Keep Calm and Do Karate!

There is no denying that 2020 was a year that challenged us all in one way or another. The start of our first 4-week hard lockdown at the end of March 2020 was a time where the future was very uncertain and had the potential to be very bleak. So in the face of such adversity, there was but one option – keep calm and do karate. With only 2 days’ notice of a complete lockdown in New Zealand, my sons and I hatched a plan to convert our small indoor swimming pool into an online dojo. As our family business is classed as an essential service, we remained partially open and there was a lot to do to meet the new operational criteria imposed by Covid-19. Even so, within 2 weeks we began experimenting with online classes. We first began with an “all grades” class then moved to offering 2 classes per week for each belt color. During the 2 weeks, it took to complete the dojo, my sons had provided pre-recorded classes for students at home to follow along to, in order to keep them connected. This seemed to work very well with many students eagerly awaiting the next video installment. A dojo at home had always been on my wish list and since completing it we have used the area for more than we ever used the pool below it. This has also provided me with the inspiration needed to rename our club and our new dojo. For 10 years I have not been able to find a name for our club, beyond the location of our first class (Westburn School), that I felt was a good fit for us. None of the options we came up with ever felt right for our group.

Having a dojo at home renewed my search for an appropriate name and we have now settled on Jyunanshin Dojo – Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Spirit (and also related to the saying “Nana Korobi Ya Oki”. This is a Japanese saying which means: seven times fall, eight times rise). I feel this sums up our underlying philosophy and reflects the way that we have approached the challenges we have faced in the past and the way that we will face new challenges in the future. While Zoom/Skype/FaceTime classes lack the ability for Kumite and immediate physical feedback, they still offer value when it is not possible to train with others. I have noticed that the more we have used online classes to teach and critique students, the better we have become at doing so and the better students have become at learning through this medium.

In the absence of in-person training, online classes have ensured we all stay connected to one another and that students keep in the habit of training. While we have fewer students now than we did at the start of our lockdown, I feel that we have lost fewer students than we would have, had we not offered online classes. By the end of September 2020, we had experienced a variety of restrictions, however, we were able to hold our annual Karate Party and Grading in person. Although the event was missing the group dinner and after-training activities we normally have, it was still valuable in allowing us to combine our classes into a single activity once more.

Although we are currently training in person once again, the value of online classes has remained, as we train Kobudo with Dometrich Sensei from opposite hemispheres of the planet. We have also experimented with recording 4 Zoom feeds from different walls of the dojo at the same time, so that we can see the front, back, and both sides of a kata being performed in real-time. By providing this option or the recording to those unable to physically attend class, they are able to offer valuable insights to assist the student. In the not too distant future, I hope that we may be able to host an online kata competition with judges located in many different locations – if anyone is interested in developing this idea, please contact me: