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Martial Arts’ Roadmap Out Of Lockdown (England) & Our COVID Grants

It’s been a miserable winter for martial arts across the UK following another round of national lockdowns but it looks as if, finally, we have what should prove to be a start to the return of martial arts ‘as we know it’.

This post has been written with measures in England in mind. We will provide separate updates for our clubs in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as and when new information is available.

As always with COVID, guidance is changing regularly based on updated information and official Government sources.

This is an early-release post based on the initial COVID-19 RESPONSE − SPRING 2021 released by Government following The Prime Minister’s speech to parliament on 22/02/2021 and has been subsequently updated as milestones approach and pass on the roadmap out of lockdown. It’s possible revisions may be required as information is digested or further clarity is given by Government agencies.

This content was last updated at 22:21 on 24/03/2021.

What Is The Timeline For Returning To Contact Martial Arts?

As always with everything COVID related, it’s really important you check, check and double-check again for these dates holding steady. Regular changes can occur based on available data presented to the Government.

This is the current timeline to ‘normal’ martial arts for England, based on the current roadmap;

We will produce separate roadmaps for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as soon as information is available.

On 8th April 2021 we released a major update regarding Return to Play guidance in England. Please ensure you read this FIRST. The below is now based on a Phase 0 return to training. If an approved RtP is in place, additional contact training may be possible much sooner.


  • 8th March 2021 - Schools Return
    Unfortunately it would appear there will be no exemption for all children to attend sports classes from this date as had been initially hoped. It remains the case that only vulnerable children and those of key workers can access afterschool provisions for the sole purpose of essential childcare. Please see our reference (104) below the timeline for more information.
    8th March 2021
  • 29th March 2021 - Organised Outdoor Martial Arts Permitted (Adults & Children)
    All being well, from 29th March 2021 organised outdoor sport will be permitted for both adults and children. This would include martial arts provided proper and full social distancing is enforced based on the prior definition issued by Government on organised sports. Crucially, there will be no limits to the numbers permitted within outdoor classes. Indoor classes are unable to return at this point - including children's classes - unless it fulfils the Government's exemptions for wrap-around childcare or educational sporting activity (as part of a School curriculum).
    29th March 2021
  • 12th April 2021 - Indoor Gyms & Leisure Centres Re-Open
    Atleast 5 weeks after Step 1 and no earlier than 12th April, indoor leisure (including gyms) will be open for use individually or within household groups. Gyms will only be able to accept individual training - so group sessions and classes will not be permitted for ADULTS but we understand it will be permissible for dojos and gyms to re-open for individual training, provided COVID-Secure measures are met. This could include an instructor supervising - but not instructing - students who are training.

    Crucially, there is also an exception for children which we understand will mean children's classes can resume indoors from this date. Learn more about this here.
    12th April 2021
  • 17th May 2021 - Indoor Martial Arts Resumes
    Atleast 5 weeks after Step 2 and no earlier than 17th May, organised indoor adult sport can resume. The Government have defined this as Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes. Social distancing and further COVID-Control measures will remain vital at this stage as people transition to indoor sport once again.
    17th May 2021
  • 21st June 2021 - Full Contact Sparring & Grappling Return
    Atleast 5 weeks after Step 3 and no earlier than 21st June, the Government plan to remove legal limits on social contact. This COULD signal a return to full contact martial arts in every form as social distancing is largely removed. Sparring, grappling, padwork, close-contact supervision, floor work and all other elements of combat training which have been so desperately missed should be given the green light to return provided proper assurances can be given. There is a question mark surrounding how this might happen and whether or not the Government will allow a full return to contact as they will presumably promote safe social space and hygiene post-lockdown. This will be very much a situation to monitor as lockdown eases.
    21st June 2021

What Help Is BMABA Making Available To Clubs To Help Return To Teaching?

We know more than ever that clubs need support and financial assistance to get them through the next few months, forward to May when indoor sessions can largely resume. We also know many clubs feel let down by the lack of support from Sport England and other Government departments. Unfortunately it’s especially smaller, often not for profit groups, who don’t have premises and incorporated status who have been left to fall through the gaps worst.

We will not stand by and watch martial arts in the UK fail.

To ensure we remain true to our constant message of doing whatever we can to support grass roots martial arts, we’re providing our own in-house, self-funded COVID Recovery Grant scheme. Whilst we can’t provide cash grants for use on equipment and premises; areas we know that are in desperate need of assistance – we can provide credit and free of charge periods for insurance – both instructor and student – to help clubs get back on their feet.

Our COVID Recovery Fund and Grants are open to new and existing members and we encourage as many clubs as possible to make use of the provisions on offer.

Question marks around exactly what the ‘finer details’ of 12th April return to indoor training for children, along with any exemptions for adults, are still emerging. We anticipate the below guidance being potentially changed from c. 5th April in line with additional guidance being released from DCMS.

You can read more about potential changes here.

Questions & Answers On Martial Art’s Return to ‘Normality’

We’d like to start by saying that this guidance is based on the recently announced Government Roadmap, but it is still early days. We’re trying our best to provide answers to questions we hear time and time again but it should be taken as a given until you have consulted the guidance yourself.

Can I re-open my gym on 12th April?

Provided the dates do not move, it would appear so. It’s important to mention that whilst gyms will re-open, group classes for adults will not. Individual training will be permitted and it would seem reasonable for an instructor to be able to supervise activities generally, for safety reasons. They would not be able to provide tailored guidance or 1to1 tuition however. This may provide the opportunity to invite students back to self-train ahead of a more general return shortly thereafter.

Are children exempt from the requirement to train outdoors at the end of March?

As we understand it, children aren’t exempt from the out-door only training requirement until 12th April when indoor children’s classes can resume. There are exemptions for certain groups – such as vulnerable children, classes forming part of an educational school syllabus, or children of key workers for specific purposes.

Is there any official confirmation of this roadmap?

Yes, fortunately there is. We would encourage all instructors to read the official guidance here.

Is there definitions available for any of the restrictions or permissions listed in the timeline above?

A very good question! We’ve drawn on the Government’s published infographics, combined with their definitions and notes on each point. The salient points to note are;

104 – How we’ve defined children’s sports not being able to resume when schools open on March 8th;

Children will still only be able to attend indoor childcare or supervised activities where doing so will allow parents or carers to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical attention or attend a support group. Vulnerable children can already attend these settings regardless of personal circumstance and the Government will also ensure any other child eligible for Free School Meals will be able to do so – ensuring they can attend those that are part of the Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF) running over the Easter holidays.

87 – Another section relating to the above;

Under-18 sport can take place at school as part of educational provision, or as part of wraparound care, but should not otherwise take place at this time.

102 – How we have confirmed that there will be no limits on the size of classes outdoors when permitted;

Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s – can also restart and will not be subject to the gatherings limits, but should be compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies

117 – Points to note on children being exempt for activities, once allowed to re-open;

All children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity, including sport, regardless of circumstance. Parent and child groups of up to 15 people (not counting children aged under five years old) can restart indoors.

Will contact and grappling really be able to resume on 21st June?

Based on the guidance published, yes. We would, however, caution some hesitancy on this date. Whilst it’s clear from the official guidance that legal restrictions on contact will be relaxed at this point (all being well) there may well still remain some limitations or restrictions on what social contact is recommended or permitted in certain settings. This might relate nearer the time to vaccine passports or regular testing, for example. Whilst this is a great sign that ‘normality’ is approaching we need to sit tight and await the DCMS to provide additional clarity on this as soon as possible.

Does this mean I can teach outdoors from 29th March without limits on students?

It would appear so. The Government’s reference 102 states;

Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s –
can also restart and will not be subject to the gatherings limits, but should be
compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies

This should pave the way for martial arts to return too. Whilst the examples given have been the arbitrary tennis and golf, we know from DCMS and Government guidance last year that non-contact, socially distanced martial arts was permissible. The major issue will revolve around contact so it’s worth keeping a close eye on this as the date approaches.

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