*Updated 10/9/2020*

The whole world has been affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic, all of us have been forced to change and adapt to a new way of living, as well as new ways of being connected when being at least six feet apart at the minimum is the new norm. Many Martial Arts schools around the world have done their best to continue to support their communities and students during this time through Zoom Classroom, Facebook Live, YouTube, and many other video streaming mediums, which is really quite an amazing feat of modern technology, but is online connection enough for all students? Martial arts by their nature are rather hands-on and do require a lot of self-discipline as students learn to master their bodies. For some students, online mediums have integrated well into their already pretty digitally-driven lives, but for those students that require more hands-on learning, it has been a challenge. Many schools and their students have struggled to transition into any form of online training, for many schools this just simply isn’t practical or accessible.

During this time period Martial Arts schools, like Gyms, Yoga Studios, and many other businesses around the world are struggling to maintain their student body and clientele as this pandemic continues on, unfortunately meaning that many of these businesses are struggling to make ends meet as income dwindles, savings deplete and bills continue to come in. The longer Martial Arts school’s doors remain closed, Martial Arts supply stores are also seeing a detrimental decline in sales, leading many businesses to the edge of bankruptcy. What does this mean for schools and businesses that survive on a near month to month basis? Unfortunately, without community support many of these schools and supply stores may not survive Covid-19. This would be such a great loss for the youth and people of our communities that take refuge in their martial arts family and community.

As Countries and States throughout the United States continue to reopen businesses to the public, many at half compacity or under other restrictions, some are wondering what they can do to safely bring students back onto the mat. This is a question we at Taekwondo Times have been seriously contemplating ourselves, many of our employees being Martial Arts school owners themselves. We have been in close contact with a handful of local Doctors and other martial arts school owners around the world throughout this process and so far, these are some of the potential safety precautions we have considered implementing for our students.

  1. Providing students with hand sanitizer of 70% Alcohol content or greater to be used upon entry and exit from the school. This can be purchased in a more cost-effective way through select local breweries and wineries.
  2. Require students to wear at the minimum a face shield or mask, but the best would be to require students to wear both forms of protection at all times while inside the school(new research suggests face shields alone do not so much protect the user from inhaling aerosolized droplets, but it does prevent their own breath droplets from spreading further than themselves. Face Shields have been shown to be a positive form of protective gear simply because people don’t touch their faces as much to adjust masks. This also allows for faces to be seen and for less constriction of breath. Face Shields are relatively inexpensive online, but there are also many DIY versions available for those that would prefer a less expensive route. This being said, the newest research shows that requiring the use of both a Face Shield and Mask is the optimal form of protection and should be highly considered in regard to preventing an outbreak at your school.
  3. Require students to maintain 6 feet of distance, unfortunately, this means no sparring or hands-on instruction/practice. Some schools may use their block floor mats as a guide, keep students one mat apart and require that students remain in their designated square during practice.
  4. This suggestion may not be received well, but speaking loudly/shouting is one of the greatest ways of distributing airborne bacteria/viruses around a room, so this unfortunately means no loud kiyups…
  5. After each class require students to clean their designated workout area and the equipment that they used with an EPA approved antibacterial cleaner/spray(This is similar to what many Yoga studios already currently do with their mats/practice space after each class)
  6. At the end of each class day do a deep clean of your floors, door handles, light switches, sinks, toilets and any equipment you deem necessary using an EPA approved antibacterial cleaner/spray. Some suggest 72 hours in between class days is also beneficial in killing any potential Covid-19 viral contamination on surfaces. To our knowledge there haven’t been any reported cases of infection from surface-based exposure, but the information surrounding this is constantly evolving and it is still being determined how well the Covid-19 virus survives on surfaces and how easily it is contracted from surface-based exposure.
  7. Another safety measure for your dojang would first be to expose your space to fresh air as much as possible, rather opening the doors or windows, this will help to dilute indoor airborne contaminants. Using things like fans to keep air circulating is also helpful, but as an extra precaution, it has been shown that HEPA Air Purifiers/Ionizers do filter Covid sized particles, while also having several other benefits in reducing airborne pollutants and allergens. This would be a great addition to the higher traffic areas of your school as a spacial precaution.
  8. One other class option to explore is holding classes outside in a park or in some other available outside space, still maintaining social distance, limiting class sizes, and using face masks/face shields, but being outside greatly limits the risk of airborne and surface-based exposure while also getting students outside in some much needed contact with nature.
  9. For those that practicing outside isn’t regularly available, consider reimagining your class structures and space to accommodate the most students while still providing adequate space for optimal safety. Two suggestions would be to reduce class time to 30-45 minutes and to increase the number of classes offered in a single night or throughout your week in order to spread out your student base, while still ensuring all students are able to attend in-person. One other suggestion to reduce cross exposure for dojang that have students from multiple schools or districts would be to assign as many students as you are able from the same school into a single martial arts class. This creates isolated pockets of students so that if a student in an assigned group tests positive, you can require isolation/testing from that group of students, rather than shutting down or exposing the whole dojang. This also helps when outbreaks occur within various schools in your district, rather than requiring the whole dojang to be tested or to isolate, you can require this for only those students with potential exposure from an active outbreak at their school. Each of these measures ideally would prevent your dojang from having to go through a complete in-person closure or whole school exposure.
  10. Depending on your school size, on a mat space of roughly 900-1000 square feet, so 10 puzzle mats wide and long, 10-12 students per class excluding the instructor and one assistant instructor would probably be the safest number of students, with 15 people total(Including instructors) being the absolute maximum for that amount of space.
  11. One way to assist in class sign up in order to ensure all students get in-person class time and that your student numbers remain consistent throughout each offered class is to assign designated classes for each student or to set up something like Sign Up Genius with a maximum cap on attendees, prioritizing that each student has access to at least your minimum required classes per week. Discussing with your students and parents to establish assigned classes may simplify the week to week process with this and if possible, as mentioned in bullet point #9, establishing consistent isolated groups of students will greatly decrease your whole school’s risk of exposure, keeping things contained within one group of students. If organizing your groups based on educational facility isn’t realistic, then potentially consider organizing your students based on belt level, age group, skill levels, etc.

We at Taekwondo Times will do our best to stay up to date and to share any suggestions as we all adapt to life during this pandemic time period and moving forward. We are all in this together. If you love your martial arts school, equipment supply store, etc. Please consider giving any support that you are able to as we all do our best to survive and to hopefully thrive during this time together.

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