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  • Writer's pictureMatt Powell

It all Starts with Why!

What inspire you, fires you!

Isn’t it funny how smells and music can evoke so many memories? I have spent a lot of time recently working through old photographs and even some 16mm Film which has been lovely. However, I find that a song from a special time touches the soul while a certain smell can take you straight back to another time.

During lockdown I have really tried to use my time intentionally. One of my frustrations with my pre-lockdown life was that I just never seemed to have the time to do things as well as I wanted to. Everything was such a rush!

I feel slightly guilty saying this. But initially I quite liked lockdown. I missed my friends and family and not getting to the dojo was a drag. But as I have written before, after losing my Dad in February I was happy just to slow down and just be still for a while.

During my one walk of the day with the dog there was an absence of traffic noise, less people to dodge on the pavement, less litter in the streets and the air seemed cleaner. Most amazing was how blue the sea had become, especially in Portsmouth harbour without the constant motion of shipping churning up the seabed. I have lived here for thirty plus years and suddenly I could see so much more, the colours were vivid, and I could spot fish swimming in the sea!

Like the sea and the air around us, Lockdown cleared my mind!

I decided that I really wanted to be intentional with everything. It was suddenly clear who the most important people to me were. I missed being around them. They were the ones I would make time for once restrictions eased. Even a forty something man misses hugs from his Nan! (My Gran is four foot nine inches tall but is an incredible strong hugger! I miss those hugs).

I was aware that I have spent a lot of my adult life fulfilling obligations to others. Whether at work or otherwise, I am not sure I spent a large portion of my time doing what I wanted to do. I decided this had to change and that to live a fulfilled and happy life I would have to take the time to think about everything I do and appraise if it ‘works’, for ME!

I realised that to do so; I simply had to ask myself Why?

Why do I do these things?

Why did I start doing these things?

And most importantly, do I still want to do them for the same reasons as when I started?

When I was about six years old my Dad worked in a large local factory where he was a Quality Control Manager. The factory had a thriving social scene and used to have its own Social club. They organised raffles and parties and my Dad used to produce the posters.

I remember Dad coming home with a small bag full of permanent markers. These pens stunk to high heaven. There were thick ones and thin ones of various descriptions and before the days of the word processor you had one-chance to get the artwork right.

I loved watching Dad produce these artworks. His choice of colour and ability to layout the messages with different text effects were an inspiration. To this day if smell a wide Marker I am six again sat at our kitchen table and I can see the look on Dads face. He would smile as he drew.

It is probably no coincidence that I am a designer by trade. I was inspired at a young age to create visuals and I always have seemed to have an innate ability to lay things out.

Back in the 1970’s my Dad and Uncle had started karate at a local club in Paulsgrove. Like so many others they had been inspired by Bruce Lee and found a club behind the shopping precinct in the community centre.

The club had a funky name which apparently translated to ‘the way of the intercepting fist’. Dad learnt the basics but was disillusioned when the instructor proved to be a bully and took liberties with the students. Regardless of style the art always interested Dad and he talked to me a lot about it when I was young.

One of the home movies I have revisited in Lockdown is my wedding. Dad was my best man and he takes the limelight with his best man speech. The first joke he tells is how he remembers worrying I would catch fire running to greet him as a young boy due to the friction of my knock-knees rubbing together. You can clearly hear Matt Smiths Booming laugh at this point on the video.

Dad was right. I had knock knees and I was no natural sportsman. In-fact to this day I am useless at throwing or catching a ball and swinging a baseball bat is frankly embarrassing.

Perhaps it was this lack of natural prowess that encouraged Dad to start me at karate or maybe it was simply his own interest in the art. But either way all it took was one pirate copy of the karate kid and a few straight punches in the garden (I still remember Dad teaching me to twist my wrist) and I was off to Portsmouth Karate Club. The year was 1987.

Last September I had taken Dad to Oncology for his weekly check-up. These were tough days but somehow Dad made it bearable. He would befriend Everyone! The positivity and fun would start with the lovely ladies who would take his blood and the banter would flow. I would cringe sometimes as only a son would, but the nurses always found Dad hilarious. For the first time I learnt to spot the kindness in people’s eyes.

These were hard days. After a few weeks of treatment Dad was no longer able to climb the stairs and I now had to keep a wheelchair in the car and push my hero to the appointments. It broke my heart.

On the way home I had an epiphany. I said to Dad ‘I think I am going to take a year off work and focus on karate’. Dad simply replied, ‘Nice one’!

The reality was that I simply needed to slow down. I was a Sales Director and I was tired of the constant pressure on my time. I just wanted to spend time with Pops while I could, I knew we did not have long.

So, in May I was consumed by malaise. I was sat festering on the sofa with little desire to do anything. I embodied stillness to the extreme. Then one day my wife said to me ‘what are you going to do? You need to do something!’

My answer was ‘I am going to focus on karate!’

At that point I did not really know what that meant. But it was not initially about training. I started by retouching the photography from a pre-Christmas shoot I had been part of with some of our Club Seniors. I then brought these images together and started teaching myself some new software and laying out a new club website. I began to build a creative vehicle for my ‘work’.

After a couple of Zoom classes I was inspired to reboot my actual training and I have been in a Gi most days since. Karate is my vehicle for self-esteem and somehow doing it just makes me feel good.

For many of us life will never look the same after lockdown. But perhaps that is not a bad thing!

I have realised that the source of everything I do with passion was a glimpse of inspiration. (Most often from my Dad).

I may not technically be the best at karate or anything, but I always try my best…. I hope that will prove inspirational!

My Why is simple……. I aim to inspire!

Now, I am off to the dojo to work on some videos and other bits. I do so with my Dad’s words in my heart and mind, Go on Matty’.

I hope I make him Proud!

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