The New Normal: Martial arts academies implement safety protocols to train during pandemic

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Like many other aspects of life, martial arts academies have been forced to adjust how they teach due to the pandemic. 

At Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Team HK in Honolulu, the new safety protocols start the moment students arrive. 

Owner of Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Team HK, Todd Tanaka, said each student must answer a series of COVID-releated questions before entering class. 

“If that’s all good, I’ll give them a no contact temperature check. If that’s good, they sanitize their feet and hands with alcohol,” Tanaka said. 

Once cleared and cleaned, students must go directly to their socially distanced workout spot that is marked by a floor sticker. 

When it comes to wearing masks during class, Tanaka gives his students a few options. 

“So they have to wear the mask until they reach their designated workout area, and from there they have the option. I always encourage them to keep the mask on at all times, but some people have different types of masks. If they have difficulty breathing, they’re allowed to take the mask off, but only in their area,” Tanaka explained. 

The biggest change, however, is noticeable. 

The once heavily contact sport is now completely contact-less. Tanaka has his students use PVC pipes as an imaginary opponent. 

“It is very easy because it’s non-porous. You put the sanitizer on it, and wipe it down very quick,” Tanaka said about why he chose to use PVC pipes.

Tanaka’s academy isn’t the only one implementing some major changes. 

Alan Sekiguchi is the chief instructor for Hawaii Shotokan Karate, which is now entirely taught online. 

“When this pandemic started, I told all the instructors that we are not going to have any more sparring, and we’re not… usually in martial arts is what we call a kiai. Kiai is the yell. So we’re not going have kiai either,” Sekiguchi said about some of the changes. 

Sekiguchi said he was contemplating heading back to the dojo, but with the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Hawaii, he’s sticking to zoom. 

Despite the challenges, Sekiguchi said it’s working. 

“This, three times a week, four times a week, training is really a blessing because it gives everybody a chance to really work out their frustrations,” he said about the benefits of practicing martial arts during a pandemic. 

Tanaka’s students also have the option to tune in from home. 

However, for those who want the in-person experience, Tanaka assures, they are cleaning everything in-between each class. 

“Then we will mop it with sanitizer and I will do the walls and wipe down the benches, anything that they’ve touched and come in contact to,” Tanaka said. 

For both instructors, surviving COVID-19 hasn’t been easy. Practicing martial arts during a pandemic is, perhaps, teaching his students the most important lesson of all. 

“That things are not always going to go your way, and you just got to make do, deal with a change, adapt, and have a good attitude,” Tanaka explained. 

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