Photos: Worcestershire Martial Arts owners: Sally Gleaves (5th Dan) and Adam Monks (3rd Dan)
We are living through one of the most extraordinary and difficult times. The COVID-19 crisis has caused a terrible amount of disruption nationwide and has led to the closure of schools, workplaces and sports clubs including martial arts schools.
The nationwide lockdown threatens both our physical and mental health. Opportunities for exercise outside of our homes are severely restricted, and social isolation risks mental health difficulties including anxiety and depression.
As well as the more obvious physical health benefits of Taekwon-do, such as keeping fit and building strength, it can also be beneficial to mental health by helping to reduce stress and improve focus.
How can we keep training during the lockdown?
Worcestershire Martial Arts, a pioneer of online learning, has launched video lessons in Taekwon-do and kickboxing to help its students continue training in martial arts during the lockdown.
The video lessons cover step-by-step patterns, grade-specific line-work, guided warm-ups and leg strength exercises, sparring movement and combinations, as well as boxing and kicking tutorials and games for younger children designed to improve balance and coordination. All are led by the club’s owners, Sally Gleaves (5th Dan) and Adam Monks (3rd Dan).
Photo: Worcestershire Martial Arts student Georgie Bull training at home
Additionally, Worcestershire Martial Arts will be coordinating video-based colour belt gradings whilst the lockdown remains, and the club has a thriving Facebook community, with regular challenges and competitions for members.
The club has been leading the way in online learning initiatives for a number of years with its extensive e-learning material and it’s great to see further innovation with digital solutions to training and learning as a way to overcome the restrictions of the lockdown. Adaptation and finding ways to overcome difficulties is very much in the spirit of Taekwon-do.
Photos: Reviews from Worcestershire Martial Arts students
In the midst of a global crisis, with worries for loved ones, job security and the future, it can be difficult to do anything productive or even to ‘carry on as normal’. One of the most insidious things about the awful coronavirus is that it causes so much fear and anxiety. With the constant barrage of upsetting news on the virus in the media, it can feel inescapable sometimes. Fear can manifest in a huge variety of ways that can disrupt our daily lives, including stress, fatigue, and experiencing difficulties with focus/concentration. This can make it more difficult to do the things we want to do, such as continuing to train in Taekwon-do at home.
However, I would encourage all to continue training at home as much as possible, even during times when it may feel impossible to do much of anything. Making the effort, especially when experiencing anxiety and depression, is a great achievement to be proud of - these are tough times, and it’s far easier to just bury our heads in the sand, but it’s important to take action to look after our own health.
There are plenty of reasons why we should keep training during lockdown, here are just a few:
Maintaining what we worked hard to build
Unless maintained fitness, flexibility and strength deteriorates at a shocking rate. The lockdown threatens to knock us all down several pegs on these ladders if we don’t take action to prevent it.
We’ve all worked incredibly hard to get where we are today - it would be a great shame for this awful coronavirus to result in us losing much of what we have achieved over the months or even years we have been training for.
Taking care of our mental health
Those of us who struggle with depression and anxiety may face challenges during the lockdown. For many other people too, the isolation may be difficult and frustrating to deal with at times. I’m sure that we will all be missing our club and our Worcestershire Martial Arts community.
Firstly, I would encourage all to engage with the community on Facebook or Instagram and consider taking part in challenges and online events. All of us could benefit from some time socialising and light-hearted fun during these stressful times. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the community if you are struggling in lockdown - we are a martial arts family, after all.
Secondly, we must now take care to pay attention to our mental health. Having to cope with and adapt to rapid change, as we have experienced with the restrictions and lockdown coming in quickly, is a risk factor.
I have lived with depression and anxiety for most of my life, due to my mental health condition, and have found that both action and distraction can be helpful for managing both conditions. Training is something to focus on when I feel overwhelmed, it can take my mind off of worries about the pandemic and the future for a period of time at least. Training is also one of the few areas in my life that I can take control of in the midst of all the restrictions - there is not much I can do to help family members who live in another city, but I do have control over how much I can exercise and maintain my own health.
I feel it’s important for our mental health to regain control over our lives in any way we can, however small, at a time when it feels like we have very little control over what will happen.
Building strength and fitness is a powerful act; it takes us out of a position of helplessness. We are not just sitting on our sofas, simply waiting for the crisis to end, we are taking action and using the time in lockdown to fulfil our training goals. As soon as we act, we are no longer powerless.
Sticking to our values and supporting our community
We often hear that Taekwon-do is a way of life, not just a sport. This is now more apparent than ever if we consider that three of the five pillars of Taekwon-do - self-control, perseverance and indomitable spirit - are now daily practices and challenges in lockdown.
Continuing to train at home can help us to connect with the values that we are relying on to survive lockdown. Additionally, continuing to train in Taekwon-do proves to both ourselves and our community that we truly do live these values.
It’s vital to support our club, our peers and the martial arts community as a whole during this uncertain time. Any student, from white belt to black belt, can be an ambassador for the martial arts community. We can do this by leading by example - continuing our training, encouraging and supporting peers and sharing our enthusiasm for Taekwon-do. It’s up to all of us to make an effort to ensure the survival of the club and community that we love.
Photo: Worcestershire Martial Arts student Charlie Davidson training at home
It’s important to keep training at home, because we can defy the pandemic, in our own small way. It’s possible for every single one of us to come out of lockdown fitter, stronger and better than we were before. And to those who have yet to train at home - it’s never too late.