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  • Writer's pictureMatt Powell

That guy in the Mirror is not as good as me!

Recently I rediscovered the work of Simon Sinek and I have been reading his book Start with Why’. It has really encouraged me to think about motivation and explore my own drive for karate training and teaching. I have an awesome banner in my dojo. It came as a gift when I ordered a bunch of Gi’s. It reads as follows:

‘Adidas Karate; making history’.

Ironically, I had not really noticed it until the other day when I was having a clean-up. I have been using it as a blind while teaching Zoom classes and I had never consciously read it. But on Friday (perhaps because I have read Simon’s book), I noticed what it said, and I stopped to think about it.

I am no shrinking violet, but even I am not as confident as to profess to making history, but Petersfield karate; making memories sounds in comparison a little sentimental!

After some considerable thinking I defined my why and have formalised it as our own dojo moto:

‘Petersfield karate; inspiring confidence to unlock potential’.

I often reference personal experiences in my karate classes and have mentioned many times that Karate is my source of Self Esteem. I have realised that I quite simply want to enable Karate to offer similar value to as many people as I can.

In 2009 when Sensei Dewey asked me to take on a small dojo in Froxfield, he gave me some wonderful and truly valuable advice. Sensei said that his own dojo had never been stronger than when he was leading from the front’. For a little while I had not pondered that advice and in reflection I had been defocused by other pressures in life. I had not been teaching to my fullest potential. But now that advice is once again resonating in my mind.

Lockdown has forced me to reboot, to rethink. To focus initially on myself and then reach out. I wanted to encourage our students to train online and push forward so I quite simply had to

Lead from the front’.

I had not outwardly admitted it, but in March I was out of shape and far from my best. In reflection the clues were there, I was 10kg’s heavier than my Squad weight and during a photoshoot with my team before Christmas a hamstring injury had hindered my kicking. We captured the pictures I was after, but I was not genuinely happy with my own form. To be honest, I was very conscious that I was not kicking as high as at the shoot I had taken part in ten years earlier. A part of me worried that I was past my best!

One of my favourite people in karate is Sensei Malcolm Phipps of Seishinkai. Malcolm has a wonderful saying. ‘The Older I get the better I was’. It is Sensei’s tongue in cheek way of referencing all of those who look back on their own abilities through rose coloured glasses, but it also has a bitter-sweet reality that at some point we must all embrace. I was not ready to accept that my best form was in the past.

So, I went to work!

It started with a spring clean of the home dojo. (Never has the inside of our Vacuum seen as many spiders). I then gently started flowing through some basics and doing kata mirror work to appraise my form. I was not impressed. I have a saying I often use in my dojo and suddenly it was not far from the truth:

‘Hey, that guy in the Mirror is not as good as me!’

I did not do anything revolutionary. In-fact it was an exercise in literally going back to basics. But I started with drill and combination work and with daily effort built from there. The next step was when I started watching back my Zoom classes so that I could record the drills and help my members with revision content. Now the guy on screen was not really representing the best version of me.

Confidence is crucial to everyone’s performance but equally so is a true appreciation of self. I believe it was Lao Tsu who said:

"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom."

Since June I have been regularly filming and capturing digital content for our karate students. This work has been supported by the creative talents of Liam Brown who is developing into a maestro in editing (thanks Liam). This content must be authentic, and we often resist over rehearsing or tirelessly re-filming as it does not capture my personality or essentially the spontaneous way I teach. Already I look back at some of our earlier efforts and think ‘hmmmm, I would not mind shooting that again, I think I can do it better!’

But our premise is simple, we just try to get a little better each time we put some work out into the ether.

Next week we resume training in our Dojo’s albeit in a vastly different format to our normal. We will be working in several smaller groups and classes that I will be leading. Teaching without pair work for the foreseeable and operating at a minimum of two-meter distance from those in our ‘training bubble’s’. Whilst this is in many ways frustrating, I simply cannot wait to get back in front of our karate community.

I am now 12kg’s lighter than I was at the beginning of lockdown. I feel sharp and ready to come out of the blocks. Perhaps most importantly I feel my enthusiasm and energy has really benefitted from the enforced rest and reboot. A few days ago, I met with Jon Watson one of my Senior Students and we went for it on another photoshoot. I was much happier this time. The form is looking better, the kicks higher and the hair (much to my wife’s disgust) longer.

I feel ready. Ready to Lead from the front!

And I have realised that despite my best efforts,

The guy in the mirror is STILL not as good as me!

Happy Days and keep improving. Osu.

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