News & Blog

Latest Updates On Covid Tiers & Martial Arts Instruction

It seems to be somewhat of a regular feature for martial arts already this winter. As a collective industry we adapt and flow to new restrictions, changes and methods in the hope of maintaining our clubs long enough to see day light again, in what is (we hope) likely to be the Spring of 2021.

Just like our students, we have to roll with the punches doing our best to deflect, avoid and absorb the hits. Yet again today tens of thousands of instructors and hundreds of thousands of students across UK martial arts will have been desperately searching the news for updates. This evening, for England atleast, Boris Johnson delivered his update.

Here we go again…


This information is up to date and correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publishing but please do follow the links to the .GOV website to double check there have been no later changes or updates.

A quick foreword;

As a team, BMABA have worked 7 days a week since March to keep our clubs up to date on the latest guidance. We’ve introduced industry-first and industry-leading tools, resources and provisions to help clubs survive lockdown and thrive post-lockdown. As winter approaches, we remain fully committed to a 7 day a week service to keep clubs alive until Spring.

The guidance provided below is designed to try and provide a ‘verbatim’, martial arts specific version of Government guidance and we link back to the official Government sources on each occasion. We would recommend you do your own research on the .GOV website using the links provided. If you are being alerted to different guidance via non-substantiated sources online, please check with your local authority directly before proceeding.

What are the new restrictions for England, and what does the new risk-level (tier system) mean for martial arts?

To get an accurate picture of things, we need to draw in a few official sources. We don’t deal with anything other than confirmed Government sources to try and ensure the information shared is as up to date as possible.

As it stands;

  • There are 3 risk ratings for England – 1 (medium), 2 (high) and 3 (very high)

  • There appears to be no grounds to suspend any classes or stop any clubs from operating in any of the risk categories provided they continue to follow stringent guidelines.

The divide at the moment looks a little as follows;

(Credit: Sky News)

Let’s take a look at the restrictions in each category;


Clubs and instructors within the level 1 medium risk category can continue to follow the Government’s guidance for a phased return to recreation, including the latest updates on the rule of 6. This means clubs and instructors can continue to deliver training to groups larger than 6 provided all relevant and current guidelines are met, including strict social distancing and ensuring groups do not arrive, depart or ‘mingle’ in groups of 6 or more. We have covered this previously, if you need to refresh yourself.

If you would like to see the full references for this, please click here to see the .GOV website. You will note the blue warning box to confirm the summary points only apply to the lowest level of risk – Medium (1).

This area of risk applies to all areas in England, apart from those listed below as high or very high.



It would appear that for those in level 2 (high risk) you may also continue teaching indoors per the above the guidance. The specific reference to this can be found here, under the category for High Risk. We have highlighted the sentence most relevant to indoor classes.

exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These [classes] will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with, or for youth or disability sport

We hope this provides comfort to many clubs in the predominantly North of England and surrounding regions. If you are in any doubt or have heard information contrary to the above we would recommend going straight to your local authority to rule out any regional variations however the above is from an official source.

At the time of publication, areas classed as ‘high’ are as follows;


    • Cheshire West and Chester
    • Cheshire East
    • Warrington

Greater Manchester

    • Manchester
    • Bolton
    • Bury
    • Stockport
    • Tameside
    • Trafford
    • Wigan
    • Salford
    • Rochdale
    • Oldham


    • High Peak ‒ the wards of:
      • Tintwistle
      • Padfield
      • Dinting
      • St John’s
      • Old Glossop
      • Whitfield
      • Simmondley
      • Gamesley
      • Howard Town
      • Hadfield South
      • Hadfield North


    • Blackpool
    • Blackburn with Darwen
    • Burnley
    • Chorley
    • Fylde
    • Hyndburn
    • Lancaster
    • Pendle
    • Preston
    • Ribble Valley
    • Rossendale
    • South Ribble
    • West Lancashire
    • Wyre

West Yorkshire

    • Leeds
    • Bradford
    • Kirklees
    • Calderdale
    • Wakefield

South Yorkshire

    • Barnsley
    • Rotherham
    • Doncaster
    • Sheffield


    • Durham


    • Northumberland

Tyne and Wear

    • Newcastle
    • South Tyneside
    • North Tyneside
    • Gateshead
    • Sunderland

Tees Valley

    • Middlesbrough
    • Redcar and Cleveland
    • Stockton-on-Tees
    • Darlington
    • Hartlepool

West Midlands

    • Birmingham
    • Sandwell
    • Solihull
    • Wolverhampton
    • Walsall


    • Leicester
    • Oadby and Wigston


    • Ashfield
    • Bassetlaw
    • Broxtowe
    • Gedling
    • Mansfield
    • Newark & Sherwood
    • Nottingham City
    • Rushcliffe


For clubs and classes in level 3 (very high) category it would appear that you can remain open unless specified otherwise by local authorities, provided you can maintain strict social distancing and all other guidance per official sources. We have again highlighted the most relevant sentence below for those teaching indoors.

If you teach within the Liverpool region, please see the notice below the guidance piece.

The specific guidance quotes;

exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport



The above guidance points toward the minimum restrictions put in place when an area hits the Very High risk category. Local authorities have the power to add additional restrictions.

Liverpool has imposed additional restrictions. Please see below.

Additional Restrictions In Liverpool

UPDATED: 13/10/2020

Unfortunately additional Coronavirus controls have been implemented in some areas of Liverpool in response to the new risk category. The above passage references the national minimum control functions for Very High Risk areas. Unfortunately additional restrictions have been implemented for the following areas;

  • Liverpool
  • Knowsley
  • Wirral
  • St Helens
  • Sefton
  • Halton

What are these restrictions?

As of Wednesday 14 October it would appear that the only exemption for organised sport is for;

  1. organised indoor sport for disabled people
  2. organised indoor sport for under 18s.

This would appear to confirm that adult classes will not be permitted for the time being. You will still be able to teach martial arts classes to more than 6 children, provided the entire class are under the age of 18. You will still need to follow all stringent COVID-Secure guidelines, such as social distancing.

The section of Government guidance that outlines this additional control measure can be found here. Specifically, it references;

In addition to the baseline guidance for very high areas, the following businesses are not allowed to open in Liverpool City Region:

  • casinos
  • betting shops
  • adult gaming centres
  • indoor gyms
  • fitness and dance studios
  • sports facilities – with an exemption for:
    • organised indoor team sports for disabled people
    • U18s activities



The reference to what constitutes the exemption for those under the age of 18 or disabled people (including adults) is, we believe, detailed per the below;

There is an exemption for indoor sports if it is organised for the purposes of someone who has a disability taking part and an exemption for children’s activities.

The direct link is here.

This is clearly very disappointing for all clubs running adult classes in and around the Liverpool areas affected and we will continue to monitor the situation extremely closely as it develops, to ensure the most accurate guidelines and rules are clearly updated. We would recommend all clubs within the above regions and surrounding areas to contact your venue or your local authority if in any doubt.




Essential References & Reading

We know alot of clubs shy away from this, but it is very, very important every instructor understands right now exactly what category they are in. You also need to know where to look for official guidance on changing classifications as and when this evolves in the weeks ahead.

Here is some essential reading for those in England;

Local COVID alert levels: what you need to know

Full list of local COVID alert levels by area

Return to recreational team sport framework

Please do take the time to properly read through and digest this information for yourself and do not rely on third parties to interpret this for you unless they are qualified to do so.


What About Scotland?

In response to the rise in infections, Scotland has also changed restrictions currently in place. The stricter restrictions will apply in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley health board areas.The key changes for our industry are;

  • Contact sports and training for those aged 18 and over will be suspended for the same period, although professional sports can continue.
  • Gyms can remain open for individual exercise but indoor group exercise activities will not be allowed – with an exemption for under-18s.

The rules are changing fast, so the best place to look is some very clear guidance released by the Scottish Government. The exact guidance is here.

What About Wales?

General guidance changes announced recently do not appear to materially impact martial arts indoors at present, provided less than 30 take place in a COVID-Secure environment. This is great news for Welsh clubs and instructors. As always, you must check the Government website. We can take you straight to the specific section for Sport here.

What About Northern Ireland?

The situation is currently changing rapidly in Northern Ireland so we’re going to refer you directly to the latest guidance here.


What Next?

We are continuing to mount pressure on UK Government to take martial arts seriously and provide us with additional support. In addition to this we are also bolstering our COVID Recovery Toolkit to provide resources, tools and help for clubs in need across the whole of the UK. This is open to any club with free 6 month membership available.


We are providing additional guidance and support exclusively for our members in MyBMABA. You can join us for free for 6 months if you would like to access our resources and COVID support.

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“What help can BMABA provide my club over the coming months?”

We can confidently say there is no other martial arts association in the UK that has done anywhere near as much as BMABA in supporting, guiding and protecting our clubs during lockdown. Naturally, this proactive and industry-first approach will continue throughout recovery through to the end of next year when we anticipate the potential of martial arts being back to pre-Covid conditions.

Everything from a free Covid-Aware martial arts instructor qualification and Covid-Policy through to marketing material, council liaison services, risk assessments, covid and hygiene equipment, club communications, subsidised insurances, free qualifications and courses, business support, covid-recovery toolkits and so, so much more. Our guidance on evolving regulation and easing of lockdown measures is properly curated and managed for accuracy, and we’re working across our extensive group of not for profit organisations to make it easier and more affordable than ever to keep your club alive during lockdown, and thriving when you can safely re-open.

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