COVID-19 has changed so many lives in so many ways and has put business, life and training into perspective. The first thing that needs to be said is that if you are healthy enough to train then you are extremely lucky and should not take that for granted. I fall into that group of people and while my business has taken a considerable dip, my outlook has not.
Unfortunately, we have seen many schools close and those who are still standing strong are forced to change with the times, which means online karate classes. Resources like Facebook, Youtube Live and Zoom have given martial arts instructors the ability to keep their businesses alive and more importantly, continue to connect with their student base. Positives and negatives can be found in EVERYTHING so below I will break down this new change to martial arts instruction as such.
Negatives – The most noticeable difference in online training is the lack of contact and the lack of students in your dojang! While you can still teach online, the amount of things you can teach are drastically cut down. You can no longer hold pads for strikes, your students can no longer work with each other on Self-Defense, Sparring or Jiu Jitsu and they can’t even line up to work kicks and punches on the heavy bags. The space may also be limited, depending on where students set up their laptops or Ipads at home. Teaching more complex things like forms and weapons is very tough as well because you cannot stand next to your student, direct them for positioning or try other teaching techniques because all you have is the screen and yourself. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen with online training is the lack of motivation and drive. The lack of motivation is not directed at the students taking class but more the circumstance. When you take class at the dojang under regular circumstances, you have to get up, get changed, get in the car and enter a different environment that makes you feel a different way. You are surrounded by other students like you and are forced to conform with the lessons being taught. At home you are comfortable, possibly in your pajamas and more than likely you are not in the mood to get up and get moving! Some children tend to take a break, lay on the couch behind them and maybe even use the chat feature on Zoom for instance, taking them away from 100% focus on the lesson and more on trying to socialize with their friends. You are then faced with the ultimate internal question that every instructor faces, do we discipline the student and get them back on track or do we let a little more slide knowing that during these times, we don’t want our students quitting because of us and how we run our classes.
Positives – The biggest positive is the opportunity to still connect with our students! Everyone who logged on for class after we were forced to shut down was very excited! It was all so different and because of that, brought a new level of excitement. As far as the skills being taught, one very big positive comes from things that were taken away. We are now forced to strip back to the basics of martial arts. Kicking in place, crosses on basic blocks and even focus on making our exercises better and more precise. Children can not only see the instructor but also themselves, which acts as a mirror to what we see when we teach them. Now when we tell them to chamber their kick higher or keep their hands up, they can take a quick glance at their screen and see the adjustments. On the back end of that, we know that when the school re-opens, students will be so grateful for the heavy bags and weapons and all the things they weren’t able to do during the pandemic. Since I use Zoom, for me personally, class times are limited now and most have to be wrapped up at the 40 minute mark. This actually can be positive because it keeps class from being drawn out and kids from getting bored. It’s better to end class with more left to teach instead of searching for things to work on! We will work technique and martial arts for a good 30 minutes and then finish with a nice 10 minutes of exercise and sweat!
All in all, this pandemic has taught us to adapt and continue onward. The kids have learned through the strength of their parents at home and the examples of their teachers in school and karate instructors that the show goes on. We make changes, pick ourselves up and make a new way that works for everyone and that lesson is invaluable!