After 5 months, my martial arts studio finally reopened on August 3rd. Leading up to that moment was filled with excitement, anticipation, and anxiety, to say the least. Some of the thoughts running through my head were (and some still are):
- Can I ensure a safe atmosphere for the students?
- Is it a safe atmosphere for myself?
- Will students feel safe enough to return?
- Will I enjoy teaching class in a new, contactless setup?
- Will I get burned out teaching without assistance and doing extensive cleaning after each class?
- Are the rules and procedures I set forth going to be followed and will I have to aggressively enforce them?
Many of these questions are still running through my head but after one week I’d like to reflect upon what I have learned.
In terms of safety, I feel we are doing the absolute best we can. I require masks, everyone is 6 feet apart during class, no one brings any equipment with them, everyone washes/sanitizes their hands upon entry, we do not yell or kihap during class, there is no partner work except amongst family members, the studio is cleaned after each class, there are 3 commercial fans operating, the internal exhaust system running, and the front double doors are open.
I am not naive in thinking that this is a 100% foolproof way to ensure no one gets infected with COVID. I am confident however that short of wearing full hazmat suits we are doing all we can to remain safe.
Furthermore, I feel that if what we are doing is not safe enough then we as a society need to go on full lockdown (not the semi-lockdown from earlier this year). My studio has stricter safety measures than hair salons, grocery stores, restaurants, and gyms. If operating in the way my studio is operating does not keep us safe enough than nothing is safe and we need to stay home.
In terms of the teaching of the class itself, the jury is still out. At least for the first week, we were able to do enough in class without a partner that people still got a good workout, improved skills, and learned something new.
I am hopeful I will continue to be able to modify curriculum for COVID safety such that students are learning and improving but at the same time not losing the very important skill of timing, targeting, distance, and physical toughness (there is no substitute for getting hit). As long as this situation remains temporary, lasting months rather than years, I think everything will be fine and students will actually benefit from the level of detail required to execute partner techniques without a partner.
One last note to end on. I love fighting. I love grappling. I love throwing people. I love hitting people. I love getting hit too. As long as the pandemic is raging, we will not be able to do these things. So, do the right thing, do your part to keep yourself and those around you safe. Follow the guidelines and recommendations of health officials. Use common sense. If we do these things, we can all get back to doing the things we love whether it’s fighting people or a having a beer at the bar with your friends (sometimes those two go together).