Twin brothers Nicolas and Daniel Mustapha claim karate gold at nationals

January 31, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“We’ve been doing karate since we’re about 5 years old,” Nicolas began the remarkable tale of his and his twin brother’s rise to champions. “We started in Bolton in a couple dojos.”

He explained successive dojos, as they searched for their own path in karate. “We started at one and moved on to find a more traditional dojo. We were looking for more. We went to Phoenix until 2015, from green belt to brown. This dojo was run by Angelo Egizi and his brother, Gino. It was family operated.”

He explained, “We were interested in the traditional karate because we were born one month premature and we were really tiny. We were bullied at pre-school. So, our mother thought we could have more confidence if we learned karate. It helps people learn; the dojo creates an atmosphere that feels like home. You also learn how to defend yourself not by hurting another person, just to stop them.

“Never to get into the situation where you need to use your marshal arts,” Nicolas explained. “Our teacher told us, ‘if you have to use your marshal arts, you’ve done something wrong.’

“When we were 10, 11, 12 – that age, kids would say to them ‘Oh ya – you do karate – we should fight.’ If we ever used our marshal arts outside the dojo, (to harm), both of us would be suspended..”

The boys went to Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary school.

“Because we were at a Catholic school, we would get suspended if we fought.”

Daniel commented. “I was teaching self defence courses in high school, ODSS, and Nicolas went to schools in Brampton – all those Catholic.” 

In his last year, Nicolas taught classes at high school: “Open-handed, use persuaders, shouting, ‘Back off!’ These can give you tools to defend yourself.”

The twins moved on again, to progress on their road to excellence. They came to Orangeville with their Brown Belts. 

“From Phoenix to Orangeville,” Nicolas said, “We were age 14 turning 15, coming to The Dojo, Orangeville, the dojo across from the Opera House.”

“We did a lot there with Angelo Panoussis. We [had] our Brown belts. He said, ‘You have a good base and we’re going to work up from there and get your Black Belts.’

“This is called Goju-ryu karate – Japanese karate -Chito-ryu – mixture – teachers began teaching their own methods. Now we learned this. 

“We worked very hard in Orangeville and we began Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. We added this because karate is a stand-up art, all about keeping someone at a distance; Jiu-Jitsu allows them to come into your space as closely as possible. We did judo, wrestling a person to the ground; submissions.  Jit also talks about body movement. 

“Our mom got her green belt; dad his blue and our little brother got his green belt.

“Learning white belt teaches forms again from the bottom and worked our way up. We got to the point where we learned all the forms.” 

At 16 years old, they were both going for Black Belt, “learning Japanese words about the stands, as well as competing – there’s a certain number of hours at the dojo, training on your own and hours teaching.”

The Black Belt training is brutal. 

“Black belt is pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do.” Nicolas was serious; “I’ve broken down.”

It was at this crucial point that Daniel told his story, “I was born with cerebral palsy, two club feet and a learning disability. When I was little, they said I wouldn’t be able to walk but with the help of my brother and my family I was able to walk.

“I had to train, running, push-ups and physical. I had to do an essay. It went pretty well, about what karate means to me – the four basic philosophy make-up of the dojo: honour, Integrity, loyalty and time – every day matters.” 

From Nicolas, “It was a long process. One class, I got so mad and frustrated: I was not happy with what I was doing;  he kept pushing me that way  -–. we were  pushing ourselves to the limit – training five, six days a week on our own and teaching three days a week.”

The question was: why? 

“This was always a dream for ourselves and my father as well. He started when he was younger, then immigrated here from Trinidad, with no money. Dad had to work so he couldn’t afford the marshal arts. He always wanted to get his black belt and so when we did, he was very very proud. Our parents felt as accomplished as we did; they worked hard, driving there and back. They gave total support. For young people to succeed, it’s up to the parents as well.”

The Black Belt was a huge moment for them – it was five hours testing in  Orangeville. 

“So, we went to Sudbury to the Laurentian University. They have a yearly seminar – Japanese karate Federation -once you reach “dan rank” – Shihan rank (master). Several  adjudicate with karate Canada – we did our testing in front of them. This was about an hour.

“We did our whole journey with two friends, the whole six months together – the group can share their energy.”

“Sensei (teacher) is a title, Veronica Ramos de Lugo, London, Ontario was great for taking us in as athletes, teaching a style called Shito-ryu, a competitive karate.  We can compete in Kata form: a series of movements against an imaginary opponent, with different strike and techniques. Every strike has its own application. We have to not only know the style but the application; we needed to find another style of karate to compete with.” 

“Right now,” Nicolas remarked, “we’re young and we’ve competed.  While we were doing Black Belt, we were also competing; We were learning higher level katas to compete.”

Daniel won Ontario championships and Nicolas came in 2nd last year. From there, Daniel won the 2018 National Championships. 

Daniel competes in the Standing Mobility Impaired Division (para athlete), as Nicolas outlined,  “There’s a nerve to his right arm – he didn’t even know his right arm was there but through karate, he has full mobility in his right side. The Ontario Federation of Cerebral Palsy awarded him the Mona Winberg Achievement Award in recognition of -it.”

There was a search through Daniel’s collection of awards. He called it out: “Your personal achievement and being seen as a role model for all.”

Nicolas noted, “ He was also featured in In The Hills, one of the 25 under 25.”

Daniel said honestly, “I feel pretty good about it – I want to inspire people – when I was teaching, I was mentoring young people – I like teaching too.

 “You just get used to it after awhile,” he commented about his cerebral palsy. “I have to figure out a way to use to my right arm by the straps, using my right arm as an anchor.” 

“He was born with it,” said Nicolas. “this is the way I am – this is it – he did piano with me when he was younger. His foot is still not right – they didn’t completely turn his foot and has a huge bunion and he still does it to a very high level.”

“Recently, this year, we’ve been training in London – strength and cardio training -Kumite (fighting). Kata is very hard – your muscles are contracting very fast – tense, relaxation – speed power  but also beauty – very difficult – hard to train over and over – trying to get it faster and harder.

“We went to Gatineau, Quebec, on January 17 to 20, for the 2019 Senior National Championships. Daniel won gold, as Intellectually Impaired; Intellectually Impaired is in the World Karate Federation Tournaments, which will lead to the Olympics, 2024.”

Nicolas had teamed up with two other qualified athletes to form a “team kata”. 

He told us, “It’s like synchronized swimming, a team of three perform the movements in precise unison. It’s extremely hard to do – the slow movements, pacing, timing, distance. But we were the only team kata to compete. We won the gold metal for team kata. When we go to Gatineau next, if we win, would go on Team Canada to the Olympics.”

Individually, Nicolas was 8th overall against senior men (much older) for the first time, in his second year competing. 

The twins tied up Firsts in Ontario for their age, as mainstream and para athletes.

“Daniel has to work even harder,” Nicolas praised his brother. “One leg’s longer than the other – we’re 100% in this with passion and dedication.” 

So, their schedule runs: Brampton, training with  Sensei Khaleghpanah (strength and kumite training) Mondays and Wednesdays; weekends to London and Toronto; training “on our own during time in the week, three hours a day. 

“Weekends we double it up.” 

Nicolas has applied to Humber College for music: “You find the time and put the work into it. I’ll still teach and I’m coming back to [Theatre Orangeville’s] Musical Young Company.”

Readers may remember Nicolas accompanying their production of Les Miserables in 2017 and Secret Garden last year.

His future plans include, “Music, performing and this as well. We’ll see where it goes; I don’t feel I have to chose one way or the other.” 

Daniel ruminated, saying, “I still don’t know yet – it’s a possibility I will go into marshal arts. I liked teaching.”

Meanwhile, there is no funding for athletes, even at this pre-Olympic level. 

So, there is  a Gofundme and opportunities for local business support for these exceptional young men. For Daniel, the 

an American Games in 

anama are his next challenge.

As Nicolas told us, “That’s where he’s going now because he competes on an international level. Our mother will go with him because she’s always on the ball. She’s the ultimate mother. 

“This year, I’m going by myself to Edmonton, with my trainer.”

You can catch up to the Mustapha twins on social media and check out the gofundme:

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