On 23rd June the UK Government announced a further easing of lockdown measures in England, paving the way for a vast cut of the high street and economy to return. As an industry we were devastated to hear that gyms and indoor fitness classes would not be permitted to re-open until ‘atleast mid-July’ despite allowing cinemas, bingo halls, salons and other businesses the opportunity to re-open.
Perhaps rather bizarrely, a handful of martial arts associations declared that martial arts (without being specific to style) was classed as Leisure and was therefore not counted as a sport or fitness, and could therefore re-open in venues that were to re-open to public bookings (social clubs, religious buildings, village halls etc).
This caused mass confusion throughout martial arts, with instructors and clubs baring the brunt of the indecision and lack of clarity. We have been pushing DCMS to clarify their position explicitly for martial arts since the news broke, and today we have gained final clarity.
What’s the ruling?
Unfortunately martial arts can NOT return on July 4th.
Much as we had suspected, martial arts – despite receiving absolutely no backing or direct mention from Government – is to be classified alongside Dance, Yoga, Pilates and other fitness provisions. This means the ruling – which is law, not mere guidance – prohibits martial arts from returning in doors.
We would like to extend a big thank you to the Sport & Recreation Alliance and in particular Max Nicholls in their Policy team for assisting us in producing a crystal clear piece of guidance to clarify the situation.
Just to follow up on [BMABA’s previous correspondence on Covid and lockdown], we have now had confirmation from DCMS that fitness and sport activities should not take place in indoor venues which can reopen from 4 July, such as community centres, [including martial arts]. Confirmation of this is available on the government website here.
So what now?
We know this isn’t the answer any of us was hoping for, but it perhaps isn’t coming as a great shock. The Government’s decision making is supposedly based on the concern that sweat from physical exertion will present a heightened risk of infection. Clearly if Dance, Pilates and Yoga falls under the same ‘umbrella’ as a wide range of other fitness and indoor sports training classes, it’s logical that martial arts would also be swept up in this guidance.
So what was being said by other associations?
We’re not going to ‘bad-mouth’ any other associations specifically. We know it’s a challenging time and many smaller associations will be desperate to bring their members back to dojos, to keep association membership fees incoming. The main source of the confusion is not clear and, we’re sure, based on the best intentions of one or two specific associations. Effectively the confusion seems to have arisen from a response from one council in respect of permitting access to premises/venues for hire.
When news first broke, there was mass confusion surrounding whether or not venues that are permitted to re-open (church halls, mosques, village halls etc) could also resume their regular bookings. This does have a strand of logic to it, with the sports prohibition not withstanding. Unfortunately nobody has received advance warning of the Government briefing and this has led to venues, organisations and councils all reaching their own ‘common sense’ decision.
The guidance now provided by DCMS clears this up and the Sport & Recreation Alliance also providing clarity – as the leaders for the sport and recreation sector – closes the matter for the time being. We have been members of the SRA for a number of years and will continue to work with their policy team to ensure we accurately relay any Government guidance and it’s impact on martial arts.
You can learn more about our accreditation and partners here.
For now clubs should sit tight and await a further update ‘mid-July’. There is tremendous pressure to re-open the sport and fitness sector. Public health – both mental and physical – has never been more important than now. We’re confident the industry will be able to resume in just a couple of weeks and would strongly urge caution and compliance with the Government guidelines.
We appreciate first hand it is far from straight forward and inevitably this will be disappointing to all of our members, as well as the wider community across England who had hoped to resume some sort of normality this weekend.
We believe we are very nearly there. A final ‘official’ release from closure should be with us soon and we will share this across all of our social media channels for our members and the wider community.
What else are we doing to help?
We’ve done everything possible to help the UK martial arts industry pull through this pandemic. Everything from an entire online delivery centre through to all of the insurance extensions needed to allow online and in-person (outdoor) training has been set up and provided by the BMABA without charge. You can learn more about our Coronavirus action plan here.