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  • Matthew Powell

Mentors, Role Models and Heroes

Thirty years ago this summer my father drove me to watch my first karate class in Portsmouth. For me the memories are vivid and fresh. We had a battered yellow Vauxhall Chevette without seat- belts in the back, but I had my Dad’s moral support so I felt safe and confident to give it a go. This was the first time I remember feeling nervous and anxious, but most importantly it was this visit the set me on the road I walk to this day.

Karate has personally delivered so much for me. It has introduced me to the best of friends, a fascinating array of characters and personalities, taken me to parts of the world I would have never seen otherwise, challenged me to overcome fears and self-doubt and introduced me to my wonderful wife! Perhaps equally as important however, it has provided My vehicle for Self-Esteem.

I simply can’t imagine my life without karate. Apart from a break in my teens it has always been there delivering challenges, Life-experience and opportunity. I am grateful that by fate I grew up in a dojo and association (SEKU) of pedigree. I was surrounded by personalities and presence not to mention skill and spirit by the bucket load. SEKU delivered role models in the form of the champions who inspired on the mat, mentors at dojo level who let me express my own approach and a Hero whose presence and explosive performance remain my bench-mark to this day. I struggle to think of a work challenge where I haven’t drawn on some karate experience to push through and ‘get-on-with-it’.

I realised recently however that whilst these karate influences had bolstered my self-esteem and confidence (doubtlessly influencing work and general life) it was my life Hero who had most greatly influenced my karate. The man who took me to my first class is the man whose personality and grit drive me to keep getting better and engage with all of my students.

My Dad is my absolute hero. He is Charismatic, Handsome, Hilarious and engaging, he is all I have ever wanted to be. I love him dearly.

In the year 2000 my Dad was diagnosed with a rare blood Cancer called Multiple Myeloma. He was 42 and I was 21 and life changed for us all that day. The condition is aggressive and merciless; it attacks your immune system and weakens your bones and skeletal structure. At the time the Cancer was by definition rare in ‘younger-people’ so they hit Dad with the most extreme Chemotherapy that was available as he was healthy enough to battle it. What a nightmare!

I was lucky; I had karate as an escape. My Dad had to battle the nausea, the invasive treatments and then ultimately stem cell transplants, near fatal bouts of MRSA and then a full bone marrow transplant. Somehow he managed to do so with integrity and humour! My Mum is his rock and is ALWAYS there for support, but Dad can always lighten the mood and never makes it ‘about-him’. Cancer does not define my Dad, his personality does.

I have witnessed him battle the most extreme treatments and side-effects rarely moaning or complaining. He is always interested in others and their achievements and takes a lot of joy from the success of our Dojos and Association. I can engage and converse with my students thanks to my Dad’s example. This example is my greatest gift. I teach Shotokan inspired by my Karate Mentors and my Dad’s resilience and personality..... Stay positive!

When my Dad was diagnosed the prognosis was not good. He was faced with two to five years at best. That was Seventeen years ago and until recently a cure for the condition remained a distant hope.

Last year a major break-through revealed itself. A pioneering team at the Sheffield Hospital has developed a virus that attacks Myeloma Cells ultimately killing the cancer. Initial trials have had fantastic results, but it is still early days and the trials require significant funding to proceed and gain momentum.

I was thrilled earlier this year when my colleagues in our association suggested that we support the charity with a karate course where all of the proceeds are donated to the trust in support for their pioneering work and ultimately to recognise our love and respect for my Father, Dave Powell.

We will be teaching as a team of five and are preparing the content and context of the course now. I have personally never felt more motivated to deliver inspirational content. My personal theme will be humour, resilience and the will to survive. The course is at our Petersfield dojo on the 7th of May 1pm till 4pm and EVERYONE is welcome (ages 8 years and above).

I guarantee it will be a well delivered, structured and insightful course. After all when I need inspiration in karate I look to many sources, when I need inspiration in life....... I look to my Dad!

This course is for my Hero. .... please join us. xx

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