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  • Writer's pictureMatt Powell

Passing the baton…

For a long time, I have carried a metaphor in my mind.

I picture growing up and older as if running in a relay race where we accept and pass batons. The more I explore the comparison the more I believe we are simultaneously running many relays and are at different stages in each.

I first conceived this idea when my dad was diagnosed with Cancer over twenty years ago. In our many conversations after diagnosis I felt a preparation on both our parts to transfer roles and responsibilities. This ultimately played out as Dad’s health deteriorated and then he passed away.

The roles that transfer aren’t just physical. They can be a switch of roles as a confident, advisor or mentor to a person seeking help, advice, or support. Equally the switch can happen in reverse. And the once strong and wise reach out for help.

When my Dad was first unwell I can remember not feeling ready to take the baton. It wasn’t my time. I didn’t want him to go anywhere, and I still felt I needed him and had much to learn. I wasn’t up to speed, I felt I could not reach the baton, and if I did, I would drop it!

As I ponder the metaphor I realise that the running is easy. Especially initially while you get up to speed. You are timing your build up, pacing yourself.

At that point the pressure is on the person with the baton. They are setting the pace and holding the responsibility. They must do their best and then pass it over when the time is right.

The stress and risk is manifest at the point of Passover. It is then that either runner can drop it. And if they do it is the new runner that has to pick everything up, recover and push on.

The new runner may not consider themselves as fast or skilled as the previous. They may well not be as experienced or exhibit the same finesse. But I have realised that this is not critical.

What is crucial is that the new runner keeps pushing on and heading in the right direction.

For one day their time to pass the baton on will come too ….. the next runner may well increase the pace and development. Equally they may not do so, they may be slower still…… but they must push on.

Otherwise all is lost!

Each runner must simply do their best and keep moving forward as well and as fast as they can. Once you have the baton you have to find your stride, get in the zone and be clear on your intention.

You can’t and won’t hold the baton forever!

The next point of stress is handing the baton over.

Once again this is where it is most easily dropped and then it becomes someone else’s responsibility to pick it up and run once more. Failure to let go of the baton means that the race stops….. for everyone in that team.

In a race it must be particularly hard to let go if you do not trust your team mate to push forward. You may doubt their speed, stability, or their grip. But you must trust them.

They will get a grip and to do so the former must loosen theirs.

I turned a corner with supporting my Dad when I accepted the baton for various responsibilities. Although I may not have felt ready, I knew Dad trusted me and that meant everything. I just resolved to do my best.

Karate is no different to other walks of life. Especially if you have a strong relationship with your mentors or Sensei….. especially Sensei. ‘The one who went before!’

Many of my seniors who inspired me earlier in my career have now had to stop training.

So-to have some of my biggest influences.

As students we may not have felt ready or worthy to take the batons from them. Some may have been unwilling to pass their batons and I have witnessed some fail to pass theirs. But for those of us still running the karate world is changing.

We simply have to do our best and make sure those around us are getting up to speed…. For one day we will pass the batons on once more.

For now I will play my part and encourage my colleagues and students to do the same. Keep pushing on as best you can 😊.

The races aren’t over yet….

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