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  • Writer's pictureMatt Powell

I woz ere!

My son is now eleven years old and has started to ask some great questions.

Recently we were driving back from one of my classes at Petersfield and he spotted some graffiti repeated on the motorway underpass.

‘Dad’ he said inquisitively, ‘why do people do that?

Why do they spray their name everywhere?

I slowed the car down as we approached a roundabout and noticed the same signature painted on the motorway sign that cantilevers over the busy lanes of traffic.

‘hmmmm; I pondered, ‘I think they want people know that they were there. They are keen to leave their mark!’.

My son simply smiled and acknowledged my response, but the genius of his question was not lost on me.

In my life, I have previously never pondered the motives of the graffiti artist. Instead, I had just written off their ‘work’ as illegal, disruptive, and inappropriate.

Through one simple question my son had opened my eyes to a different point of view and a deeper understanding.

Several years ago, I was in a meeting with one of my karate mentors. During our discussions the topic switched to the future, specifically to the future of karate. I asked him what he wanted to leave behind him? He replied that he ‘wanted to create a legacy’.

I told him that he already had …. and that we were it!

In that moment I realised that a legacy must be considered to ensure it is built to the liking of the owner. Unfortunately, many people only consider their legacy when they realise that they cannot operate or work as they have before indefinitely.

As obvious as it seems writing this, I have realised that to truly dictate your legacy a person must accept and understand that their time is finite.

Through my son’s question on graffiti, I appreciated that for many a legacy is the acknowledgement that a person existed, made an impact, or left their mark.

All these factors can be positive or negative.

For Instance, Sir Alex Ferguson left an amazing legacy of winning at Manchester United, Nakayama Sensei built a global karate powerhouse in the form of the JKA and Walt Disney redefined entertainment for the world.

All these incredible leaders left their mark on the world and positively affected many people’s lives. I am sure that even in the future they will all be remembered and talked about amongst groups, fans, and scholars.


When Sir Alex retired Manchester United failed to maintain their domination of premiership football.

After Nakayama Sensei’s death the absence of a pre-appointed successor led to friction and a split of the association into multiple fractions.

When Walt Disney passed away a new generation of leadership simply asked ‘what would Walt do’. Epcot at Walt Disney world was intended to be an independent city of the future built on Walt’s principles and visions. But after his death it was compromised to become another theme park attraction.

All these incredible leaders left their mark. But they did not have complete control over their legacy.

Perhaps nobody can have such a dictate.

Maybe leaving your mark on the world is enough?

But I am not sure.

I recently finished reading the book ‘Legacy’ by James Kerr on the principles of The New Zealand All Blacks. It is a fascinating and excellent read which I literally couldn’t put down.

In their one-hundred-year history the All-Black Rugby team have a 77%-win ratio and are revered as the most successful rugby team of all time. I was keen to understand their culture and coaching principles all in the pursuit of making me a better Coach and Sensei.

The All-Blacks have many wonderful principles but my favourite is that each generation is focused on ‘leaving the jersey in a better place’. Everything an individual strives for is for the betterment of the team and the future of New Zealand Rugby.

I find that extremely compelling and I think everyone I the world should ponder this principle.

Karate training, teaching or competition performance is not just about leaving a mark or engraving a name on a trophy. It is about pushing forward, studying, refining, and encouraging others to do the same.

It is about leaving the art in a better place!

I find this clarity of purpose exciting and it reinforces my desire to inspire confidence in my students.

I am also pondering my work, who will drive it forward when I can longer operate as I wish and how will I ensure my intentions are best understood and principles maintained.

The future is bright and I look forward in anticipation to the day when I step back, admire my students as they build their own legacy and say to myself…..

‘I woz ere!’

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