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UK Martial Arts Returning And Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered

Over the past month we have all been set adrift in a sea of vague regulatory changes and disappointing delays for the return of indoor martial arts. As we approach the 25th July, the date on which indoor martial arts can return in England, we decided a bit more clarity would be helpful to clubs and instructors trying to plot the weeks and months ahead.

Unfortunately clarity is not a word, in our experience, the DCMS understand. As a Group we have been disgusted at the way martial arts has been treated. Left out of all regulatory guidance with no specific advice, left to try and align ourselves in between gyms, fitness coaches and dance schools. A completely underwhelming response from Sport England (which we will be addressing head on in the coming months) combined with an abject inability for large cuts of councils, government departments and officials to work constructively with the martial arts community has made clarity a very rare thing.

We occasionally hear the odd club on Facebook accuse us of being negative in our outlook on the easing of lockdown and the impact on martial arts. We’re not negative – we’re immensely optimistic about our industry’s ability to recover. We are a professional organisation however, so the guidance we give to our members and clubs needs to be up to date, concise and well-founded with solid references before we hit ‘publish’. We know this isn’t the same across martial arts as a whole, but we’ll continue to do our best to offer as neutral, technically accurate response to government guidance as possible.

We’ve asked our members to send in their questions on Coronavirus and the easing of lockdown measures across all of the UK nations, with a particularly acute focus on England (which is scheduled to re-open indoor classes next week).

With this in mind, let’s get started on your Q&As;

“Do we have to allow 100 square foot per person, and what is the maximum capacity of indoor classes?”


We’ve finally managed to gain what we believe to be absolute clarity from Sport & Recreation Alliance (SRA) on this point. The 100sqft per person guidance is the total volumetric space of the premises. This includes, for example, changing rooms and toilets. It is not 100sqft per person in terms of physical distancing – just overall floor space.

There is mitigation based on the quality of ventilation as well, but this gets really complicated, really fast. This particular piece of guidance will likely inform maximum capacity.

If you rent from a private venue or leisure centre etc, you can turn to them and ask for the maximum capacity. The venue should have an answer for you and falling back on their maximum numbers will take the onus off of you and your club.

If you own or lease your own private venue you’ll need to do the maths yourself. You should be able to fall-back on the head of terms for the leasehold for the total sqft of your venue. This should help you make the calculation (i.e: 620sqft venue would, in theory, permit 6 students less any mitigation for ventilation; good or bad).

To read this full guidance, please login to our member’s area, MyBMABA. Existing members can login here.

Not currently a BMABA instructor? Join for free online today.

“Sport England have said Karate and Judo can’t return yet. Is this right?”


Let’s take a look at what has been said;

To be clear, we have received absolutely no forewarning, funding, support or communication from Sport England on absolutely anything throughout Coronavirus. This is despite us making contact with them very early on in the pandemic and making it clear our 30,000 members across the UK, including hundreds of vulnerable students through our Foundation, were are risk of losing their clubs through the collapse of grass roots venues and dojos.

With this in mind we saw this when the wider martial arts community did and it caused us some alarm initially. Our best bet is that it relates to the fullunmodified return of Karate and Judo. This would intrinsically include contact which is currently not permitted under social distancing guidelines.

We’re slightly confused by this response ourselves, as clearly a well modified syllabus with all of the appropriate guidelines in place absolutely permits a safe return of martial arts, albeit it – especially for grappling arts – somewhat limited in capacity when ensuring a 2 meter distance at all times. This is especially confusing given…

To read this full guidance, please login to our member’s area, MyBMABA. Existing members can login here.

Not currently a BMABA instructor? Join for free online today.

“Will taking on my own private venue or gym help me get back to martial arts sooner?”


We’ve heard this question a lot over the past few months. Theoretically, having your own private venue as a purpose use martial arts gym/dojo will most likely help you transition back to full classes sooner than those relying on public spaces, with some obvious caveats.

The huge benefit to using public spaces is that the venue owner – be that a school, leisure centre or private company – is legally responsible for things like upkeep, venue insurance and in the sense of Covid-19, maximum capacity etc. As soon as you have your own premises, you’re legally liable.

The above notwithstanding, you wouldn’t need to worry about venues minimising the opportunity to book space…

To read this full guidance, please login to our member’s area, MyBMABA. Existing members can login here.

Not currently a BMABA instructor? Join for free online today.

“Can we spar, grapple or permit contact?”


No, unfortunately not. The guidance is still very clear that social distancing needs to be maintained at all times. There is concern that heavy breathing and sweating from physical exercise will heighten the risk of spreading Coronavirus so it’s important you do enforce distancing with proper control measures in place to try and prevent students getting too close to each other during classes, as well as when arriving and leaving.

We appreciate members of the same…

To read this full guidance, please login to our member’s area, MyBMABA. Existing members can login here.

Not currently a BMABA instructor? Join for free online today.

“What about equipment like focus pads and kicking shields?”


As per the above, it seems very unlikely you’ll be able to facilitate this safely. This is particularly true for indoor spaces.

Whilst it’s conceivable that two training partners could use kicking shields, thai pads or focus pads at a 2 meter gap (1 meter each between one another) in reality it’s going to be very hard to properly assess and even harder to manage responsibly during lessons.

We know this is a major…

To read this full guidance, please login to our member’s area, MyBMABA. Existing members can login here.

Not currently a BMABA instructor? Join for free online today.

“What about using punchbags and other free-standing equipment?”


We’ve seen sales of punchbags, heavy bags and freestanding bags (like Century Bob’s) sore during lockdown and into the easing. There is effectively nothing stopping you from providing students access to equipment like punchbags. You’ll need to ensure they are assigned to a single piece of equipment throughout the session and all equipment will need to be thoroughly cleaned before and after use too. It will, however, provide an excellent source of training for many clubs provided storage and budget permits.

“Can we use crash mats and floor mats?”


There appears to be no guidance that prohibits the use of crash mats or floor mats. You’ll obviously need to ensure these mats (especially crash mats) aren’t shared between students during class and they will also need to be thoroughly cleaned before and after sessions too. It can, however, provide an opportunity…

To read this full guidance, please login to our member’s area, MyBMABA. Existing members can login here.

Not currently a BMABA instructor? Join for free online today.

“How many people can we now teach outside?”


In England right now the guidance seems to be completely contradicting. We have the DCMS at the time of writing suggesting personal trainers and coaches (a group that we have written confirmation martial arts instructors are counted alongside) limited to teaching no more than 5 other people (6 including the instructor) outdoors.

In direct contrast, we have guidance for grass roots sports and gym facilities that suggests allowing no more than groups of 30 – indoors or outdoors. (See here, module 4 – large gatherings).

The absolute truth of the matter is we just don’t know, and nor does anyone really, it seems. We’ve seen some sports NGBs suggest 30 is now permitted outdoors, and others suggesting it’s still 6. The Government nor the DCMS will respond to our repeated enquiries either, and whist the Sport & Recreation Alliance investigate further on our behalf, we’re left in a difficult position without any absolute clarity.

The advice to clubs at the moment is to…

To read this full guidance, please login to our member’s area, MyBMABA. Existing members can login here.

Not currently a BMABA instructor? Join for free online today.

“When are we likely to be able to resume ‘normal’ martial arts training?”


The truthful answer is we just don’t yet know. It seems highly improbable that we will be in a position (as an industry) to permit contact training until 2021. Realistically we anticipate the potential further spikes and increased NHS demand over the winter to lead the English Government to be very cautious about the return of contact sport. We know – it seems odd, given pubs, restaurants, holidays and so on are all resuming!

There is a possibility…

To read this full guidance, please login to our member’s area, MyBMABA. Existing members can login here.

Not currently a BMABA instructor? Join for free online today.

“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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