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  • Writer's pictureMatt Powell

One more week (2023)

For many years my uncle promoted a folk band called Colvin Quarmby. Whilst not my default genre for music I grew to really enjoy the band, their music, and the infectious energy of their lead singer Gerry Colvin.


Around 2004 the band released an album called ‘A short walk to the red lion’ and my family supported many gigs and renditions of the album. Over time we grew to know many of the songs and my particular-favourite was the last on the album titled ‘one more week’.


2023 was a very busy year for us at our clubs and as we approached Christmas, I must admit to feeling tired and in need of a break. But after a few days offs and now feeling recharged I am reflecting on the year and craving ‘one more week’ so I could find time to action various plans I have for the new year with the same drive and energy we have felt in the dojos throughout the last year.


January started quickly and we were soon back at classes at all venues with a few new faces joining the ranks. But we were experiencing some issues with a couple of our venues, and I was reminded of the following Tibetan proverb.


‘The secret to living well and longer is eat half, walk double, laugh triple and love without measure’.


I decided to stay positive but began to look and consider alternative venues which could better support our quest for enhanced professionalism.


Throughout the month our classes began to swell, and I was thrilled to welcome back my old friend Andy Hollins and the Jennings family who had been encouraged and nagged to get back to training by the constant enthusiasm of Nick Siddall for our work.


We ended the month with a test a benchmarking course for our youngest and newest members and I was happy to see the progress of the merit grades.


As we entered February, I felt I needed to shake things up a little to keep our classes fresh and maintain focus. We went back to basics and focused on working from the ground up and added footwork and agility training to our competition classes on Saturdays.

In my quest for originality, I referenced the work of the renowned Martial Artist and author Geoff Thompson.


‘If I lean towards conformity I will be crushed by mediocrity’.


After much planning and many meetings, we moved our Saturday classes from our venue of over ten years to the Clanfield Centre.


This had been a big decision for me to make and I thank all my students and friends with whom I took council to organise my thoughts. Whilst the venue and facilities are a significant upgrade, they are also significantly more expensive.

Once again, I sought solace in the wisdom of others.


‘Leadership is about making everyone else better’.


I was confident that in Clanfield we had a venue that would improve all aspects of our work on Saturdays.


We now had a venue with a matted area for our competition work, so I used this to propel my plans to take a small team to the Legend Open in March. I asked for a show of hands from those who wished to be considered for selection and the work began.


I was also thrilled to welcome Gosia back to the dojo after a break of ten (and a bit years). It has been lovely to watch her train alongside her son Ben and see them both become popular members of our clubs.


Our Monday nights at Stroud Village Hall continued to develop and as I drove home one night, I made a detour to collect the shopping my wife had text me while I was working. It was here that fate stepped in as I bumped into Sensei Roger from Bravo karate at the checkouts. I had met Sensei the previous summer and was keen to book a course with him and his colleague (and wife) Sensei Anna for our aspiring athletes.


The chance meeting was the nudge I needed to make this happen and a date was booked for March.


February was busy as we pushed forward with preparations for our gradings the following month and whilst Saturdays were developing well, we had some disruption with our Wednesday venue, so I knew my logistics work was still not complete.


I finished the month with a visit to my friends in Newport at IOW karate where we enjoyed three hours of spirited fun as aways.


March was a highlight of the year without question.


The month began with our association Kyu grades where we had a solid and excellent showing. The following day it was wonderful to present Jo and Warren Longshaw with their Nidan certificates and Mike Smallpage and Jon Watson received their Sandan certificates. These were all earnt in our final gradings of 2022.


All four of these members have been with the dojo for many years and have supported me, my work, and the wider needs of the clubs beautifully throughout this time. I am massively proud of them all and it was wonderful to see them receive their certificates.


Back in 2009 Laurence and Carey David visited the Froxfield dojo after I had taught a SEKU squad class in Portsmouth. Laurence joined the dojo soon after and along with Mike and Jon is one of our longest serving members. He passed Nidan that day showcasing his own personality and beautiful kicks.


Sadly, Eloise who had been training with us and is a very capable black belt had to return to South Africa, but we have stayed in contact, and I am hoping she will return to grace the dojo in the future.


As hoped our course with Anna and Roger at the East Meon venue proved a huge success. We had a great turnout, and the three hours flew by. I knew our members (myself included) could only get better by being exposed to such talent and enthusiasm.

Our challenges with venues continued and with the help of Clive we identified the Taro Centre as a new home for our Wednesdays. Again, this was a step up in every sense, but I chose to trust my instincts and we focused on improving the training experience for all and made the move.


After an initial phone conversation and meeting I taught for Nick Sensei and his Emsworth based OSSKA karate group on a Friday evening and had fun working on fundamentals for general improvement and competition.


The Legend Open proved to be a big success for us as a dojo. Elliott and Big Sam both won their respective kumite divisions while Ionut placed second in Veterans kata. Our teenagers (Big Sam, Dan M and Sam C) then won a dramatic final to clinch the team kumite. It was great to see everyone’s hard work paying off and the team spirit growing. Nathan even went AWOL but we love him for it. 😊


I finished March with another trip to the Isle of Wight. This time to teach for Mick Lambert Sensei and my old friends at the SEKU dojo. I always have a blast at their club, and it was lovely to work with many people who have known me since I was a youngster.



April was soon in full flow, and we began working towards the summer gradings and our own in-house AKA competition. Harry assisted me with our next Merit Grading event for the youngsters and the month flew by.


Whilst a wonderful year in many ways 2022 had ended with a degree of sadness at the club as Wayne Lee Sensei had to step back from regular involvement due to injury. But as the year progressed Sensei began to offer support and we were thrilled that he could be present to officiate at the AKA Junior Competition in May.


Our dojos had their biggest ever entry and once again everyone’s hard work paid off. Amongst the winner were Zack who has been with us since he was six. He performed beautifully in the cadet category and Elliott showcased his timing and versatility to win the coloured belt kumite. Young Ollie proved he is one to watch and won the outstanding merit grade accolade and Jessie was on form in kata.


There were many other podiums and excellent performances, and I was overjoyed with everyone’s karate and attitude on the day.


May was rushing past with breakneck speed and it was soon time to fly to Inverness and visit my friends of the Highland Karate Association. Sensei Kevin has become a firm friend and advisor to me and I am very grateful for his faith in my work and karate. I had a wonderful three days punching and kicking. Thank you 😊


It was at this time that I began to realise that I needed a dedicated space to work on my own karate and remove my computer and karate ‘stuff’ from our lounge. By chance I stumbled across a former yoga studio in Fareham and after testing the space with the help of Nick and Robin I shook hands and agreed to move in the following month.


Suddenly I took a moment to reflect on my busyness but found resolve in the words of Alistair McCaw.


‘Champions don’t need to be asked to do extra work. They do it. They understand that excellence involves doing more than what is required.

The more you put in the more you get out’.

 

Our Saturday classes had now grown in numbers, and it was a pleasant surprise to welcome Sensei Wayne back into the fold for the odd class to help with grading prep. Thanks Wayne.

I have said before that my favourite aspect of Karate is the wonderful people I have met along the way. Elliott Carrington who I had taught since he was six got married and it was lovely for my wife and I to attend the reception and meet his beautiful wife Amanda. I love a dojo wedding….. who will be next?


June arrived at breakneck speed, and I officially took up residency in my full-time studio space. It felt appropriate to ask my good friend and mentor Simon Staples Sensei to oversee proceedings and we spent a great couple of hours training and working.

At this point I must offer massive thanks to Pete Oestreich who came to the dojo and put-up shelves and hung pictures to make it feel like home. Thanks Pete. I was good at making Coffee. 😊


On the 10th of June I drove a minibus of our team to Wales to compete in the Welsh WUKF open. We stayed in a local hotel and once again the team spirit amongst students and their parents was awesome. The competition proved a steep but valuable learning experience. The star of the day was Jake our man-sized 11-year-old who thought courageously to secure second place in kumite. Pandora also showcased her leadership qualities and podiumed in kata.


As the month progressed my new space was soon put to good use as those about to take dan-gradings came to train for extra support. I was thrilled to see Dan, Sam, and Nick pass Shodan and Bryony showcase her technical karate and secure Nidan.


June was also a month of new experiences for me as I visited long-term student Felix at Sandhurst where he is completing his Officer training. What an experience. Thanks Felix.

The rest of the month flew by, and Tommy got a perm! The less said about that the better. 😊


July and August passed quickly, and I looked forward to school holidays finishing and everyone being back in their routines.


After our experience in Wales, I knew our team needed more kumite work. Principally we needed to increase sparring exposure and experience, so I organised for some of our older team members to visit Roger and Anna.


I sat and made notes realising we needed a focus on

·        Fast Feet

·        Committing to the point

·        Selling the score


As September began, we had a fresh energy and I adjusted class times on a Saturday to accommodate.


In May I had told my friend Sensei Kevin in Scotland about my new studio dojo. We had agreed that he would visit, and we would bounce ideas off each other like musicians when they meet to Jam. Sensei came down to visit and we had a wonderful time. (I was working honest Mrs Powell) 😊


The following weekend Sensei Trimble was at the dojo to teach his annual course which had an amazing attendance. Especially as it was the hottest day of the year. Sensei was in great form, and I was thrilled with the work rate of our students.


Towards the end of the month, it was great to invite my senior and good friend David James Hands to our Knowle dojo as a surprise. James was Nicks original instructor and he appeared from hiding to present an overwhelmed Nick with his prized Tokaido black belt from Japan. It was a great night. Thank-you James. 😊



Our association had announced that we would be taking a team to the HDKI tournament in October, so we once again visited our friends at Bravo and put in a spirited evenings work to help our preparations.


Members from our Petersfield and Knowle dojo were present in our AKA squad and represented us beautifully. Brooke, Anna, Bremner, Elliott, Ionut and Jessie were all amongst the medals. Particularly thrilling was the all-dojo kumite final between Tommy and Elliott. Class lads….. well done! 😊


Despite the thrilling build up for the competition our focus in October remained our gradings the following month. We had big numbers grading and suddenly I was very conscious of the workload to ensure everyone was ready.


Part of growth and evolution is the inevitable need for change. Since 2015 Sensei’s Jon, Wayne and recently Harry have taught our classes at East Meon. But after much deliberation we agreed that a new approach was appropriate and decided to merge our Monday Stroud and Thursday East Meon classes.


I know that for some this was a sad development. But I wholeheartedly believe that our new combined class on a Monday has the potential to achieve great things. All the very best Harry and Jon. Thank you for supporting the changes.


Such was the attendance in November that we had to change the grading times to accommodate. As a wise man (JP) once said to me.


‘These are good problems to have’.


At the grading we once again had record attendance and the atmosphere was wonderful across the two days. Bryony received her certificate and Zach passed Nidan with style while Eliza showcased her focus, spirit, and wonderful karate to achieve Shodan. Both students have trained since they were six so to see them progress and achieve is wonderful…… and emotional. 😊


On the 12th of November we hosted Sensei’s Anna and Roger for the second time. This time at the Taro with a different format to afford focused training for different groups. It was great and just the push we needed to support our efforts at the forthcoming AKA winter competition.


Unfortunately, Elliott had broken his collar bone in an accident at home but showed his strength of character to attend and watch the training from the sidelines.


December concluded with the AKA Winter comp and a family fun session the following Saturday. We had some fantastic performances at the tournament. Bremner really shone, Anna displayed composure to match her talent and Tommy secured competitor of the day after winning three categories. I was thrilled! But most of all I was proud.


Proud of everyone’s, development, teamwork and kindness for each other.


I managed a final visit to the isle of wight and once again taught for Sensei Mick Lambert in Newport.


Wow…… what a year!



As I read this blog back, I am conscious that a large focus is placed on our competitors. This does not mean that I underestimate or do not value the work we all put in week in, week out. The performance of individuals and teams from our dojos represent us all! 

Without the consistent work every class by everyone we would not and could not improve. Competitions and grading serve as a showcase for our work as a team. Well done all of you. From the youngest of beginners to our eldest members (I’m not mentioning any names Lightning or Clive) you all enrich our work and make our classes such a wonderful place to be.


It has been a year of changes, growth and learning.



We have welcomed back old friends not least Rob Maynard who is a great addition to our team and showcasing his smooth and precise kata to help inspire everyone.


To wrap the year our team voted for Elliott to win the Wayne Otto signed tracksuit and Zack passed my original black belt to Eliza to wear with pride.... Awesome x


I have some exciting plans for 2024 but can’t help think that I could squeeze more into this year if I only had……


One more week!

 

For those interested here are some of the lyrics to the song,

‘Put the leaves back on the trees, turn the sun back up to heat, let this summer last for one more week!’ (Gerry Colvin 2004)




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