Martial artist talks childhood, lessons learned and his passion for his sport
He holds nothing back.
It reveals a lot about the man who has fought for everything he has earned in life. He has been this way for as long as he can remember.
Joncas was born a fighter. He was born to be a man destined to endure tough times and follow his own path. And once he found his calling, Joncas never wavered. He followed his dream. He made it happen.
Joncas took up martial arts when he was 12, studying karate under the guidance of Don Benoit in the late '80s. Joncas had an instant connection to the sport. It empowered him. It gave him big dreams to chase.
As a teenager, Joncas had visions of owning a martial arts club one day. It was a dream he went after full force and would never give up on until he had it. Over the last 26 years, Joncas has constantly sought to improve himself and add different disciplines to his repertoire.
He is vastly skilled in karate, kick boxing, judo, Japanese jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, having learned from world champions and other masters.
Now 38, Joncas is the owner and head instructor of Sudbury BJJ and Muay Thai Academy. He started it seven years ago with seven members and has poured every drop of sweat, blood and tears he has into the business, making it a respected and known club in the country with more than 300 members.
Joncas quit working a second job (as a waiter) four years ago to devote all his energy to his club. He was all in. It took maxed-out credit cards and a line of credit to realize his dream. He racked up debt. He couldn’t fail. It never crossed his mind.
“I believed in it,” Joncas said. “It was a big leap to go full time with the club. It took a lot of courage to do it. It makes me feel good I had the courage to do it. Best decision of my life.”
It’s obvious Joncas has never been afraid to take a chance at something he believes in. He speaks with conviction about the decisions he made in his life as he went from a teenager to an adult. His words come from the heart. They are based on experience, good and bad.
He rose from humble beginnings. He didn’t have it easy growing up as a kid in Greater Sudbury. But that's where his discipline comes from. He gained resolve and appreciation from his daily experiences — two traits that are deeply embedded in his character.
It has added up to give Joncas a certain humility about life.
“I grew up poor on the welfare system,” he said. “My mom had a mental illness I didn’t know she had until I was older. She never went out in public.
“Nothing bad happened to me and I didn’t have a bad childhood, but we had it hard. We didn’t have a fridge for two years at one point. We would get bananas once a month and I ate them all right away.
“I didn’t have a lot growing up. Now, I have things I don’t want to lose. I attribute it to martial arts, working hard and being dedicated. It’s been my mentality since I was 12.”
Joncas hasn’t built a successful martial arts club by himself. Every step of the way, he has been accompanied by his wife and owner and instructor, Jenn. (The two recently married after being together for nearly seven years.)
Jenn knows her husband well. Joncas has a willingness to share his knowledge, tough life experiences and time, without hesitation, to his students that has endeared him to the people who walk through the door of the club.
“Steve is strong-willed,” his wife said. “He’s never scared. He’s been at the bottom. He takes pride in his students. We have built a community here at the club. These people are a second family to us.
“Steve is always willing to share what he has. He has had a positive impact on a lot of people. It makes me proud.”
In about a month, Joncas will open the doors to a second club location in Valley East.
“It’s a crazy dream I realized,” he said. “I do what I love to do for a living. If you don’t give up, you will never lose.”
Scott Haddow has been writing about sports in Greater Sudbury for the past 10 years.