• Matt Powell

Obla Di Obla Da …. A review of 2021!

Last December I had been battling the challenges of lockdowns and tiers but had been teaching from a dojo in Petersfield town. I was all set to sub-let the premises and drive forward with a different approach in 2021 but an extended lockdown put pay to that! I had even decorated the office and refitted missing carpet tiles!


January


But it wasn’t meant to be. When Lockdown restrictions were extended until April and May hiring a space was not viable. Instead, we started January with new training splits on Zoom and once again taught from the comfort of my Home Dojo.


This time we broke groups out by age and rank in preparation for the staggered return to training with Juniors allowed back in April and over 18’s not returning until May. I also taught an afternoon 4pm class on Saturdays for those unable to train in the mornings.

Some days it was so cold that I had to time my heater to come on a couple of hours before teaching began. I would also take a flask of tea down to the dojo with me and when I watch some of the zoom classes back you can see the steam rising from the cup in the corner.

Despite my challenges and failures with home-schooling both of my children joined me for the Thursday night Zoom class for our Knowle students. Teaching with my then four-year-old daughter present for the first time was a real highlight.



We were still supporting our friends at the South Downs dojo, and I clearly remember young Eddie leaping around on his chess-board mat in his livening room while Jess (The Cheong) and her lovely family were ever present. Also, our friends Jim and Paul Lewis from the ASK Brighton dojo were stalwarts in the weekly classes.


Amongst the uncertainty I was invited to attend a Parliamentary roundtable DCMS select meeting hosted by Damian Hinds. It was great to offer insights on how grass-root sports were dealing with the challenges of lockdown.

Our website became more and more valuable for our members, and we developed a guest area to the website for secure logins for our weekly Zoom classes.


February


In February I sourced a company to produce Dojo Stickers for phones and tablets and was thrilled with the results when they arrived.


As the month progressed and I approached the first anniversary of my dad passing away I was tempted to take a couple of weeks off to relax and take stock. But when I thought deeply about things, I realised that taking a break would not represent the fight my dad expressed throughout his treatment.


So, after some consideration and guidance from my Wife I decided to host a Zoom charity at the end of the month called ‘Karate 4 Pops!’ with all proceeds being donated to the Rowans Hospice that had cared for Dad at the end.



I labelled our efforts #TeamYellowSocks (my dad’s favourite flowers were yellow roses) and I was thrilled when friends as far as Scotland (thank you Kevin) trained, donated, and wore yellow socks to support our cause.


In the end we raised just shy of £2,500 for the Rowans and I was very emotional by the end of the three hours training. We had great support with people training from Cornwall to Brighton, throughout Hampshire and London and as far North as Fife! I love karate! Thank you everyone!


March


During March our Zoom efforts continued. We worked on the kata Jion with U21’s and consolidated everyone’s fitness with my square drills.



I was sad to discover that Lee Jennings Sensei one of my Seniors in karate and an important influence in my early career had passed away. Sadly, due to the COVID situation I could not attend his funeral, but I watched the service online. Lee was a fantastic kicker and an extremely tough karate man. He was also a real character with a larger-than-life personality. When I was a child, he had a magnificent curly mullet and beaming smile. He was great to be around in the dojo.


Behind the scenes we were working hard on venues for a return of juniors. Risk assessments, class splits, registers and frequent communication were now key! Never had karate Admin been more important.


On the 19th of march, I trained with my good friend Shyam from the JKS to mark the ten-year anniversary for his dojo. Then on the 21st of the month I trained online with Sensei’s’ Alex Mathie, Roy OKane, and Kevin Slaney in the Scottish Seminars. It was a great course and nice to be training and not the one leading the Zoom proceedings for a change.

We then switched our Zoom dojo work to kicking drills and set ups using angles and emphasising good form. The kata we studied was Heian Nidan on the spot.


I then created a new Online membership form and sent a brief survey to appraise numbers returning and prepare class splits and session plans.


April


The 10th of April was our last big Saturday on Zoom and on the 13th of April I taught for my friend Mark Elliott on the Isle of Wight as a guest instructor on Zoom. We worked on Sochin and warmed up with my square drills.



On the 14th of April we returned to face-to-face training with the under 18’s returning at the Pavilion. We had to have strict rules and protocols in place, but I was soon accustomed to measuring zones and working in squares once again.



On the 15th we were back at Knowle with young Ethan in a hat due to unfortunate lockdown haircut.


Once again, we kept on zooming for adults and guests while our Knowle dojo began to grow with the addition of Nelly, Jaz and Pixie. Despite the challenges of lockdowns we have attracted some wonderful new characters to our clubs this year.


May


As we entered May I invested in a new tripod and remote which proved a gamechanger for capturing our video content. On the 17th of May PSKC returned to The Petersfield School and the atmosphere was electric. I was very strict with square training and distancing and then later discovered that most members had greeted each other with hugs in the car park!

The dojo was happy to be getting back together!


On the 20th of May our East Meon dojo reopened with Jon and Wayne leading proceedings every Thursday.

At this time the saying I kept repeating was ‘Choose Grace over Pace’. This rung true as much for our karate as for our growth and development as clubs.


I was thrilled to welcome old friends and new to the dojo. This included some extremely capable and senior black belts who had introduced themselves or reconnected with me during lockdown. We also welcomed dojo stalwart Zack Henrick back to training with his broken arm in plaster.


Our newest initiative, ‘The Breakfast club’ class for seniors started from the 22nd of May with a focus on the Tekki katas. Tony ‘Fish & Chips’ soon proved the star of the show and the 7.30am classes were instantly popular.



June


As we moved back to TPS Wayne Lee was on hand to support the teaching on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and we worked a new split in the classes to ensure everyone had a rewarding experience. (This was impressive as Wayne was awaiting knee surgery at the time and proved a massive support until the operation a couple of months later).


As Summer began the pace of development really picked up. We started our new classes at the newly reopened Clanfield Centre on Wednesdays and added Tuesday evening adult classes at Knowle.


As the weather started heating up, we began working on kaeshi-ippon footwork all at distance with an emphasis on breaking line and set-up. Everyone grasped the concepts enthusiastically and the atmosphere in the dojo remained on a high.


During June we had a photoshoot with Kath and Jo two or our Senior grade Adult Ladies to help balance our marketing and reflect our diverse membership. They happily gave me a hard time in some of the set-ups and we had great fun.


On the 15th I filmed content for the dimensions charity who support Autistic Adults living in the community. Our hour long ‘learn-karate’ video is a free live resource on their youtube channel, and I am proud to support them.




At the end of the month with the help of Harry and Felix I delivered free ‘Self-Defence and Awareness’ training to the year eight students at Highfield and Brookham school in Liphook. We spent a rewarding couple of days working on threat, awareness, de-escalation, and basic striking and deflection drills.



July


As the summer progressed Nick Siddall became a stalwart of our Knowle adult classes and Eliza showed additional talent by making the Rowans bake off finals!


While England were flying high in the Euros, we carried on work on Kaeshi-Ippon and I could clearly see the improvements in movement and fitness throughout the clubs.

In the breakfast club we moved on to study Meikyo and Tony earnt a new nickname ‘Fryer Tuck’!


Longstanding second dan Rob Cooper married Katey and my wife and I were thrilled to be there throughout the day. It was a scorcher at Cams Golf course, and it was wonderful to see them so happy after the uncertainty of COVID.


On the 25th I was joined by Jon and Ionut as I journeyed to the Newport on the Isle of Wight to teach for Mark Elliott. We worked on square drills and explosive action over a short distance. We all had a blast, and it was great to be back working with karate friends from across the water.


As the month ended, we continued to avoid pair work but reintroduced pad work to test technique and distance.


August


Through August our long-standing member Felix became a regular at our Knowle classes riding his motorbike down from East Meon every Tuesday.


In our classes we stopped box work and went back to line work. Ditching the cones to the delight of many Senior grades….. especially Mike Smallpage.


Our Saturday classes began to really grow, and I was often met with a surprise visit from the happiest toddlers in town. Henry and Alba who started popping in to see me after class for a laugh and perhaps a race! 😊 I love karate!


The breakfast club began to study Sochin as it will likely be Ionut’s choice for his Sandan grading and we experimented with the Clanfield Centre as a venue.


During August I volunteered to work with CM sports and was supported by Harry, Felix, Dan, Sam Clay and Zack at Liss Primary and Ryders school in Leigh Park. It was really rewarding to introduce our karate alphabet and broad principles to a new and varied audience.


September


In September our focus shifted to the correct form and delivery of Kikomi (Side thrust Kick) and I was thrilled to hear that we had been nominated for a Petersfield Award for Sporting Achievement for our work throughout lockdown.


On the 5th we had our first merit grading for the beginners and mock grading event for the coloured belts. Unfortunately, I hurt my back just before the first class and locked up during the assessment. Wayne Lee was on hand to help me with the examinations and then Harry and Felix were a massive support in the kyu grade class.


I learnt a great deal that day about how to teach when one’s own capacity to demonstrate is compromised. I also felt the sincere benefit of teamwork. On a lighter note, it was great to see so many of our students back in a sports hall together and able to demonstrate to their families what they had learnt.

During the day we presented awards to those who had demonstrated continuous effort throughout lockdown. It was a truly positive and emotional day.


The month rushed by with kids returning to school and in our senior classes finished rehearsing our Kaeshi Ippon drill and movement. Harry and I were thrilled to start teaching at Highfield and Brookham school on Monday evenings and Richard Welch from Just Great Shots Photography visited the Wednesday class for a Candid photo shoot.


An open morning at the school meant that we had to be creative with our dojo hire. Consequently, we trained at Queen Elizabeth Country Park which proved to be a great environment with good energy.


As the month progressed, I was invited to present a karate demo at Dunhurst School. The weather was beautiful which proved fortunate as I ended up teaching two hundred students, karate outside in the playground.


The month flew by as we focused on grading preparation with a particular focus on young Dan Chinnock who was due to take his long-overdue Dan Grade (Back Belt) examination.


October


After our successful course in the summer, I was proud to return to the Isle of Wight and teach once more for Mark Elliott.



We worked on angles the kata Jion and Jiyu Kumite and I was thrilled to see some old friends training once again.


On Thursday nights we welcomed Sensei Amber back at Knowle, initially once a month while numbers continued to grow. It was great to have Amber back, although I am not convinced she had missed my singing! 😊


The training for the month remained focused on the forthcoming grading on the 17th but then I had a nightmare and lost my sense of smell. On Friday the 16th I tested positive for COVID. I was devastated and had to miss the grading. It was especially upsetting not to see Dan successfully grade for first dan which I had on good authority from my colleagues that he did with style!


It is a cliché but Teamwork really does make the dreamwork and for the ten days I spent in isolation, I will be eternally grateful to Keith, Jon, Wayne, Amber, Harry and Felix who taught for me.


Thankfully once freed from isolation I was able to officiate at a Grading at Kensho in East Sussex alongside Sensei Keith Williams and saw a few more of our students successfully grade that day.


November


During November our classes continued to grow, and attendance was constantly on the up. Energy was great and we all trained with focus as we anticipated our course with Sensei Aidan Trimble of the FSK.

Sensei was in fine form, and we had an excellent course working on a basic form of Kaeshi-Ippon, the kata Sochin, and advanced thoughts and principles for Kikomi. Attendance was fantastic with friends from all over the country joining us for the training.

On the 28th we hosted another course and merit grading at Clanfield and I was thrilled that Sensei Wayne Lee was back on-hand to assist after his successful knee surgery.



December


December flew by but numbers in the classes were affected as various students were inevitably having to isolate. That said the atmosphere remained positive and we saw the year out in style. We even had visits form Santa and I was able to send personalised dojo Christmas cards for the first time.

Our last class was on the 21st of the month at Knowle where I taught our new Adult class and enjoyed everyone’s company as always.


When classes stopped for Christmas, and I took a break my body sighed a slight sigh of relief. It has been a busy year and I now teach 20+ hours a week. I love it and wouldn’t change it, but I did need a rest. I hope everyone at our clubs has enjoyed a rest too!



Today (the 2nd of January) I pulled on my gi for the first time this year and spent an hour training with my daughter in my home dojo. We received an extremely generous gift from Blitz just before Christmas of sparring protection and it felt wonderful to test some of it with my daughter. She giggled her way through the class and kicked me up the backside with a padded foot.


Thank you to everyone for your wonderful support in 2021!


Formal Classes start on Tuesday the 4th and karate like life goes on ……… regardless of COVID and the challenges we face!


As the Beatles once said… ‘Obla Di, Obla Da…..’




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