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Possible Exemption For Children’s Martial Arts – November Lockdown

We’ve been adamant from the moment November’s lockdown was first announced that children’s classes should not close. To us, there was little justification for taking away a source of social, physical and mental wellbeing for people of all ages; especially those under 18 years.

A change to the proposed lockdown requirements will be debated in Parliament today (4th November) before coming into effect in England tomorrow with the start of lockdown, on 5th November. Within the amended, detailed guidance appears to be an exemption for children’s activities.

Let’s be clear, we’re not looking for ‘loopholes’ here. We know some organisations have been trying to tell clubs they can re-classify as educational facilities or community schemes for the purposes of teaching during lockdown, and we know it’s a bit ‘close to the line’. We have always been vehemently against the closure of martial arts classes (along with the entire sports sector) but have a duty to report truthfully and accurately on any Government guidance issued. This latest update, made yesterday, looks to be a legimate exemption that, to our mind, a vast number of martial arts clubs may be able to use safely and ‘as intended’.


What’s the rule change, and what is the wording?

When we first looked at the guidance there was no exemption for ‘children’s activities’. This appears to have now been updated in the Government’s ‘user friendly’ lockdown guide. We’ve included the link to this specific piece of guidance at .GOV at the bottom of this article, but in-short, the relevant part for us is shown below. We have included the entire passage so you can see the context, but have done our best to highlight the lines of interest;

4. Businesses and venues

Businesses and venues which must close

To reduce social contact, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close or restrict how they provide goods and services. These include:

  • Non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected off the premises) and delivery services
  • Hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and drink for takeaway (before 10pm; and not including alcohol), click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery
  • Accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites. Except for specific circumstances, such as where these act as someone’s main residence, where they cannot return home, for homeless people, or where it is essential to stay there for work purposes
  • Leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and gyms, swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, golf courses, fitness and dance studios, climbing walls, archery, driving, and shooting ranges
  • Entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, soft play centres and areas, circuses, funfairs, zoos and other animal attractions, water parks, theme parks. Indoor attractions at botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open
  • Personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. It is also prohibited to provide these services in other peoples’ homes
  • Community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities as set out below Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect
  • Places of worship, apart from for the purposes of independent prayer, and service broadcasting and funerals


Crucially, in terms of exemptions, it states;

These businesses and places will also be permitted to be open for a small number of exempt activities, including:

  • education and training (including for schools to use sports and leisure facilities where that it part of their normal provision)
  • childcare purposes and supervised activities for children
  • blood donation and food banks
  • to provide medical treatment
  • for elite sports persons (in indoor and outdoor sports facilities), professional dancers and choreographers (in fitness and dance studios)
  • for training and rehearsal without an audience (in theatres and concert halls)
  • for the purposes of professional film and TV filming


So is ‘Activities For Children’ Suitable For Martial Arts Classes?

The truth is, at this stage, we just don’t know. We’ve asked for legal guidance from our solicitors and we have pushed for an official response but very much doubt either will come in time for tomorrow’s lockdown.

What we can do, however, is take a look at a newly issued piece of planned legislation. This document effectively sets out the details of the new laws due to be discussed (and likely passed) today in Parliament. It’s effectively the full version of the Government’s above ‘user friendly manual’ for lockdown.

The full link is referenced below, but in short, the areas of direct interest is a very clear Exemption, which reads as follows;

Regulation 16(1) does not prevent the use of—
(a) any premises used for a restricted business or restricted service to host blood donation
(b) any premises used for the making of a film, television programme, audio programme or
audio-visual advertisement;
(c) facilities for training by elite sportspersons, including stables, indoor gyms, fitness
studios, and other indoor sports facilities, and any outdoor facilities for sport;
(d) indoor fitness and dance studios by professional dancers and choreographers;
(e) theatres and concert halls for—
(i) training,
(ii) rehearsal, or
(iii) performance without an audience for broadcast or recording purposes;
(f) indoor gyms, fitness studios, indoor sports facilities and other indoor leisure centres for
supervised activities for children;
(g) indoor gyms, fitness studios, indoor swimming pools, indoor sports courts and other
indoor leisure centres and outdoor sports courts and swimming pools by schools or
providers for post-16 education or training (as defined in paragraph 1(8)(e) of Schedule
17 to the Coronavirus Act 2020);
(h) stables, for the purposes of any activities referred to in regulation 6(14).
(7) For the purposes of paragraph (6), a person is a professional dancer or choreographer if that
person derives their living from dance, or from choreographing dance, as the case may be.
(8) Subject to regulations 15 and 18(1), regulation 16(1) does not prevent a person respon

For those of you wondering what section 16(1) regulation references, it is as follows;

16.—(1) A person responsible for carrying on a restricted business, or providing a restricted service, must cease to carry on that business or provide that service.

Restricted businesses are clearly listed, and we have the previously stated closure list to include most places in which martial arts occur per the below

The following indoor facilities: dance studios, fitness studios, gyms, sports courts,
swimming pools, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, playgrounds or soft play areas or other
indoor leisure centres or facilities, including indoor games, recreation and entertainment venues.


So can martial arts continue?

The short answer is, we really don’t know at this stage. Let’s assume this legislation will be going through to law, because that would change the parameters completely. It would make sense to us that children’s activities can continue – just as they can all in all Tiers of the previous restrictions (except where specific closures were put in place). It also looks to be fairly comprehensive to us when considering the official guidance just released (and referenced above).
We can’t make a clear determination at this stage because there appears to be so much conflicting information. It may well be that clubs need to approach local authorities and ask for their take. Without a crystal clear or properly communicated exemption we know it will be hard for many clubs to secure venues, or to justify this to parents – so we’re pushing on the Government to clarify this exemption the moment it becomes law.
That said, to us this reads as a very clear exemption for children’s activities. If you run an under 18 year old specific class, that would be a children’s activity for the purposes of safeguarding, DBS checks and insurance and we would presume that to follow over here too – just as this same term has allowed clubs to run classes for children in Tier 3 where adult classes were not permitted.
In the interim, keep a close eye on our social media channels and here in our blogs – we will be providing updates on this throughout the next couple of days as we hopefully obtain some further clarity.


Can I see the full guidance?

Of course. We’ve linked up to the official government sources from which this information comes from in the full which is available from our member’s area. You can view this by clicking here if you are a member, or by joining us for free for 6 months if you are not.


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.


“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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