News & Blog

Omicron & COVID Contingency Planning For Martial Arts In January 2022

As the situation surrounding Omicron intensifies throughout the United Kingdom, we’re asking clubs to begin seriously focusing on contingency plans to cover a number of outcomes for January 2022.

We know – that feeling in the bit of the stomach again. We felt it constantly throughout 2020 and finally felt it ease as summer of 2021 saw the Return to Play policies slowly allow us back to the mats. Initially there had been optimism around Omicron as it seemed to appear as a less serious variant in terms of the likelihood of becoming seriously unwell. Unfortunately the Government’s predictions – right or wrong – appear to be leaning more and more toward mass hospitalisations. As we all remember from 2020, this means more restrictions on our freedoms and – as it has previously – this spills into the sport and recreation sector.

This is nothing to do with politics. We’re not judging the Government’s measures as right or wrong. We do believe (as we did in 2020) that Sport and Fitness should be prioritised and we remain baffled by previous measures making it legal to visit the cinema and stop off for a pint on the way home, but illegal to workout! All that aside, we can use past events to try and predict future outcomes.

Many main-stream media outlets are now rumouring leaked documents that speak of the need for much more drastic action as early as December 18th. Many more are speculating that the main ‘hit’ of Omicron will arrive in January 2022 following Christmas mixing.

Eitherway, now is the time to prepare. Around a week ago when Omicron first arrived on our shores, we posted about our three planned outcomes for Martial Arts. You can revisit our three supposed outcomes at the bottom of this post for a recap if needed.


What Should Martial Arts Clubs Expect In January 2022?

Who knows! If multiple media reports are correct (BBC News, Guardian, Daily Mail as a few examples) we should anticipate a fairly serious re-introduction of restrictions. This has been likened to the infamous phases of exit from lockdown from earlier in 2021. At Phase 2, which happened after 12th April 2021, gyms could re-open but only for individual training. Group sessions were not permitted. We sincerely hope the Government may have prioritised sport and fitness this time around and with any luck, martial arts (being part of the sport & gym restriction setting) will be able to continue lessons in January. It seems plausible to expect a restriction on physical contact meaning non-contact training only, per Phase 1 of our interim return to play policy which was approved by Sport England.

The ball is very much up in the air. Unlike in previous months, this time it feels like it could fall out of the court completely. With this in mind, it’s crucial clubs plan for a number of outcomes starting with the worst first.

  1. Complete closure of all group and individual training, reverting to online lessons
  2. Allowance for outdoor socially distanced training only in small groups
  3. Continuation of indoor training but on an individual only basis
  4. Continuation of indoor training on a group basis but with no contact
  5. Possibility of adults being restricted but children being permitted contact training, in-line with our Return to Play policy.
  6. Continuation of contact training ‘as is’ but with added COVID restrictions.

This is a really heavy lift for clubs to face up to so close to Christmas but we fear if you don’t plan for this now, you may have very little time to react to changes in legislation from Government. As we know, the DCMS tend to talk with the NGB network and inform them of changes, but as an independent club we’re often the last to know. Planning – even if roughly – for all 6 outcomes will help you ensure you can fall back on pre-arranged content and planning in advance. In practical terms, you should start to think of lesson plans and how you can manage deviations and controls on contact, mixing, sparring and grappling. This is especially true if you’re a grappling art. You should also speak to venues to be prepared for changes to bookings, as well as thinking about where or how you might deliver online classes as well as any possibility of outdoor classes.

We may well be in for a tough Q1 2022 (January to March). Preserving cashflow and being careful with your spending early in January will be important however we expect to know roughly ‘just how bad’ the situation is after the Christmas break, if not before.

BMABA will stand shoulder to shoulder with your club in 2022, regardless of the outcome. Our instinct is that restrictions may land somewhere between 3 to 5, but it seems perfectly possible we could see a complete temporary closure of gyms again. Closures or restrictions should be relatively short lived in 2022 and we doubt they will run for more than a few months, but planning and forecasting for various outcomes will be important for clubs of all sizes if you are to ‘hold steady’ when things return in January.

We will update and re-release our hugely successful and completely free COVID-Award Instructor Certification very early in January of 2022 so clubs can refresh their knowledge and show students and parents fresh certification. We will also re-open our (still available) COVID Recovery Toolkit to make pre-made press releases, covid risk assessments, venue liaison services, marketing and more all freely available. We need to await a clearer idea of the direction of travel for restrictions first – but we are ready to respond promptly. Likewise, a brand new student management system and member’s area will be ready for clubs to use early 2022 and this will help clubs deliver online training to members only.

We may be on for a difficult first few months of 2022. As Giovanni (our Chief Exec.) always says – the 7 P’s are essential (proper planning and preparation prevents a pi*s poor performance). You can lean on us as much as is needed, even during the Christmas closure period, and we’ll remain available and responsive to changes in law and COVID restrictions.

We can be optimistic, but we should prepare for the worst (hope for the best, plan for the worst). If we’re lucky, we will continue in January with added hygiene or a slight restriction on some aspects of contact. Our key aim is to see you return in the best possible capacity. Please keep an eye on MyBMABA and our App for the latest updates and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for the latest news and developments.


From our earlier post dated 29th November 2021.

As the old saying goes; “plan for the worst, hope for the best” and so we’re pre-planning three outcomes – A, B and C – to ensure our clubs are able to respond rapidly to changes in guidance from DCMS (Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) and Government.


Plan A assumes that we do not see any material changes to legislation around grassroots sports and, in particular, combat sports. This would mean very much everything continuing ‘as is’ for us in the martial arts world, despite some wider restrictions being re-imposed on the broader public.

As it stands at time of writing (29/11/21) there is nothing within the Government plans that should give way to immediate concern however for broader restrictions such as face coverings in shops to be re-imposed, clubs should now start planning for a more severe reaction trickling through to sports and recreation.


We don’t know, but our best guess would be January or February. Many clubs are winding down for Christmas in the coming weeks and whilst there is a crucial review on-going at present to see what impact Omicron has on health care, vaccines and other key services, any fallout (if the feedback is negative) is likely to emerge after the Christmas Festivities similarly to last year.


Plan B works on the ‘best worst case’ scenario and is the outcome we feel could be most likely re-instated if infections continue to rise and wider society is once again caught up in some form of ‘lockdown’ or ‘crackdown’. Under Plan B, we’re asking clubs to be ready to move back into the RtP (Return to Play) process as was in place throughout much of the early to late summer of 2021.

The Return to Play process was, in our eyes, full of blatant bias and outrageous oversights but within three weeks of it coming into plan we had managed to negotiate with Sport England specific authorisation for all unrepresented disciplines (those without a Sport England NGB) the right to return to all phases of contact training alongside NGB supported disciplines. Those who taught during this period will recall the many difficulties understanding sometimes quite complex guidance, as well as the obvious headache of lining up multiple RtP documents for those practicing some styles with NGB representation, and others without.

Any changes and imposed rules will require the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) to update the Combat Sports Framework and it is our hope that they will ‘switch back on’ the guidance already approved by Governing Bodies, given the months of work that went into this.

We feel that PLAN B is the most likely ‘worst case’ scenario we should be planning for and so we’re asking all clubs to re-visit our Return to Play policy and do a brief bit of pre-action study. This should mean if it is re-introduced you’re well ahead of the game in terms of any changes to lesson plans, content and class setup.

Read This Post Here


Plan C would be our worst case scenario in which all physical training is once again suspended. We were aggrieved by how long it took Government to reverse this during the first lockdown and subsequent lockdowns and whilst it does seem an unlikely outcome this time around (as it would mean the entire shutdown of society again) it’s well worth having some action plans to hand, should it be sprung upon us after Christmas as was the case last year.

Make sure you have online capabilities, including access to some sort of conferencing software, an up to date website and some adapted lesson plans. If you need or wish to provide ‘on demand’ content it may be worth thinking about banking a few hours of footage during December, especially if you require a partner for your discipline.

In all honesty, with the effectiveness of vaccines, it seems highly unlikely we will have to move to Plan C but it would be foolish to bank on this so we’re asking clubs to consider the impact to cashflow, to liaise closely with venues and to plan for a way in which you may be able to manage any ‘firebreak’ online classes (for a short period, such as a 3 week post-Xmas stint) online.

If you need any support, have questions or would like to ask us for any specific resources to help your club prepare for the differing outcomes in January please speak with us through your preferred channel.

We Will Stand By Your Club, Whatever Comes

Since COVID first emerged in February of 2020 we’ve stood toe to toe with our members, big and small. As an organisation we’ve doubled in size and we’re one of the only martial arts associations to have a dedicated office with a full staff of employees on hand to help. Our COVID contingency toolkit, Covid aware qualifications and other COVID support measures were second to none.

Whatever comes in January 2022, BMABA will be in your corner to represent, guide and support your club, regardless of style or size. We make all of our COVID support completely free and open to every member, even those on our free year’s ‘affiliate’ option.

If you think we might be able to support you, see what we did for our member’s last time and feel free to join us for free online via our affiliate membership option.