Spotlight: Tamer Mahfouz
Position: Assistant Manager at John Wai Martial Arts
Tamer is one of the very few 25-year-olds out there with two decades of experience in his profession.
At the age of 5, he began to train at John Wai (back then called Florida Kung Fu) and never stopped. At first, just an activity to get him out of the house, it soon came to be what he looked forward to every day. By the time he was 12, he started to attend striking classes and sparring with adults. A year later, he competed in his first tournament and lost. Back the next year, he fought the same team at the same tournament and beat each fighter, rewarded with his first title belt at 14.
He started teaching Sanshou (a style of Chinese combat) at American Top Team, another martial art academy in South Florida when he was sixteen.
“I’ve always wanted to work at this school. Growing up here, you see what the instructors do and every now and again see new waves of instructors come in. I always thought ‘that could be me.’ Now it’s my turn and I don’t want to mess it up.”
With pressure at home to get a “real job,” Tamer went to college and majored in Chemistry. After 3 semesters, he pretty much knew it wasn’t for him, so he switched his major to accounting.
While in school, Tamer worked part-time at John Wai Martial Arts as well as American Top Team. His second year of college, he stopped working at American Top Team in order to focus on the completion of his degree. Just two semesters away from finishing a degree in accounting, there was a professor who would not pass him.
At the same time, Tamer felt pressure not only at home to finish but by the instructors at work. “I was told I have no grit. That if I wanted to secure a spot at John Wai, I needed to prove that I could stick to something and finish it all the way through.”
And so he did. In the last two semesters, Tamer switched degrees again and completed his degree in marketing, which he loved.
“There were so many times I thought it wouldn’t work out. Over and over. I even thought I could do better on my own, maybe do some personal training. I saw a lot of people I knew in marketing that were making good money. So I had to ask myself if I wanted to be paid now, or be satisfied later doing something that I know I love.”
“Martial arts is everything. It’s how I walk, how I drive my car, how I treat my friends and family. Martial arts is how I live.”
What are some things you’ve learned about yourself while on the job?
“Everything. Mostly I learned it’s a mindset. Reading books or listening to podcasts is not the same as your boss or someone you care about pointing out your flaws. My boss told me a while back that I was condescending to people. I needed to fix how I spoke so people would want to listen to me. I may have been following rules too tightly but he helped me be an adapter. Sometimes you have to find the middle between what you want and what others need.”
One of Tamer’s mentors and managers at JWMA asked him one day, “What do you do that makes you unfireable?”
“I was really mad at that question. It messed me up, it scrambled my brain. I knew at that point I needed to get better at everything- talking on camera, talking to employees and customers. Every little piece of this job is a lot of jobs.”
What would your advice be to young professionals who think a dream job doesn’t exist? And to those that do?
“Well, two things. First, figure it out while you’re young- get a taste of the real world. Go out and try to live on your own to see what it’s like. The more it sucks the more drive you’ll have to be where you want to be. I had a cushion at home so I threw myself out in the deep end and learned to swim somewhere. And I came out the other end (somehow).
The second, just do it. If you have a dream you want to achieve start working as soon as you can. I’d rather do the grunt work now. So make sure whatever you’re doing sucks now so you can get to the good life later.”
Who do you consider to be your role models/mentors? What inspires you?
“I know a lot of people don’t consider their girlfriends to be a mentor or role model, but mine is. She is able to dissect the positive and negative light of any situation and is able to present both in a way that’s not negative.
A lot of people inspire me. The top 5 people you spend the most time with are a major influence on who you are as a person and how you will perform. Jennifer, my girlfriend, inspires me a ton. John Wai, (the Sifu) is the visionary you want to be when you’re 50. Osei, the workhorse. When I want to get hype about work I just hang out with Osei for 5 minutes and have all the energy I need.”
Although you’ve landed a dream job, what are other ways you are improving yourself? Is there something else you’re looking to achieve now?
“I am a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Robbins. I’m looking to make Tamer a personal brand, and become an influencer. Even if I were to fail, I look at all the people who are following me and who look up to me. There is so much leverage there, so why not?”
One day, the ultimate dream for Tamer would be to own his own school. Essentially a replica of the school now. Having the best instructors helping people, and passing on experiences he’s had that he can make better for others.
Aside from being a martial arts instructor, Tamer is a dad to 4 cats. He also regularly studies dad jokes. Yes, dad jokes… With video games as a major side part of his life, he has logged more than 3,000 hours playing DOTA (apparently, think League of Legends, but better?). That’s all I can give you.
I chose to spotlight Tamer because he could have taken the easy way out many times over the last few years. As young professionals, it is easy to give into our fears. But throughout all of the pressures and uncertainties he faced, he still managed to follow his passion, even unsure if it would work out in the end.
For me, joining this school has been the best decision I’ve made in 2018. My goal was to become more fit or join a place where I could learn something new and exercise at the same time. The school is a community, with both the members and instructors helping you to achieve your goals. I started out in Kickboxing and then after a couple weeks started to attend Kung Fu training.
The entire team is so passionate about what they do and it is so inspiring. Tamer was one of the first instructors (along with Martin!) to welcome me to the school. I signed up to be a member after the first session. JWMA inspires me because if I ever were to run a business or figure out the key to happiness in the workplace, I know exactly where to look and who to ask because they are doing so many things right.
Thanks for sharing, Tamer!
Shoutout to all of the kickboxing and martial art instructors that make it happen every day and who have taught me so much in a short period of time including Martin, Michael, Osei, Maurice, Vanessa, Dossy, Bill, John and to the members of the school for being like family.