More than 30 years later. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, you know, we actually moved from the shower and then when we moved to this, but he was our neighbor and then like he moved January of 1989 to, uh, Canada and we moved February, 1989 to Canada. Yeah. So we still kind of stay connected, but we were never, like, I don’t think we ever sat around and kind of felt sorry for ourselves.

Akmal Farah: We were always like, you know, what’s next? This is it. Yeah. What’s next. How are we gonna be?

Muhammad Kermalli: I’m just wondering, cause I, um, I’ve never had this kind of conversation. Like face-to-face with somebody who’s gone through like you have, right. So like I’m part of a migrant family as well, but not going through that same process.

Muhammad Kermalli: And um, and I’m just trying to think, I’m just wondering, was did anybody show any signs of fatigue or not being okay with this? Um, cause they’re leaving. It just doesn’t add up in my head that they’re having to leave everything. They had good reasons. They had something to

Triena McGuirk: action Mon, correct me if I’m wrong.

Triena McGuirk: I think there’s just like a, like a, like a fight instinct kicks in and you just kind of mobilize and go into action. And from what I’ve learned from hearing, a lot of people’s stories is that sadness and stuff comes when they finally truly settle sometimes. Right. And they realize what they’ve gone through to get to Canada or get to wherever they’re going.

Triena McGuirk: That’s what I’ve learned from people’s stories. I don’t know if that resonates with your experience with

Akmal Farah: it family. So I think as, as children, we are always like, you know, we’re looking for the next excitement, you know? Uh, but I think I was definitely harder on my parents, you know, because they ha they missed their brothers and their sisters and their family and their work.

Akmal Farah: I didn’t notice any sign of it, obviously. You know what, for us, it was just like, okay, well, we’re here. You know, and our parents, you know, how I think they conducted themselves, um, made an impact on us. So if we saw them sad and being like lonely and missing out, then maybe it would affect us. But I think we didn’t really see that.

Akmal Farah: Uh, or if, if they were, they didn’t really show it,

Muhammad Kermalli: that’s a huge credit to them a hundred percent.

Akmal Farah: Yeah, absolutely. So it was, we, I never really saw that in them. And then I, you know, um, you know, my parents are very religious, uh, and you know, one of the things about religion is that it makes you grateful for everything that you have.

Akmal Farah: And, you know, as far as I can remember, they’ve always been incredibly grateful for every opportunity that they’ve had. And they were even when we arrived, um, you know, in Pakistan, In Canada, you know, there were, you know, even though we were upper middle class in Afghanistan and then poor in Canada, they were grateful.

Akmal Farah: They were like, we have peace. We have stability. Yeah. You know, we don’t have to, there’s no rationing of, of stuff anymore. You know, we’re in Afghanistan. It’s like, you know, there’s not an, there’s not a lot of stuff for people like toothbrushes and toothpaste and stuff like that. Like there’s a ration on it.

Akmal Farah: So you go and you want to buy it, but you can’t because they’ve run out. But that doesn’t exist anymore. Like just the basic necessities. We were incredibly grateful for, to have a roof over our head, you know, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, warm water, warm water. All the things we take for granted, we don’t even think about like war water, but it makes a huge difference.

Akmal Farah: Absolutely. Um, what on your house? The electricity, you know, there’s times, there’s times when they will shut down electricity, because there there’s too much demand on it, so they would shut it down. And the coldest nights, it doesn’t matter what it was. They would shut it down and then you’re kind of sitting there in the dark, but it was okay.

Akmal Farah: Cause you kind of just hang out with your family and tell stories.

Triena McGuirk: That’s right.

Muhammad Kermalli: So now you land here, you said 20 whatever day it was the

Akmal Farah: 24th of the year.

Muhammad Kermalli: Do you remember?

Akmal Farah: I do. I do remember the day. Um, and, um, it was, it was very, very cold and you know, I think a few days later we were taken to schools, you know, my, I was taken to, um, uh, middle school and my brothers were going to high school.

Akmal Farah: Um, and you know, we were sitting there and. I guess the toughest part at that time is like, okay, well, we were kind of like, just going with the motion. You know, math was difficult. English obviously was difficult. You know, trying, you know, if you don’t know, you know, a lot of the basics of math, it’s hard to get to the more advanced parts of it.

Akmal Farah: So it’s like trying to understand a lot of the stuff that the teacher was saying. I didn’t understand it. And then obviously on top of that, he was saying it in English was really difficult. So trying to catch up to all that stuff was really, really tough. And then obviously trying to, you know, maintain a, kind of like a social setting, which I am very social, you know, I remember in Afghanistan, like running around with my cousins and my friends in the, uh, in the playground was, you know, there’s no real prey playgrounds, but yeah, you’re

Triena McGuirk: very aware of it.

Triena McGuirk: Just developmentally social is kind of,

Muhammad Kermalli: so you’re saying some things that I just want to ask you some more about just the thing that you just talked about with wi, and I know what you mean, but I’d love to hear your perspective on this is you’re, you’re trying to learn math, but it’s being taught in English

Akmal Farah: and there’s, then it’s already advanced.

Muhammad Kermalli: I just want to understand a bit better because it’s amazing how many times in life, right. We need to learn something, but we need to learn something to be able to learn that. And we don’t even have that. Right. That’s where you are now. So then what do you do?

Akmal Farah: You just, you just, you just, you just tough it out.

Akmal Farah: You just tough it out, toughed it out. You just, you just sit there and you try to

Muhammad Kermalli: create at some point someone to start showing you that you’re failing and you’re not, you’re not going to make it. You ever get that feeling? Oh, absolutely.

Akmal Farah: So you, you know, obviously you take your report cards home and your parents sees it, you know, you’re not doing very good.

Akmal Farah: And so, you know, and it’s like, they become like, you know,

Muhammad Kermalli: street

Akmal Farah: credit’s we try to yeah.

Akmal Farah: Yeah to this too. Like all of a sudden starting from the ground up it’s like below. Absolutely. Um, and so then your parents are looking at you that, you know, here we are making these sacrifices for you and you don’t get it. Like you don’t understand. So it’s like, you feel like it definitely is failure.

Akmal Farah: You feel like, oh my gosh, like I’m not doing enough. Uh, I’m trying my best, but it’s not enough. And then, and honestly, like February, we landed in Canada by June. I was okay to go. I was out of ESL. Wow. I was out of ESL and put into French in September of grade seven. So here I were

Muhammad Kermalli: put into France. I was so

Triena McGuirk: into, you have an opportunity

Muhammad Kermalli: to

Akmal Farah: do French as part of it, but didn’t do French.

Akmal Farah: They were teaching English obviously. And then you have a French course, as well as ESL. You don’t exactly. You don’t go to French classes. So everybody has an of one French course that everybody has to take. So here I am trying to learn English. And now I’m put into French within this, within like by September of same color.

Akmal Farah: Exactly, exactly. And English. And I’m completely lost. I’m completely lost. So obviously I feel like I’m failing. So obviously when I, when I get to high school, I have a decision to make, you have to have one French credit and that’s it. I’m never taking French again.

Akmal Farah: So it was, it was really, really difficult. Um, but you know, you, you have other subjects that you’re doing well at, you know, like

Muhammad Kermalli: you feel that gave you that strength. I think,

Akmal Farah: you know, obviously Jim was an easy credit to do well and you know, you’re active, you’re running around for me. Yeah, it was, it was great.

Akmal Farah: I think science was okay. Science was, uh, was good. Um, and, and, you know, you try to catch up with other, other classes as well, as best as you can, but at the same time, you know, I think teachers are very understanding.

Triena McGuirk: I experienced the, when you come into the school, cause I know a lot of kids when I’ve worked with them, Uh, the kids I get usually is because it’s behavioral, right.

Triena McGuirk: But behavior is a form of communication, but some, a lot of kids will internalize their struggles when they’re a new immigrant. And so when you’re there that, did you encounter like teasing bullying, any kind of like social issues as a result of being, you know, a new kid in the classroom that doesn’t speak the language you, you know, probably dressed differently, probably not dressed appropriately for the weather because you’re not used to the weather.

Triena McGuirk: Like, what was that like for you from a social perspective, when you’re in the thick of, you know, trying to learn the language, trying to get grades and you’re feeling, and then you’re dealing with this social. Structure. That’s so important that the age like 11, that’s a huge, a huge developmental stage socially.

Akmal Farah: So it was, you know, as I mentioned earlier, you know, 99% of the people in the school were incredibly welcoming. They were very kind. Um, but obviously. One person that was, you know, uh, you know, wanted to bring themselves up by putting you down and, you know, making fun of you and everybody around you laughing.

Akmal Farah: But I also, you know, going back in that moment, I didn’t know what they were saying, and I didn’t know what to do. And obviously as time went by, I understood what they were saying. But, but that time I felt like it was maybe a little bit too late because what happens with bullies in particular. And I remember it going back in that time is like, one person is making fun of you and then they’re laughing and then other people are laughing and then they realized that this person’s not really fighting back.

Akmal Farah: And now there’s two, then there’s three. And then there’s four. And all of a sudden you become kind of like the punching bag for a lot of people’s jokes. Yeah. Um, so

Muhammad Kermalli: this was

Akmal Farah: happening well, it’s happening at the beginning. I didn’t, but then obviously by the time I understood it, you know, and the racist names and the things that they were saying to me, I understood it.

Akmal Farah: Um, I think, you know, you develop a personality because of that, you know, maybe you use humor to try and like deflect the attention or you don’t what your ego kind of like, says, Hey, you know what, like, that’s not cool. And so you stand up. So obviously, you know, there’s, there’s, uh, you know, uh, I think I did a little bit of both.

Akmal Farah: I think the, you know, obviously, you know, you know, speaking of wins and losses, you know, I’ve had my battles in the, in the school yard, you know, going out after school and saying, you know, it’s like they say something, they say something and then you’re like, you know what, buddy? Like, that’s not cool. Like you, you know, you’re not a nice person either in a, in a more demeaning way.

Akmal Farah: And then they’re like, okay, fine. And it’s like, they’re waiting for that. Okay. I’ll see you after school. And then throughout the day, everybody’s all, you know, Amahl and blah, blah, blah, after school it’s going to happen. And then they’re like, hyping this, like, uh, you know, it’s like a pay-per-view fight.

Akmal Farah: They’re going to hype it. And there’s a bunch of kids and it’s. Yeah. And so it’s going to happen. And then, so now, you know, I don’t know the was here about it. Are they going to come and confront that kid in an animal and say, guys, I hear you guys are going to go out today. Like, why didn’t they now I look back, you know, right now I’m thinking about it.

Akmal Farah: It’s like, why didn’t they bring us together and be like, if I see you guys, you guys are going to be both in big trouble, go back to your class and respect each other, shake, hands, do whatever. And they didn’t, and this was multiple times. And obviously sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and either way it builds the character that you have inside of you.

Akmal Farah: It’s just a matter of standing up for yourself. And I think that’s the most important thing. Maybe not, you know, obviously I teach kids violence is not the answer because it doesn’t end. It does not end. It can get, especially nowadays, and especially in the age or the, the, the neighborhood that you live in, it can be very, very bad.

Akmal Farah: So you don’t want to go that route regardless of who you are, where you are and what you do. It’s

Muhammad Kermalli: well, let’s see, that’s the point I feel for the, for the kids that do it, and you probably hear this is that they feel they have to, right. I mean, what’s your alternative, right? So you go through this, um, it’s interesting to me that you, that you chose that today.

Muhammad Kermalli: Obviously you have to speak from this perspective of who you are, but what I find interesting is that whether you call that, uh, um, you know, maybe not your best decision, right? You might say that today, but at that time it was a necessary decision for you to make, to stand up for

Akmal Farah: yourself. I didn’t know, better.

Akmal Farah: Yeah, no one told me that, you know what, when somebody confronts you and grabs you by the shirt that you just, yeah, I, no one told me that you could have avoided that

Muhammad Kermalli: stand up for myself. You did stand up for yourself that there’s a, like I’m telling you from a person who didn’t. I couldn’t like I could see like when, when you’re talking right now, I’m like, that’s exactly what happened, but I never fought because I could, I didn’t, I wasn’t good in shit.

Muhammad Kermalli: You already had, you had that. You have a gift, obviously we’re going to get to that later, but you had that. And so you lean on your strengths. Why not? There’s nothing wrong with that. As far as I’m concerned, I mean, the laws and the rules and what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. Right. But you, you had the ability to stand up for yourself.

Muhammad Kermalli: You had older brothers who like give you your strength and they’re your support. You have a strong mother, like all these things give you the strength. So you stand up for yourself. Cause I, you know, I did. And I can tell you, sometimes I look back. It could have stood up for my, somebody else stood up for me sometimes, but you know, I think it was a good decision.

Akmal Farah: I think it’s, it’s just stand up for yourself. One thing to stand up for yourself. You do have to stand up for yourself. You do have to, you have to stand up for your character, for your integrity, for your dignity. You don’t. When somebody is mocking you, because

Muhammad Kermalli: a lot of bad decision or a wrong decision, the thing is

Akmal Farah: I felt like I had no other option.

Akmal Farah: And I think the one thing that I teach kids now is that you have lots of options, especially children today. So I look at myself at that time and say, you know, if I went home and told my parents, I was being bullied, they would’ve been. Like what’s wrong with you? What’s that we just ran away from bombs and killing and . All that stuff.

Akmal Farah: And we left and you’re complaining about bullying. Like, what is that? You know, 20, 30 years ago, it’s 30 years ago. Definitely. It was a non-existent I think non-existent issue and same thing, you know, I was the youngest of my siblings. I used to stand up with my brothers, so I was, yeah, but they were like, well, if you’re going to be a tough guy at home, then you better be a tough guy outside too.

Akmal Farah: You know, you, you all, you know, standing up to your brothers, but then outside people are saying all these things, you and you’re not saying anything. So it was, I remember that in the back of my head and I was like, you know, what, if something. You know, a racist word to me, or it makes fun of me or something like that.

Akmal Farah: I’m going to tell him, don’t say that, like, that’s not cool. You know, maybe at times where it’s a group, I will try to like deflect it and make a joke out of it. And then it kinda like deflects. But if I, if I felt like I was being pushed against the wall, I was going to stand up for myself. And, um, it’s again, it’s a dance, you know, those are, I think, you know, my feeling moments, I think

Muhammad Kermalli: I want to differ with you and I respect, you know, how much I respect you, but I’m thinking to myself, it’s like, look at, look at life.

Muhammad Kermalli: Right? You see you’re the youngest of your, almost the youngest of your siblings. So everyone’s constantly bigger around you. As you’re growing up, you don’t realize this because you’re having a good time, but you’re, you have to keep up. Right. You don’t realize that. But then, and then you go through this experience of having to, you know, give up Lu.

Muhammad Kermalli: Uh, that trial through the mountains that 16 days changes life. Like you, you sound like, yeah, I was having fun. I was looking forward, but you couldn’t just eat whenever you wanted to eat. You couldn’t sleep whenever you wanted to sleep. Sometimes you’re sleeping. The road is bumpy or you’re uncomfortable, or you’re in places too cold.

Muhammad Kermalli: And there’s all of this stuff going on. So when that moment comes that you do, you know, you in the future, when you’re facing somebody, you actually have the choice to say, Hey, that’s not cool. Like you saw that as a choice, but that choice was something that you kind of earned the ability to, to, to, to execute on because of what you went through in like a much more challenging past.

Muhammad Kermalli: So standing up to a bully is like, Hey man, that’s not cool. I don’t see anything wrong with it, but I think you had the choice and you were con you were conditioned, you were strong enough to be able to do that because of these other things that happened in the past. I

Akmal Farah: find that interesting, th I think the difference between the immigrant child who doesn’t know his options and a child who grows up in Canada and knows those options is that you can go to your teacher and talk to them and say, you know what?

Akmal Farah: This person was saying, this stuff to me, and now he’s threatened that he’s going to go and beat me up after school.

Muhammad Kermalli: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I did do that. And I got two types of responses. What, what some teachers were like, Hey, stop, stop bullying him, or stop doing it because teachers are, do great. They’re great to have around us.

Muhammad Kermalli: And they did do that for me. But then right after they did that street credit. Yeah. Even lower right raise. You’re like, oh my. Like, what did I just do right now? I have no dignity right here. And then the other one, they’re all like, kind of give it to you in the best form that they can. But the other one said to me, stop complaining, stop being such a whatever and like pay no mind.

Muhammad Kermalli: Yeah. So those weren’t really better options for the immigrant kid. I’ll tell you that. I, anyway, I’m just saying what I felt on the other

Triena McGuirk: side. And I think it’s an ongoing thing too. Like, I’m hearing your story. I remember my son in grade four being bullied. Right. And he was physically, he was getting ridiculed and then it was getting to the point where it’s getting physical and they would just do like, yeah, they trip them and then they’d push them into walls and things like that.

Triena McGuirk: And it just got to the point where there was enough, enough in, in, you know, he would assert himself verbally. And I went, I remember, um, his dad and I went into the school and we sat with the principal and I’m a school social worker. So this is the school social worker saying this like, right. But now I’m a mom.

Triena McGuirk: Right? And so I just said to them, I said, you need to deal with this. This is happening in your building on your time. But push, if push comes to shove and this child trips my child again, or pushes him again or hits him again, I’ve given my child permission to re re respond with that. Not initiate aggression, but respond with that because it was getting to a point where the physical stuff was escalating.

Triena McGuirk: Right. It was just little things and it would just escalate. And I think they were trying to see if he would assert himself physically. And he’s a very athletic and strong kid and he’s like, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to touch anyone. I’m like a hundred percent. That’s always the first path, but we’ve tried all of these.

Triena McGuirk: And if they hit you, it’s okay to defend yourself. You’re not initiating, you’re defending. It’s such a delicate balance. It’s so it’s so muddy because I do hear what you’re saying with not going to the physical place, particularly in the context of what we’re looking at as a society now for youth, with their access to weapons and all kinds of different dynamics that are happening in our communities.

Triena McGuirk: So I do hear what you’re saying loud and clear that way. It’s such a balance that way, because the kid might move from I’m being bullied to go gain a knife or getting a gun really quickly. Right.

Muhammad Kermalli: I mean, again, I’m not encouraging anybody to go get a knife or anything like that, but I can tell you lying down is not an option.

Muhammad Kermalli: Right? Because after that, getting up after that, Is even harder because then, you know how you say you internalize, you use that term. We internalize it and internalize it much. He displays that, that he, from what I’m hearing it, he just, you know, he, he asks him outside the it’s a gift. I would internalize it and I’ve accepted.

Muhammad Kermalli: And then it makes it until today I fight the demon because I I’ve been there. And then it goes deeper and deeper. And then you just succumb and you just give up, I kept telling you, I had a nightmare, probably this like literally last night on something else that I’m an opportunity. It turns out which is a challenge for me.

Muhammad Kermalli: But I’m just saying this to you because it’s resonating with me so much. You say you stood up and there’s also moments like you’re saying to yourself that there were alternatives,

Akmal Farah: the alternative, because you know, not every fight goes your way and you know, you get, you know, that you fought, but you also get beat up.

Akmal Farah: And then a few other friends take a few shots on you as well. And then you’re out of that circle that people had around you. You’re walking out that circle. With tears in your eyes with your head down, you know, crying home. And that’s not a nice place to be either. And that’s, you know, I’ve been there for sure.

Akmal Farah: I’ve been there for sure. And it’s not.

Muhammad Kermalli: So talk about that. So you made the psychological, you went back and you’re, you’re second guessing that move.

Akmal Farah: Absolutely. So, you know, it’s psychological, right? Because I felt like I was strong enough to stand up to people. And so, you know, person comes in the school yard, everybody’s leaving the school and you know, they walk towards you and you know, you’re trying to be a tough guy.

Akmal Farah: And maybe the first guy you drop your bags, you go at it, you take them down. I remember my principal, Mr. Goldberg was an amazing guy, honestly, like he kind of understood what I was going through and he wasn’t too hard on me. You to sit down, okay. Don’t ever do it again. And then he would kind of be like, kind to me.

Akmal Farah: He would see me in class, in hallways and smile at me. I love the guy to this day, but then, you know, one specific time, um, you know, we went, we were in the school yard, everybody’s leaving and the is walking towards me. So I stopped. Cause I’m thinking it’s going to go. And then obviously the teachers are going to come and stop it.

Akmal Farah: And the guy walks past me with all of his friends. He’s not fighting. Okay, great. So I go and he’s waiting for me in an area where it’s not school area anymore. It’s just a big open area and all his friends are there and I have to walk past there. So I have a choice now I can run back the other way and go into the security of my school or go past it and face it.

Akmal Farah: But it’s psychological. I’m seeing him and all of his friends waiting for me. I’ve already lost the fight. Yeah. So I don’t even really fight I’m going through the motions. He takes me down, kept going. I kept going. I’ve faced it. He kept going. But. But it’s not, it’s not, yeah, it didn’t turn around. I faced it.

Akmal Farah: I walked up, I went through the motions. I didn’t even try, but I was trying to like, you know, grapple with them, encourage somebody to do that. Absolutely not. You know, again, cause you don’t know the ending

Muhammad Kermalli: because I think because you walked forward on that, there’s other things we’re going to talk about in terms of your journey, but it’s funny that you say you walk there and now I can connect that to two years ago when you’re managing your TaeKwonDo studio and COVID and all the other TaeKwonDo studios are closing to me, that’s the same exact situation you’re facing something you’re outside of your comfort zone.

Muhammad Kermalli: And what do you do? You keep going? I find that to be the exact same thing. And I believe that you walked at it the first time and that’s not I’m understanding why you didn’t turn around and close your eyes.

Muhammad Kermalli: Had you turned around that day. I wonder if you would have turned around.

Akmal Farah: I think it’s just about options, you know, um, when the pandemic happened and, you know, I had to keep going is because I felt like I had no option. I think as, as children, we do have options, you know, I think, you know, there are people that will listen to us, you know, like that teacher that said, you know, Okay, sit down until

Muhammad Kermalli: someone does.

Muhammad Kermalli: Absolutely.

Akmal Farah: That’s. The beautiful thing that we teach in TaeKwonDo is that you do have a voice. People will listen to you. You just have to keep saying it. If the first person doesn’t hear you keep saying it until somebody does, don’t keep it inside you. And I think I had an issue with that by keeping it inside me because I really, I couldn’t complain to people about bullying.

Akmal Farah: Again, you know what? I’m from Afghanistan. I’ve come from a way worse place. You know, we’ve been through worse. Like you can’t complain about this. Like you’ve been through a lot already. So get over it and keep going back to school and sit there and get good marks. That’s all you have to do. You don’t

Muhammad Kermalli: realize the

Triena McGuirk: psychological impact of that.

Muhammad Kermalli: That


Akmal Farah: Especially at that time, you don’t, we’re just understanding the psychological effects of it now, especially for people who are keeping it inside them and don’t say anything,

Muhammad Kermalli: but it has a lot of value to hear you. You know, the person who did it saying don’t do it right. That, so you know that, you know what it’s like to do that I know what it’s like to go the other way.

Muhammad Kermalli: Cause I’ve gone the other way. And I say to myself, I should have gone. But if I’m talking today, you’re saying to me, there’s another option.

Akmal Farah: You don’t know the result of it. You don’t know if you’re going to win that fight or you’re not. And if you’re not going to win that fight, you don’t know how it’s going to end.

Akmal Farah: It could end really badly, you know, we’re we’re and I’m sorry to interrupt. I just want to say this because this is very important. I think when we’re teaching about bullying, we paint everything with a single brush. We don’t know. The, neighborhood that they live in, we don’t know their exact age. We don’t know what their abilities are.

Akmal Farah: I also grew up in government housing, you know, for, for a very long time. And it was a rough part of town. you don’t talk about bullying. You don’t complain, you just keep your head down and you just go home and you just do what you have to do. And that’s it. And we got lucky because no one really picked on us either because we lived in the neighborhood.

Akmal Farah: So a lot of the people that were kind of like the tough ones in the neighborhood, they didn’t want to have issues with the neighbors. They want it to have a good neighborhood. They want it to deal with the outsiders. If anybody came from outside, they would be, you know, mugged and beaten and robbed and all that stuff.

Akmal Farah: But because they knew who we were, not the people in the niche. Yeah. Because then we complain and then now they have issues within their own community. So it was important. So I think when we talk about bullying and standing up for yourself, I think. Um, and I, and I see this when I teach tech window is we really teach communication.

Akmal Farah: So when we’re kicking and punching, we’re keying up, we’re having the confidence to use our voice to, you know, it may feel weird by saying, ah, but we’re actually using our voice. It is a power. Absolutely. So it’s important for us to use our voice and to see it in, in a meaningful way, in a strong way. So that the person who is bullying us understands it.

Akmal Farah: We’re standing up. That’s not cool. What you’re saying. I don’t appreciate it continues. You go to your teacher, you know, and obviously you get home and you say, mom, dad, you know, this is what happened to me today. And this is how it made me feel. My son is four years old and he’s already understanding feelings.

Akmal Farah: He’s like, oh, I was in the blue zone today and I love it. It’s so beautiful. Then I can understand what he’s feeling, what he’s feeling, and then I can do it.

Triena McGuirk: What happens for him? Sure. So know one of the things they don’t talk about a lot is the people who were bullying are usually some of the most saddest traumatized people out there and they’re lashing out on to others to elevate themselves.

Triena McGuirk: So I remember speaking to what you’re saying is through the communication, using your voices. When I was going through this with my son was be like, talk about how you feel. I feel like this, when you do that, or how would you feel if someone said that to you? So when these say the nastiest thing, flip it.

Triena McGuirk: How would you feel about that? Or just, just flip the switch on the dialogue, because when you look at something through even shifting perspective or through a compassionate lens, um, The person, the other side, they’re going to be taken back from mother and be like, what are you talking about? You’re not, you know, you’re not throwing a dig at me.

Triena McGuirk: You’re not throwing a punch at me, but you’re like, where’s that coming from? Or how do you, how would that make you feel? Right.

Akmal Farah: I agree with you a hundred percent, because now I think about the people that were bullying me and pushing me around and I think about them and yeah, they were, um, I think they were victims themselves in some way, they were going through something.

Akmal Farah: And I think they’re trying to mask that by putting that on you and making you feel like that. So I think having that conversation to be like, you know what, that makes me feel sad. Like, I’m really sad by what you said, and it’s tough for a child, you know, who has maybe 10, 11, 9, whatever, to be able to say those words and verbalize it, but we have to teach them.

Akmal Farah: We do have to teach them. And that’s the responsibility of the teacher to be like, you guys are going through this. You know, this is not good because you’re making this person feel sad. How would you feel if someone said that to you or made fun of your family or your background or your name, or, you know, all that stuff.

Akmal Farah: So it’s, it’s I know teachers have a lot to deal with, but this is an important issue as well. Cheers.

Triena McGuirk: It’s coaches. It’s , it’s all of us all have that responsibility. Right? So, because it’s a community,

Muhammad Kermalli: that’s a huge takeaway for me personally, to hear you say that, because I was, again, I was not the one who would fight.

Muhammad Kermalli: I would the one, I just couldn’t win a fight. Forget about it. So to hear you say that, because to me, I was like, I made the wrong decision. I should have fought and I should’ve fought harder. And, um, I’m thinking to myself, hearing you say that as a person who did engage to say that. No, no, no. There’s a better decision still.

Muhammad Kermalli: I think that means a lot because somebody who says take the other. Who hasn’t taken the first road in the first place. Can’t speak to it and you have taken the other road. And yet you say, no, there’s a better one. So I really appreciate you

Akmal Farah: saying you can think of it as, as both ways, you, you take the challenge on and you fight and you hurt the other person.

Akmal Farah: How is that going to make you feel now as a professional adult, looking back 20 years later and be like that you hurt someone, that kid was suffering himself, he was a victim himself, and you made it even worse for that person. You lost the fight and you go home in tears, you know, and with bruises and scratches and your head down, and you deal with that trauma of that, and the friends laughing at you as you walk out of that circle.

Akmal Farah: That’s the other one as well. So

Muhammad Kermalli: enough with the analysis now, we’re I know this is important that we did that, but now I want to go back to what you just said right here. So you’re going back. Your head is down. You’re in tears. Then what you

Akmal Farah: go wait for the bus at the bus stop. You’re still in tears. You go home and you’re, yeah, you’re crying on the bus.

Akmal Farah: You take your beating and you just feel like the lowest form of humanity. Like you just feel really, really bad. So how

Muhammad Kermalli: did that then then changed to like the next morning or what changed? So you just,

Akmal Farah: yeah, you just, I think, yeah, you just wake up and you, you know, you don’t feel like that anymore, but obviously people and, you know, people know like you, you took that fight on and you lost.

Akmal Farah: And so, you know, whether it’s you remember the next day, I don’t remember the next day, but you know what? I think it kind of, it kind of, um, it’s important because I feel the same way when I will use to fight and take window when in competition. So when I lost, I used to take my losses incredibly, um, serious, very, very personally, uh, beat yourself up afterwards.

Akmal Farah: And I was so hard on myself. You know, because I was trying so hard to be somebody and here I am going to whatever tournament and losing. And then I was like, you know, and it was hard, but now I teach, you know, I teach my athletes, like I know you lost. Yeah. It’s okay to be dissected as you and learn from it and apply the lessons next time.

Akmal Farah: So you’re looking forward to the next event instead of like always being in one moment and beating yourself up

Triena McGuirk: well in that moment, or what, where did that person get the take on you that you can strengthen for the next time where there’s a, you know, a gap in your skills or, you know, proficiency there.

Akmal Farah: Right. But you need a good coach to be able to sit and analyze that with you. But if you’re doing it by yourself in, in, in anything, you know, and you don’t have anybody that kind of a balance of it’s very, very difficult. And again, Yeah. You know, I, I hope we’re okay. That talk about this, you know, immigrant issues that, you know, as a child, I didn’t really have any role models.

Akmal Farah: I didn’t have anybody that I could really talk to. Nobody had really done it here for me to be like, I want to be like that person. So who do I talk to? Who do I emulate? Who do I open up to? Nobody, you just had my family and my family was busy trying to bring food to the table on a daily basis. So how do I talk to them?

Akmal Farah: You know, my mom is cooking for five hungry boys, you know, six, including my dad, you know? So like how do I can’t talk to her? She’s she doesn’t, she doesn’t understand me. I can’t talk to my dad. He’s busy trying to adjust to his new life, his new norm. My brothers are kind of like they’re in their own world as well.

Akmal Farah: So who do I talk to? So if you have nobody to talk, so you just, I think it just builds you just keep going through the motions, it just builds and builds and you try to play this role. And, you know, until, until I got to high school and high school was kind of a better place because it was a new environment, a new school, new friends, new teachers, almost like a new beginning.

Akmal Farah: And I spoke English better. I understand the importance of fitting in, you know, the social circles and all that stuff.

Muhammad Kermalli: So what you’re saying is then again, I’m just going to say this back to what I just heard you say is you got nobody to talk to about a situation. Like everybody, even the ones that are closest to you, you feel like either they got what they got to deal with or can’t relate.

Muhammad Kermalli: Right. And you just, what you just keep going. Cause it’s interesting when you come out of that, it’s not like it’s like, um, from one moment right to the next there’s like, it’s a, it’s a transition, right. It’s gradual. Right. And you don’t know how long it’s gonna. When you’re going through it, but you just keep going,

Akmal Farah: just keep going.

Akmal Farah: And if it is an important thing, but it’s also important of the kind of friends that you have around you and how they make you feel based on the events that happen to you. There’s always somebody, there’s always somebody. And I think, you know, if your friends. Okay. It’s all right, man, let’s go have some lunch together, you know, it’s okay.

Akmal Farah: Like I know what you went through and it’s tough, you know, and maybe it’s, it’s, um, you know, adult version of having that conversation, but children have a way of communicating to each other in that way as well. And you kind of like get lost in that moment with your friends. So I think having friends who don’t judge you based on your wins and losses is important.

Akmal Farah: Um, and I think, and I had that. Yeah. And I, and I think I was, I was lucky, you know, my friends empathize with me, you know, they understood the feelings that I went through and they’re, you know, they couldn’t stand up for me or they couldn’t fight for me, but they, they stood beside me and they were like, okay, let’s keep going.

Muhammad Kermalli: So just, I want to look at that a little closer, because let’s just say, I guess my question to you is, is, were they your friends because they didn’t judge you like whether your friends. Or did they become your friends better after that moment? Because they didn’t, they, you know what I’m saying? Like, did you know to go to them because their friends or did you find that they’re not judgemental?

Muhammad Kermalli: So that’s where I’m going. Like, is that what kept you there? Do you get what I’m saying? Cause now you’re fighting. There’s this conflict. There’s people you can’t go to you’re somewhat alone, but then you find it based on that people who are not judgemental. So even if we don’t have somebody to talk to that’s your guide,

Akmal Farah: I, I don’t know how we became friends.

Akmal Farah: We just kind of like found each other and we just kind of connected. And we, you know, we, we, we remained friends throughout middle school throughout those times.

Triena McGuirk: Interesting magnetism that happens in peer groups. They, you, they really, the kids who need each other find each other, or if the kids that are going through similar challenges, they I’ve seen.

Triena McGuirk: So many times they like magnets to each other. It’s really

Muhammad Kermalli: interesting law of attraction. Like, you don’t know why, right.

Akmal Farah: Trusted, you trusted. And you know, they, you, you kind of hang out, but obviously they would probably prove themselves to, at that moment when you lose the fight and you show up to the school next day and they want nothing to do with you.

Akmal Farah: I think you realize that that’s not really my friend, but they still want to, you know, they, you know, you sharing lockers together or something like that, or you’re side by side, or, you know, you’re in the same home room and then you have lunch together or whatever, you just kind of stick together. I remember reading

Muhammad Kermalli: about that somewhere.

Muhammad Kermalli: Like, you know, when, when you fall down at some point. You learn about three types of people, right? The person that took you there to follow you to make you fall down, the person had walked away. And the first person that came to you or came towards you, and they said, there are two kinds of come towards you, right?

Muhammad Kermalli: The one that kicks you out here now it’s even there. Right? So people, you got to be aware of, but the point is, is that that’s the beauty of the fall down to that. That’s when you discover who your friends are. Absolutely. And there’s beauty in that

Triena McGuirk: authenticity then to the relation,

Muhammad Kermalli: you and yourself say, you don’t know like how old are they somehow they find that’s another thing that gives me a lot of like, you know, that go, that what I’m trying to focus on is that, that balance between the hope and despair, right?

Muhammad Kermalli: So like you got nobody to talk to. You get in somehow, right? It’s it’s out there for you. And whether you go looking for it or it comes to you somehow, somehow you yourself said you don’t remember how we became friends. I find that really interesting.

Akmal Farah: And then we know when I got through high school, you know, new environment, new beginning, and I think I was in grade 10 when I started tech window and I started to really appreciate the value of a positive environment.

Akmal Farah: Um, you know, I, I wanted to do TaeKwonDo for a very long time. Um, you know, we were in Afghanistan, I, my oldest brother was doing a little bit of boxing or some form of martial art. And I was like, I want to do it. And my parents were like, no, you know, we, they knew we weren’t staying. They didn’t tell me that.

Akmal Farah: They’re like, no. So when we got to Pakistan, uh, my second oldest brother DB was doing TaeKwonDo and I loved that. I used to sometimes go and watch him. And I was, I was in love with it. You know, you watch Bruce Lee movies on TV, you watch Bollywood movies on TV. And there’s like, these strong characters is action.

Akmal Farah: You know, Bruce Lee deals in all of his movies about racism as well with Japan and China. And, um, you know, how he stood up for himself really like. I want him to be like that before he even got here, I think. Yeah, absolutely. I think so. And I think standing up for yourself against people like that, you see that in movies and things like that though.

Akmal Farah: Clubs somehow. So my oldest brother is a friend was, um, a tech window, uh, um, athlete, but he was going to another club and he’s like, I hear that you really want to do it badly. And so if you want to go, this is the place to be. And the reason this was the place to be was because the coach in that place that was teaching, the whole thing was the Olympic team coach.

Akmal Farah: He was coached for 88 Seoul Olympics for 92 Barcelona Olympics. He had developed medalist in both Olympics. Um, there was everybody that was training in the high-performance program. There were like either national champions or Pan-Am champions. So the place was just a massive. For like developing high quality athletes.

Akmal Farah: So I went there and, you know, I, it was like, you know, all these years of me wanting to do it and do it, it’s like I was being held back, you know, first because we weren’t going to stay there. Then when we came to Canada, we couldn’t afford it for a very long time. And then all of a sudden they just let go.

Akmal Farah: So 19 80, 19, so five years, 1994, you’re

Muhammad Kermalli: having that, like the background of seeing your brother do this, then you, and it wasn’t on the other side of town. It was,

Akmal Farah: it was actually, it was a, I was at least an hour bus ride. Yeah. I used to take the bus. Yeah, take the bus there and take the bus back in late at night.

Akmal Farah: And it was, it was, it was an incredible experience. And so, you know, here I was, again, not as good as everybody else, but. I had the effort of everybody else. I was trying just as hard as everybody else. And at first I used to get beat up a lot, you know, I used to go there and I’d take one club losing sparring matches.

Akmal Farah: Yes.

Muhammad Kermalli: But you’re, you’re losing

Akmal Farah: in a. And healthy way. Yeah. So obviously you’re sparring and you’re getting kicked and you’re, you know, you’re moving, but you’re learning, you know, obviously they see you’re a lower belt, so they’re controlling their case. They’re not trying to hurt you, but they’re also telling you, like, I’m better than you.

Akmal Farah: So just watch yourself. But you know, when you’re trying to learn the best way to learn as they keep going, you know, don’t give up just because you you’re a bit scared of it. So keep moving forward. And so after a few months of being pushed around and, and stuff, I learned that I could block, you know, and I learned to block, and then I learned to move and avoid that contact altogether.

Akmal Farah: And I’d say probably in about a year or a year and a half, I was able to maybe throw one kick in, getting kicked 10 times and throw one kick in. And in 1994 I had just joined. And then. Well in 1995, my coach was like, you know what? I’m going to put you in provincials. Let’s go. So even though I was a color belt, he gave me a temporary black belt.

Akmal Farah: He lend me a black belt and say, I’m going to register you for the provincial championships. I wasn’t a black belt. Wow. So he said, let’s go. And I just, I won. It was the most incredible, um, experience. It was this coach is that team that must have the Santos, a massive chunk.

Muhammad Kermalli: There’s so much here with this guy. There’s, there’s five, at least five episodes in my mind, even the one that we did, I feel like we rushed because there’s more I want to ask him about, but I just love that when I, when I see the, the experience that he’s going through, that he’s gone through.

Muhammad Kermalli: Um, what’s amazing that I find is, is that in spite of all the craziness that’s going on around him, what he saved. Is that he didn’t even look at it on the way while it was happening. He wasn’t looking behind, he was leaving. You’re not looking at, you know, in the moment feeling sorry for yourself. You just, you, you, you learn, you’re excited about what’s going on the, the unknown, instead of being something to be afraid of something to be excited about.

Muhammad Kermalli: And you look at as, as a discovery of where you’re about to go, not what you’re leaving behind. I think that even though that some people call that, I don’t know, there’s so many different things. You can call that your, the, you know, when I would go, oh, what’s that called? That’s called. But like, for example, Mike is like, I’ve been called naive sometimes that I didn’t, I wasn’t aware of the dangers.

Muhammad Kermalli: Right. And the, yeah, because you didn’t stop and that can take you off your, your, your track right when you’re there, but then you just, you keep going, you land, you go through the turmoil of the bullying experience. I love that. Um, I have yet to interview a bully, which one day I think we should do. But, um, I think so.

Muhammad Kermalli: I think that’s an important thing to understand perspective wise, because even that person can probably speak to like how they’re they felt like themselves, a victim in that moment. Uh, but I’d love to hear it anyway, coming back to you though. It’s you’re going through that. And what I also find very interesting is that nobody to talk to about this and then yet, what do you say to yourself?

Muhammad Kermalli: Just keep going, right? It’s a resilience, right? And he talked about resilience from the very beginning, but it’s, it’s there in you all the time. Just being resilient, just being resilient, no promises being made to you. No guarantees, no outcomes being seen. And then slowly, gradually you talk about how, when you went to high school now, you know, English a little bit.

Muhammad Kermalli: And then in your TaeKwonDo experience, you start talking about, now I can block after how many hits and then I can get a punch in there. I can get a point in there, but it’s like call it loss of bone loss upon loss and not knowing when the end of those losses are going to come. So for people

Akmal Farah: hope and they joined the process, loving the environment, it’s a very encouraging.

Muhammad Kermalli: So if you could just, I wanna, I want to have a message from you to somebody who’s going through. Right. And, and like, not knowing when these losses are going to stop, right? Not today. When you think about any other sort of situation, right? Not, not even aware, like what do you, what do you just like a final word to like, you know, you are doing it naturally, but some people, some of us, when the losses, they pile up, there’s this, like I’m out of time.

Muhammad Kermalli: I feel like you ever feel like you had a time here. I had an energy you’re exhausted, you know? Uh, what do you say to that? That’s a parting word. Okay.

Akmal Farah: I think, um, you, you have to look at us, look at it yourself and say like, what do I have to lose really if I don’t keep going. And I think a lot of times we hold ourselves back because, because we, we, we look at the risk reward factor of everything.

Akmal Farah: And I think if the risk to lose so much is greater than the gain that you’re going to have, then obviously you’re going to make the decision that is going to save you. And I think, you know, going, coming from Afghanistan to Pakistan and to Canada, I think, you know, I didn’t really have much to lose, you know, I had a lot to gain and the experiences to gain and to, to look forward to the next next thing.

Akmal Farah: Uh, but as adults, you know, When we’re making, you know, when we’re faced with business decisions, it’s not just about us. It’s also about our kids and our families. And I think, you know, you don’t, if you have to look at it and, you know, make proper decisions and be like, you know, what am I going to lose if I make this decision?

Akmal Farah: Uh, you know, how’s it going to affect? Not only me, but my family as well. So, um, I would, I would strongly recommend, you know, people to just. You know, make decisions, obviously that’s going to benefit them and their families. And, you know, and I think a lot of people use that as fuel to keep going. Uh, and I’m sure, you know, we will have a chance to talk about this and, you know, in terms of like the pandemic and how, you know, I lost like close to 80% of my business at the time.

Akmal Farah: But honestly, at that moment, uh, you know, I looked at my kids and be like, you know, what am I going to do? And it’s like, keep going forward. There’s no way. Yeah. There’s no way that I’m

Muhammad Kermalli: think the other thing

Triena McGuirk: to do what you were speaking to is your life shifted from like grade five, six when you’re coming into Canada to high school for a number of factors like English and so forth.

Triena McGuirk: You found your community. And I think that is a pivotal piece, is people finding their community. And the sad part is, is often finances are a barrier for children, youth to find their communities to build and all those skills too. Right. So, um, I think that there’s just, it’s just inviting different opportunities to have that community around kids for that growth is so important for all of us adults as well.

Triena McGuirk: Right. But a hundred percent pivotal, pivotal time in our lives,

Akmal Farah: a hundred percent. And I, and that’s why it’s important for parents to put their kids. Different activities to help them find their community, find what they’re good at, find where they’re going to thrive, let them try music, let them try dance, let them try martial arts, you know, take them to those math classes, whatever it is, whatever it is, but you need to put them in lots of stuff and see what sticks, you know, a lot of, you know, um, and I think that’s, that’s very important, you know, let them help them find their community where they feel, you know, like, you know, when I’m teaching, you know, when I’m teaching or when I was training tech window, I really feel like I come to life.

Akmal Farah: Um, and I think, you know, it was through that trial and error trying different things, and I found the place and then, you know, almost, you know, close to like 20, 25, almost 30 years, I’ve never looked back.

Triena McGuirk: I just want to thank you so much for your time today. I think, um, you have so much to share through your lived experiences that are not only applicable for where adults are at today, but also everyone kind of going through change at any point in their life, because there are so many kids that are in your situation coming to Canada today right now.

Triena McGuirk: And just to hear, I think there’s so much value for them to hear your voice. And I love that you did that recent talk at a school because there’s so much value for them to see someone, like you said, you didn’t have a role model to look up to when you came here. So now you’re filling that gap of being that role model for.

Triena McGuirk: The child that you once were. So, um, I love to have you back again. We can tell, we have so much to offer. We have so much wisdom and knowledge and experience to share. I think that’s a value to people and I just really want to thank you so much for your time today.

Akmal Farah: Thank you so much for, for seeing value in it.

Akmal Farah: I just feel like these are my experiences. I’m not really, I don’t really see myself as an expert in any area. I just share my experiences. So I really appreciate your time and the conversations we’ve had. I’ve really loved this, this opportunity. Thank you guys so much. Thank you