It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a strange year so far! When COVID and lockdown hit us fully in March, we needed to be fighting fit and battle to keep going – and that’s what we did.
We initially lost around 25% of students who cancelled their memberships and thus have lost contact with us. For the rest of the students who remained with us and have supported us throughout, can I thank you immensely, as without that support the club wouldn’t be here now.
Students were able to join us on our Zoom classes, where we provided both syllabus and fitness training every week for all groups, from Little Dragons to Adults. Originally recorded from home, it came with its own challenges, but this new approach forced us into a new area where we developed a series of videos to support the students home learning as they were able to watch the techniques and practise at home.
This new remote way of teaching was so successful that we were able to award nearly 100 junior and adult students their next grade in July – a great way of rewarding and recognising progress. Little Dragons didn’t miss out, with their own brand of online class with some fun and games too, and of course the awarding of their progress tabs.
As we weren’t able to meet for our annual competitions, we held a virtual Zoom kata competition for both juniors and adults. Our Academy winners progressed to the grand final and we had some champions from that too.
We thought we were back open at the end of July, but Blackburn remained in lockdown restrictions. We moved our adult class to Accrington temporarily, with the support of our Academy there, and had some live, but socially distanced, training. It felt good to be back on the mat.
The Academy being closed was also an opportunity to give a bit of a facelift with some new signage and artwork.
We joined a group of other gyms, fitness and health & beauty businesses and began to put pressure the Local Authority, our MP and local media, to get our venues reopened as soon as possible. The fitness and mental health benefits of participation are immense and it was bizarre that we weren’t allowed to reopen.
Finally on 8th September, our local restrictions were lifted and we reopened. Students noticed a change to our set up as we had become COVID-Secure. Restrictions on visitors and students, temperature checking, booking of classes, social distancing during class and arriving in uniform were all measures we put in place to keep everyone safe. With over 1,500 attendances since we reopened, we’re proud to say we’ve not had a single COVID case or transmission in our classes.
The earlier work with the local authority really paid dividends when in October we went into Tier 3 lockdown, as they all fought for us to remain open this time.
We’ve missed out on a lot this year, but we are organising our junior awards night on Zoom for a date to be announced shortly in November, and our Academy Annual General Meeting too. Junior gradings in November will be awarded following a teacher assessment in class, so no need for the journey over to Accrington, as will the adult gradings too in early December.
Should more restrictions be brought in, I’m sure it will be for a much shorter period and we will support it, as we will the students by jumping straight back onto Zoom classes.
So what have we learnt so far?
As instructors we’ve had to really expand our teaching methods and also offer up a lot of new and different elements into our students training to keep them motivated.
The video syllabus support has been a massive success, and we are developing this further with the introduction of a new Members Portal shortly, with a where students can access this content more easily, along with other features such as our online ProShop for all equipment purchases, and a quick link to our online class booking system.
We’ve also learned that the students who have stuck with us throughout are those generally who have been with us longer and really understand the benefits of training in martial arts. It’s also been great to see some of our most recent students embrace this too.
It’s been tough, it’ll be tough again I’m sure, but our commitment to you all is as great as ever as you travel on that journey to black belt and beyond.
If you’re reading this and have not returned back to class yet, then please do, as we are as safe, if not safer, than most other activities. If you’re a potential new student, please check us out and get involved as soon as possible. Waiting until it all blows over may be a long wait!
Our classes are filling up again, particularly on Saturdays, but if you’ve supported us throughout the summer lockdown, then please feel free to do as many extra Monday to Friday classes as you can fit in. We owe it to you!
That’s one of the ways we can say a big ‘Thank You’.
Keigu (Kind Regards)