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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Training in the Time of COVID-19: Pt 10

I'm writing this on August 4, 2020.

Right now, we're still able to train, with some restrictions.

Local rumor suggests that hard lockdowns are coming back, and maybe sooner than we'd like. That means we'd have to go virtual again.

I don't know if martial arts as we know it in the West can survive another hard lockdown.

The first round of lockdowns and the current ongoing restrictions have absolutely devastated the martial arts industry.

Long-time successful schools are finding they can't go more than a few months without students paying fees. If they're lucky, commercial landlords and other vendors (like insurers) have been flexible with payments, and they actually got the bailout funds that were distributed a few months ago. If they're unlucky, they didn't get that, and they survived by dipping into their own personal savings to keep the school going.

School memberships have, for the most part, plummeted, either due to the restrictions or the very real risk in catching COVID-19 that we have to live with these days.

If we had a census of the number of people training in February 2020, I bet it has to be no more than half of that population in August 2020.

No industry can survive that way.

Many schools are gone forever and won't be back, and they aren't going to teach any more.

Some are still hanging on in their public dojos by the skin of their teeth, going into debt to keep it going.

Some have morphed into cheap/free Meetups in parks and garages or are teaching private lessons only either in a garage or back yard or virtually.

If another lockdown comes to the level we had in March-May of 2020... I think it'll be the death-knell of the martial arts industry as we've known it.

For all the sniping we do at other styles, all the sneering about McDojos... losing these schools is NOT a good thing, even if I don't like what they teach for me, personally.

I wrote defending the existence of McDojos (here) and I still maintain they are a good thing for serious martial artists like you and me. For every 20 kids in those McDojo schools, maybe one will be a "lifer" like you and I are, and now, it's possible that lifer kid will never be introduced to training at all, and will end up doing some other activity and miss on our favorite hobby.

I am so, so very sorry for all of you out there who have put your life savings into sharing this passion of ours with the world. I really am. I know my empathy doesn't pay the bills but know that you aren't alone and someone does really care if you make it to 2021 and beyond.

Whatever happens, we are going to have to rethink everything. We are going to have to get over long-cherished notions about how to train. We're going to have to get a lot more creative and flexible than we've been before.

But for those of us who can't or won't give it up - like yours truly - we're going to find a way to keep going.

We may not have the tools we're used to (like mats or full-length mirrors or equipment like heavy bags). We may not have tournaments like we used to, although virtual tournaments are popping up, and that's kind of a neat idea for just forms competition. We may have to wait a lot longer or search harder to find gear.

But we're going to train, because we can't stop.

We won't stop.

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