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  • Writer's pictureMatt Powell

Join the Dots!

I have a confession to make and saying it outload makes me feel selfish!

I have been looking forward to my Kids going back to school.

I am the oldest of my generation in my family on both sides. I have always been surrounded by younger siblings, cousins then Nieces and Nephews. I have forever wanted to be a Father and my two kids are my pride and joy.


I am just not used to being a ‘Stay-at-home Dad’.

It is approaching two years next month since I stopped working conventionally. Last year the summer holidays blurred with the mess and shake-up of school closures and lockdowns. But this year I found the school break disruptive to my flow and balance and that sounds dreadful when I say it out loud.

Somehow it feels important for me to realise and acknowledge it.

I don’t recognize my wife’s input and contribution to my Karate work as much as I should. Firstly, Karyn supported my decision to quit work as a Sales-Director to essentially pursue a life as an artist devoid of contracts and on-paper stability. Her faith in me and my ability gave me the strength to pursue the dream and risk it all.

Secondly since my Dad passed away I have realised that I have lost and missed my biggest fan and cheer-leader. Growing up with a father so open and free with pride and praise creates quite a void when it is suddenly gone. Karyn doesn’t find sharing her feelings that easy, (she is more private than that) but she has become my soundboard and the person whose opinion I seek first and value the most.

She reassures me when I have a wobble and helps me rebalance when I am thrown by something. In many ways losing my Dad has strengthened my bond with my wife! Perhaps that is a gift from my Dad and the experience of losing him? I am certain my marriage is stronger!

I have seen my wife’s strength on a different level, and she has stepped up to support me in many ways.

I am not the man I was before my Dad passed away!

In some ways I am stronger, but in others I am less capable or willing. Pressure on my time is something I struggle with now. I have become very precious of my schedule and the expectations put on me by others.

I like to be in control and most of all I like to schedule my down-time!

Back in June I started some consultancy work. Nothing too full on. Just a bit of Business Development for a great tool-maker locally. I am refining some processes for them and sharpening up their websites and branding.

Everything was going great till the kids broke up from school. Then I started to struggle!

One of my weaknesses in the past was that I failed to recognise emotions or pressures in myself. If people asked how I was I would always say ‘Living the dream’.

Most often this was sarcastic as I had tight deadlines or extremely high sales targets to achieve. Nowadays I can feel the onset of overwhelm and recognise it quite early.

(Oh, the joys of experience).

With the kids off school. I suddenly had no downtime (before you all say it…. Yes I now know how my wife feels!.... trust me I am grateful 😊 ). I became a slave to two eating machines, consulted in the factory and then taught karate.

I barely saw my wife or had a moment to think for six weeks. It weighed heavily on me and I could feel the onset of overwhelm!

Suddenly the kids went back to school and gaps in my schedule appeared again. I was able to think!

One of the joys I have discovered over the last eighteen months is writing regular blogs. A signal that I am too busy is when I cannot find the time or inspiration to share my thoughts. I now realise I must watch out for this!

Throughout Lockdown my Karate Students and I supported each other. I turned up on Zoom and sharpened my online teaching skills and they provided the purpose by turning up week-in week-out and giving me a reason to do!

I know and appreciate that this is a reciprocal relationship. We are connected and neither exists fully without the other. I wanted to acknowledge this!

Last weekend after only two weeks’ notice and planning I hosted a course for my clubs at the Clanfield Centre. The plan was to deliver an event to celebrate everyone’s work and commitment through lockdown. I wanted to acknowledge everyone before we all returned to school and work and our world drifts more and more into the new normal.

As we got closer to the day I was presented with a few challenges. Firstly, gifts I had ordered either didn’t turn up or were smashed in the post and I had to hastily source replacements. Then venues hit me with cancelled bookings for later this year that I had to quickly resolve.

But ….. I stayed resolute and focused on my goals for the day.

The Clanfield centre is a great place and recently reopened post pandemic. I am fortunate to teach from there on Wednesdays and I was looking forward to teaching my first event in the shiny new hall. My son was with me as we arrived early and carried our kit into the venue

Then I had an unfortunate moment.

I turned awkwardly and felt that familiar feeling of a pinch in my back. I stopped still so as not to lock up, let the feeling pass and then stretched. ‘Are you okay Dad’ Oscar asked. ‘Yes son’ I said ‘I just felt a tweak in my back’.

I had avoided a bigger problem, but I knew I wasn’t going to operate as normal now for my course. Suddenly I had to gather my thoughts.

I am honest with myself, and I know that one of my favourite elements of teaching is the ability to show-off! I am an extrovert and I enjoy working with a willing crowd. It’s Fun!

At this point It dawned on me that I needed to be clear on the objectives of the day, the recognition deserved by the students and the good-will that I wanted to encourage in our karate community. I just couldn’t kick anyone in the face to get any laughs.

I am pretty sure the reason my back was a problem is because I spent eight hours the day before stooped over our dining room table doing admin and writing notes to my students. My heart was in the right-place, but my back wasn’t. Massive schoolboy error and lesson learned!

I managed to teach the first hour class and then host the merit-progress test for the white belt Juniors. This proved an emotional event.

It hadn’t dawned on me before, but most parents had not been able to attend a sports day, witness a school play or even watch their kids train for nearly two years. I had invited them to watch the day as I simply thought it would ‘be nice’. 😊 For many kids this was the first chance they have had to showcase their talent and the result of their efforts for a very long time. It meant a lot to everyone!

After the exam I awarded the prizes for most improved beginner and the most outstanding effort.

As most karate people know the word ‘Osu’ or ‘OSS’ is one that we use regularly in the dojo. Personally, I enjoy the translation of Osu as; ‘I understand and will do my best’. So I had purchased a Japanese Kanji scroll of Osu for the student I considered the hardest working through lockdown.

I awarded this to a young man who prior to lockdown had only trained one class with me in person. He then trained throughout on Zoom and I think only missed one class. He is a joy of a human being! One hundred percent enthusiasm and decency. He thoroughly deserved the award.

I gave a little speech and presented my gift to him in front of everyone and he was overwhelmed. I don’t think I have ever been hugged so tightly before (not even by my Gran and that is saying something). It was a lovely moment!

In that moment I felt a tangible connection between everyone in the hall. All dojo members and their families were in the moment, and it was fantastic!

A couple of months back I visited another dojo as they had a guest instructor I have always wanted to train with. While we waited outside a friend of mine Vince came up and said hello and we had a nice conversation. He asked me how I was finding life since I had become a professional instructor’.

At that point another black belt interjected and said: ‘Oh, is karate your business then?’

‘No’ I said ‘It is my profession!’

He smiled but I could tell he was unclear of the difference. For me last Sunday was an example of that difference.

After the merit exam I had another three hours in a gi ahead of me and my back was slowly seizing up. I had to be honest and tell the Senior class that I was struggling. I became the brain behind the classes and my most senior students the body.

Harry stepped up and demonstrated beautifully for me the principles I needed to display. Wayne supported me with insights and technical work as we prepared our Seniors for their grading in October. It was all very collaborative. (I still thoroughly enjoyed it although I missed the Rock and Roll of demonstrating myself) 😊.

Throughout this week I have been able to relax as the kids have been back at school. My back is recovering and I am taking it a little easier. Consequently, my thoughts have space and it is no coincidence that I find myself back at the keyboard typing this blog.

I received some lovely messages, emails and calls from members and families this week. Many of them mentioned my connection with my students.

It made me realise how important that is from both sides.

I need them as much as they need me!

To do my best work I need the support of my wife and downtime to think, process and consider.

I am always learning, and I will keep trying to get better at everything.

This week I have learnt that I cannot do hours of admin the day before a course. My senior students can do a great job when I am compromised, and the connection in our karate community is the essential ingredient for everything we do.

(Oh yes….. and next year I will plan to have a chunk of holiday in August to prioritise my kids).

Stay well….. ‘osu’😊

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