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Could Martial Arts Be Back By Mid-March?

It seems a tantalising possibility, and one which has been dashed so many times over the past twelve months. Nearly a year to the day since many of our clubs and instructors were forced to shut their classes, it seems increasingly likely we may be returning before the anticipated return date of mid-April.

This is far from confirmed and you should not bank on this for key financial decisions (such as taking out insurance etc) just yet, but there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. However you feel about the UK’s response to the pandemic, it’s hard to argue the progress made in vaccinating more than 10,000,000 since lockdown restarted for a third time in January is superb. As a sector, martial arts has been completely forgotten and all but completely left to fend for ourselves over the past year but, fortunately, health and fitness is in the spot light after many months of inactivity.

As it stands, there are now a growing number of national media reports on the potential of Sports – both ‘team sports’ and ‘individual sports’ – being pencilled in for a return shortly after Schools are scheduled to go back in England. This date is 8th March. Reasonably, if all goes well, this could mean sports resuming anywhere between 12th and 22nd March. There are obviously alot of ‘ifs’. The vaccine programme must continue to progress. Schools need to safely return. BUT – and we’ll hang on this for the moment – sports and exercise appear to be close to the front of the pack for areas of life set to be eased from lockdown first. In the devolved nations we could also see similar – if not sooner – return dates as whispers of gyms re-opening as a priority start to build. For now this is speculation, but it’s something to watch closely.

What will martial arts look like if we go back mid-March?

How long is the proverbial piece of strong?

At the moment, our best guess is a return to something similar to spring last year. That may be limited outdoor non-contact sessions in groups of 6 (one instructor and 5 students). We may be lucky enough to see rules similar to that of last year which did not limit groups in size, but just required strict social distancing in place when training outdoors.

We believe outdoor only training is likely going to be the way we resume initially, with the potential of teaching indoors in schools or – hopefully – for children (those under 18 years of age) and disabled adults. It’s very hard to accurately predict this. We’re told the NHS is still under strain but the vaccine seems to be working and this has always been the light at the end of the tunnel.

Contact martial arts is likely going to be delayed further still. We’re hopeful the warmer days and later evenings will make outdoor training viable for the spring months, with indoor training resuming as soon as possible. It is possible this could be as early as March/April if gyms are permitted to return, but we would recommend strongly that clubs plan for an outdoor environment to try and safeguard against indoor exercise being held back.

Unfortunately it could be late summer or autumn before contact and grappling is permitted. We’ll be pushing DCMS to make it a reality as soon as possible but the Government’s current position is one of caution, so we’re going to be supporting close contact and grappling based clubs longer into the summer months.

Should I get my insurances set up, and start arranging training space?

For now it’s something to watch very closely. This is not a given by any stretch, so please think carefully before committing any money toward insurance, venues and equipment. Unfortunately, experience tells us the UK Government may leave us all in the dark until – quite literally – the night before restrictions change. Things seem a little more in control this time around, so we’re hopeful we may have two or three weeks notice which would be the perfect time to get insurances set up and running.

It is very important that clubs hoping to return asap take the time to now start planning how they can safely manage outdoor training. If we’re lucky, gyms will re-open (along with leisure centres and village halls etc for sports classes) but until this becomes evident, you should be speaking with your local authority and ensuring you have the right permissions to teach in public areas when circumstances permit. If you haven’t already, start talking with your association or insurer (if you’ve let your insurances lapse) to be clear on costs and conditions for post-covid training too.

Our COVID recovery fund will be opened on Monday 22nd February if things remain on-track for a possible March resumption date.

Where is this in the media?

You’ll find similar reports emerging from all areas of the press this morning. Here’s one example, from the Mail. We must urge clubs to take this with a pinch of salt for now – but to remain ready for the possibility of a March restart.

We’re launching our new COVID Recovery Fund this month to help clubs return to the mats.

Our Fund will provide free of charge student insurances and instructor insurances to bridge the initial period from lockdown to classes filling up again. We’ll also be providing enhanced support for not-for-profits and grappling based clubs who have been hit hardest by restrictions over the past twelve months.

We’ll do everything we can to stand by clubs, and make UK Martial Arts’ return to play a success. This is a self-funded initiative by BMABA to honour the dedication shown by our instructors. The scheme will be open to non-members and current members.

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Access expert guidance and speak with our dedicated team for queries on membership, insurance, eligibility, us or just about anything else you might need.

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