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Shudokan Black Belt Academy

Our 2020

Posted: January 04, 2021

Hello and welcome to our new monthly blog! 

This is our first post. Step one. We’re pretty excited to begin telling our story. 

As this blog grows, we’re going to paint a picture of what goes on here at the Shudokan Black Belt Academy, of who we are, and why we do what we do. We hope you’ll come along for the ride. 

So, where to begin with that first step? I think a fantastic place to start would be our account of the events of the last year.

Like many other people, we started 2020 with all the optimism of a new decade. The Academy was growing, as were our families, and things were good. 

Obviously, we all know what happened next.

With rumours of a highly infectious virus making its way around the globe, things began to get hard. At the beginning of the pandemic, people weren’t sure what to make of it. It was this uncertainty that was the first sign that this was like nothing we had seen before. Then, in March, the bombshell hit. Rising cases of Covid-19 meant that, like many others, our nation went into lockdown. All non-essential businesses had to close, to help stop the spread of the virus. 

We closed our doors. 

At first, the unofficial feeling was that this lockdown would last a couple of weeks, a month at most. 

 "Was there even a point? Would there be an Academy left to

re-open after lockdown lifted? Would people want to come back?"

OK, we thought. A few weeks. This is going to be fine. We quickly put a plan together. The very next morning after the announcement, the team got together to hash out just what we were going to do to continue to deliver the best possible service for our students while the dojo was closed. 

We scheduled daily live-streamed Facebook classes from our homes and gardens. We produced tutorial commentaries that broke down basic techniques and self-defence to core principles. We created weekly exercise and artistic challenges to help people stay fit and entertained at home. We even got our families involved! 

In short, we threw every we could come up with into those few weeks of planning. After all, populating a four-week plan is easy…

Again, we all know what happened next. 

As it became apparent that we were not going to be opening the doors again anytime soon, we were faced with a harsh choice. Do we continue or do we quit? 

We had established a demanding schedule of daily livestreams. We had roped in our families to help us with recording and demonstrating techniques. We had to produce regular video commentaries, and continue to create fun and games for families stuck at home. If we chose to carry on, we would have to maintain that schedule! Was there even a point? Would there be an Academy left to re-open after lockdown lifted? Would people want to come back? 

These were all questions we seriously considered. But quitting just isn’t our style.

So, OK, we were going to carry on. But we didn’t simply continue. We accelerated. We created new ways of teaching. We developed new systems to allow students to train either solo or with inexperienced family. We pushed to keep our Dojo motivated so that not only the team but our students would come out of this event unbroken. 

When restrictions allowed it, the team got back into the Dojo and continued to stream classes together from the mat. (What a relief that was after training on a hard patio!)

In short, we adapted.

And it worked. By the end of lockdown, after four months of livestreams, four months of closed doors, four months of no students in the building let alone on the mat, we could open the Dojo to our students and train again! But there was a catch. Whilst the instructors could make contact with each other, students were prohibited from making contact with anyone outside of their own families and support bubbles. And classes were limited to open-air activities only. 

How on earth were we going to deliver meaningful training when people couldn’t even touch, not to mention throw or pin?

So, yet again, we adapted.

The first thing we accepted was that the circumstances were immutable, and universal. So instead of looking for loopholes, we just set to work with what we had. 

It was time to invent new ways of training again—for the second time in the space of a few months!

Once the open-air classes were able to start up, we formalised a sort of non-contact ‘mirror’ training where students executed their own halves of a techniques whilst maintaining separation. We increased the amount of cardiovascular exercise, to offset the decrease in partnered training. We added more sword work. This allowed students to experience an almost unchanged training experience, as the swords force us to maintain distance by definition. 

We even changed the structure of the classes, adding more changes in theme, focus, and intensity. So that whatever we were doing, the classes remained high pace, aerobic, and entertaining.

"We do not know what the future will bring.

Well, I guess that’s not completely true. We do know one thing."

And you know what? We are now better at doing what we do than we ever have been before! Even after being allowed to move classes back inside, we have kept many of the structures and techniques in place that we were forced to adopt earlier in the year. Mirrored training in particular has been incredibly useful in teaching students to receive as well as deliver techniques. It will continue even after we’re able to get hands-on again.

October. When the second lockdown hit, it was so smooth we barely noticed it. Classes went back online for a few weeks, everyone had a great time, and then it was back on the mats like nothing had happened. 'We're getting pretty good at this now', we thought.

Even now we are still creating, scrapping, and re-creating. We are pushing the bounds on what is possible under the restrictions of social distancing so that no matter what happens, our students get the best quality of tuition we can provide.

What this year has taught us is that we do not know what the future will bring. Well, I guess that’s not completely true. We do know one thing. The future will continue to bring change. It always has, both for those who came before us, and for us. 

And when the next change comes, we already know what we’re going to do.  

You got it, ADAPT.

Osu,

Sensei Matt