In our 3rd Lockdown & as we approach a year of our lives being seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, not only are people getting angry & upset about its continued affect on our lives, but they cannot help but yearn for a return to normality. I, for one, cannot wait! Speaking to Instructors, parents & students, I know many of you cannot wait to get back into the Do Jang & recommence ‘normal training’.
Since the start of the pandemic, whenever we have been able to undertake our training in the Do Jang, we have had to do so in a ‘socially distanced’ manner. When government regulations have forbidden training in the Do Jang, we have resorted to continuing our training online. All in all, we are approaching one year since we have been able to do Tang Soo Do in a normal way with a partner, which is an element of how we train & learn.
As I said in a previous blog, this has affected how we, as Instructors, now have to communicate both online & in the Do Jang under restricted conditions. I genuinely think that this could be one benefit of the situation we find ourselves in. However, one area that could have been improved is the communication between ourselves & students about how they should be thinking about their training in the restricted times.
When the pandemic first started, & every time we have had a Lockdown since, we have seen significant numbers of students who have quit their training. There have been a range of reasons for this:
Fear of COVID-19 / not wanting to take risks around catching the virus
The need to shield due to age / medical conditions
A dislike of online classes
Finding the new restrictions, & therefore classes, unappealing
They have used classes as a form of ‘childcare’
Some students did stick with things for a period of time, perhaps in the hope this was all a short-term issue, but then they succumbed. A significant chunk of students have remained with us, adapted to the changes & maintained a training regime as best they can. Many have seen their enthusiasm & endurance (In Neh) ebb & flow with their mood & the seasons.
A COVID Mindset
Regardless of whether you are training online, undertaking self-led training in the garden / garage or if you are in the Do Jang under restricted conditions, your mindset & your approach to your taking needs to be different. How different depends a lot on your level, but can also relate to your age & personality.
As a beginner, you are just getting started. As such, the pandemic shouldn’t have a major impact upon your training and hence your progress. The Beginner Programme (White through to Blue Belt) focuses around 3/4 of the time on Basic Techniques (See another post for more details) & 1/4 of the time on body conditioning - building strength, muscle tone, muscular endurance & fitness. Within the Basic Techniques, we include some padwork with a partner and around 5% of the time is spent on learning some wrist grip self-defence techniques. Therefore a very large part of your training is done without a partner & that which requires a partner can be made up at a later date.
Therefore, the pandemic should have no impact upon their training & their progress through their training regime for Beginners.
At the intermediate level (Green & Red Belts), more partner training is used to develop skills in a normal classroom environment. We also see that any partner work (eg: padwork or working on blocks/strikes or self-defence) starts to become more intricate & so practicing them without a partner can become less useful. it is often the case that 50%+ of work in the Do Jang may require the input of a partner & so progress, in the traditional sense, may slow down.
The student mindset will therefore need to change. As I have been telling people for the last year, focus on your Basics & your Hyungs - this is where you can get ahead of the game. Any Red Belt remember me telling them to learn the basic outline of Bassai? You can work on your fitness & flexibility as well as any area of the simple basic techniques that you have so far struggled with.
You are still able to make progress in areas such as sparring & self-defence, particularly if you have willing partner to help at home (self-defence, that is; not sparring!). Think how many times we’ve been working on combinations - these are to support your development in sparring.
You should therefore be focussed on improving the areas that you can or where you are deficient. Rank advancement can happen but becomes less predictable & is more down to the student. It’s been interesting to see who has (& who hasn’t) been allowed to graduate.
This is the level of student that requires the biggest change in mindset. Here, the vast majority of skills will require partner input. Basic techniques & Hyungs are still a big part of training - these can be done individually, as well as starting to learn One & Three Step Sparring patterns. Weapons self-defence & clothing grabs will need to wait until we’re back & training normally, but if the Basics & the Hyungs are sorted, this gives us the time & space in class to make up the deficit. A focus on overall body conditioning will greatly assist sparring & self-defense skills.
Also, think upon your training - gain a deeper understanding of what you have learned so far & apply it to your training. Think about how what you have learned can be put into practice in real life. Focus on being a better martial artist. Take the time to rid yourself of all your weaknesses.
So, no matter what level student you are, you need to change your mindset while training during this pandemic. Providing you understand that there are still tremendous benefits to continuing training & you focus on what you can/should do until normality moves back into view, you will ultimately be a better martial artist in the long run. We’ll certainly know who’s heeded the advice & who’s finished all their box sets!