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Covid-19 and Karate

The past 5 months have been a whirlwind of worry, rules, protocols and concern. With the Covid-19 pandemic spreading globally, countries were forced into lockdowns, borders were closed, travel suspended, and we were forced into a new "normal".

For some people this meant no work, for others it meant putting themselves at risk. Many industries had to change and adapt to meet the needs of their customers and clients while still following guidelines and laws.

I cannot speak for everyone or for every industry, however I can speak for the Martial Arts. Covid-19 has been a tough and trying time for many students, teachers, and school owners. Unfortunately, some dojos had no choice but to close their doors permanently. The reality for some has been grim, for others however, there has been hope. We have adapted to the times and found ways to allow our students to continue learning.

The onset of Covid-19 brought to light a new app/software that became wildly popular. Zoom is a platform for video calls and meetings. Although virtual, Zoom has given us the ability to host work meetings, see our friends, watch movies together, and even attend karate class from the comfort of your own home. Zoom has given us the opprotunity, in the martial arts industry, to keep training and honing our skills. While it isn't the same as learning in the dojo, we were still able to give real time feedback and even had more of a chance to participate WITH the students.

The excitement of being able to train in any way shape or form was long lived and even today (4 months later) we still have students coming out to Zoom classes. However, we are at the stage where the pandemic curve is flattening. While it is still not over, it has gotten much better. This has allowed for many schools to begin to run modified classes. Whether that means outdoors, 6ft feet apart, indoors, private lessons, small group classes or a crazy combination for more than one, flattening the curve has saved many dojos from closing their doors permanently.

Many countries implemented a phase-by-phase plan to re-open their economy and their country. Here in Ontario Canada we are about to enter phase3 out of 3. For us, this means that all businesses can re-open providing they are still following guidelines and health and safety protocols. What does this mean for martial arts? Well, we are able to go back inside to run small group classes. The challenge we face as school owners and instructors is the "no-contact" part of the guidelines. This means no sparring and no self defence. Not with partners at least.

So how do you work around this? Again, I cannot speak for everyone but Lion's Heart FMA has found ways that are fun, safe, and keep everyone healthy. Let's start with the noodle people. Yes you read that right. With all this spare time, we took the time to build a small..."army" of pool noodle partners that our students can use when they are in class. They are even fully clean-able! We also made sure we have enough equipment so that our students don't have to share any during classes. Everything we use gets sanitized after each and every class.

Covid-19 also meant that martial arts tournaments were canceled for the foreseeable future. Never the less, someone, somewhere came up with the idea to host free online tournaments. This meant that you would be competing is both original and fun/unique catagories with people from all over the world! How? Via Zoom of course!I participated in 2 of these so far myself and while it of course isn't the same, it was definitely good to have a little bit of friendly competition and see what I needed to work on to better myself and my skills.

I think the best part about this whole Covid experience is the new drills and activities we were able to come up with to have fun while still improving our skills at home or 6ft apart. I think this pandemic has taught all of us how to be creative, resourceful, patient and most of all, that if you face something head on with a positive, can-do attitude, you'll be able to get through it.

From an owners point of view, this pandemic has been insane. the rules and guidelines are forever changing. Classes need to be scheduled, lessons need to be taught and planned out, information always needs updating, and your students need to know you are there for them. This has been just as hard on them as it has for any of us and I think that it is super important to remember that. Especially because if it weren't for the students sticking this through with you, you may have been one of the schools to have to close its doors.

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