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  • Writer's pictureMatt Powell

Kerbing Alloys

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

Influencing Character

One of the biggest influences on my professional life was John, JP to his friends. In 2008 John interviewed me seven times for a change of career and saw potential in my drive and enthusiasm.

JP is a real character. Charismatic, unpredictable, fun, driven and intense. He was an excellent motivator and a hard task master.

John had a specific approach to his vocation, and he expected results.

As a young man in my twenties he offered a compelling skill set and I found his lifestyle fascinating. It was unlike anything I had seen or experienced before.

A Real Motivation Driver!

JP had a particular passion for fast and expensive sports cars, and he would change them … often!

I remember him arriving in the office after parking his brand-new Aston Martin DB9. It sticks in my mind as it had Aluminium doors that if damaged could not be repaired. You simply needed a new door! This was a world away from my tank like Peugeot Company car in Gun metal Grey.

A tank like mine ..... not quite an Aston!

The Aston was a bit of a shock to us (his team) as he had not long changed his large Mercedes 4x4 for a gorgeous Maserati, but he had soon bored of that and now an Aston Martin was his preferred toy.

When my colleagues and I went to look at the car we noticed that the front alloy-wheels had already been ‘kerbed’, damaged by a pavement or similar. We returned to the office and remarked to JP that he must have been upset to have damaged his wheels already and I remember being shocked by his reply:

‘No Matt, I did it on purpose the first day I got the car’

‘’Why’’ I asked, clearly aghast at his flippancy.

‘I didn’t want to spend my time driving the car nervous of damaging the wheels, so I decided to get the kerbing over and done with’.

At the time I simply could not understand his mindset. But as I grew to know him better his approach made sense.

John was/is a master of Sales and Marketing. He is a world class negotiator. When he taught his team to negotiate, he would encourage us to ‘take objections off of the table’. In other words, we became skilled at removing a customer’s barriers or objections to progress and ‘win’ the deal.

In JP’s world he didn’t want to feel uneasy or anxious driving his prized Aston so he simply ‘took the worry off of the table’. He deliberately damaged the wheels so he could enjoy driving the car!

A Situation of Shock

Earlier this week I had an upsetting incident at the dojo.

One of my black belt students who has been with us since he was in Primary School came to see me with a clearly swollen nose and two black eyes.

I asked him what had happened, and it transpired that he and a friend had been jumped by a gang of teens in a car park and my student had been sucker punched in the back of the head.

Clearly outnumbered and in shock my student and his friend were then the victims of an onslaught of strikes before the gang dispersed into the night.


I asked my student how he felt about the situation and what questions he had been asking himself.

How had this happened?

Why did his karate not save him?

How did he get hurt?

I knew these would be the questions that would have swum amongst others in his mind. Consuming his thoughts and causing an ongoing sense of anxiety and upset.

I told him to forget all the questions. The answer was simple. He had been caught unawares, complacent, and happy. He wasn’t expecting the attack.

It had in essence all been a massive shock!

No body performs well in a state of shock!

To understand Shock, I sought and found this definition online:

‘Shock may result from trauma, heatstroke, blood loss, an allergic reaction, severe infection, poisoning, severe burns or other causes. When a person is in shock, his or her organs aren't getting enough blood or oxygen’.

Whilst this helped me manage my thoughts on my student’s dilemma, I also felt I needed to clarify the physical affect a person would experience when in a state of shock. I discovered the following:

A major symptom of psychological shock is when you feel a surge of adrenaline. You may feel physically sick and find it hard to think straight. Your chest might feel tight, and you may experience a disconnection from what is actually happening—like watching a movie of events, compared to actually being there.

This definition aligned to my students experience and reinforced the advice I gave him.

I explained that he had experienced extreme violence for the first time in his life. It was unprovoked and unexpected. Consequently, he had found himself in a state of shock.

He is also of the awkward age where he is no longer a boy and not yet a man. A first-year college student.

Therefore, he had yet to experience ‘Adult kumite’ pair ups in the club or at competition. The speed, violent intent and aggression levels in the car park had all been new. He was not used to the experience, and he was not expecting it.

None of this was or is his fault!

A Motivated Mindset

I then drew on the advice of my friend the experienced Police Officer and World Class Karate man I have spoken of in my writing before.

This experience is now his Fuel.

His reason to train.

His catalyst for improvement.

His visualisation device.

His need to train hard and get better.

This experience is high grade fuel for development.

As well as being a Sensei I am a parent and I protect and care for my own kids as best I can. No loving parent wants their children to have bad experiences or be hurt. But as the old saying goes;

Steel sharpens Steel.

The experience does not have to define the person.

How they learn from it can!

Bad experiences or struggle, properly processed or managed, can serve as the trigger for growth.

In many ways my student has now kerbed his alloys, much like my old mentor JP.

The edge has been taken off.

Noncritical damage has been done and anxiety of the unknown removed.

Now is the time to drive….. Without fear of damage but knowing and understanding consequence.

Familiarity and uncertainty are the enemies of anxiety and fear!

We must become aware and resistant to avoid disabling shock that inhibits performance.

A Sensei’s Responsibility

One of my responsibilities as a Sensei is to help students prepare and manage this transition.

Sometimes life and unsavoury people force this development and I have to adjust an individuals focus to best help them on their way.

I am my students guide and it is a responsibility I do not take lightly.

Students will kerb their own alloys as I have mine.

But together we can take the fear of these things off the table!

Matt Powell and others from Petersfield Karate
Students of Petersfied Karate

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