We know that the martial arts sector has a habit of being very insular to engagement with the wider sporting sector. Unfortunately this has caused the independent martial arts community to suffer immeasurably during Coronavirus.
BMABA has a long affinity of both working with external organisations and winning awards from the wider sports market for our work influencing the debate around martial arts participation to a wider audience than just our own sector. We are continuing this more so than ever now that our arts face a long winter ahead.
We are lobbying MPs to get behind our call to intervene with the DCMS to provide direct and specific guidance to the independent martial arts market. We recognise that Sport England may be working with their own martial arts NGBs but feel this intervention will go nowhere near far enough to protect and save the many tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands of participants, instructors and clubs currently at risk of complete collapse. The independent martial arts market dwarfs the NGB ‘circuit’ based on best estimates of engagement and participation, yet we have absolutely no direct support from DCMS or Sport England.
Our attempts to solicit emergency funding for both our member clubs and the Fighting Chance Foundation in March was rejected by Sport England, as was our request for any additional emergency funding for other projects. It also appears that only a tiny fraction of clubs received any help from the Emergency Grant system launched in April. The average amount of support was around £400 and all but the smallest proportion missed out.
Given the huge influence on physical, mental and social well being the independent martial arts market contributes we are more resolute than ever before to stamp our feet and make the voices of our members heard at the highest levels. Our 30,000 membership base is sufficient in mass to ‘make some noise’ and we intend to ensure the Government – as well as Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is held to account.
We have recently received a positive response from an MP (who shall for now remain unnamed) who will be visiting us at our new Petworth Offices shortly to discuss how they may assist us in making our views heard by the DCMS. We resolutely believe that without the same opportunity to provide a return to play protocol (as a team sport would do) martial arts is missing out on the incredibly valuable tool of semi-contact training; such as kicking shields, working on focus pads and practicing light sparring. We have a comprehensive return to play policy in place that we believe would address all concerns around the use of training aids (such as shields, thai pads and focus mitts) but at present the DCMS refuse to engage. Indeed their latest response was somewhat of a riddle;
Overarching guidance for combat sports is currently being reviewed, and so we are not currently reviewing specific combat sport guidance at the moment. But you can continue socially distanced in line with other pieces of government guidance.
We know. Somewhat lacking in detail!
In addition to our constant work lobbying the Government for a decent conversation and recognition for the work all of our clubs do day in and day out, as well as our fight to facilitate a return of training with focus mitts at a closer proximity than 2 meters, we are participating with the wider sports industry too.
Recently our CEO, Giovanni Soffietto, signed an open letter to Boris Johnson urging emergency funding and support for our clubs and instructors. This letter was signed by a number of high profile CEOs and Organisations, including CIMSPA, UKActive, BUCS, Youth Sport Trust and others.
You can view the full letter, which received national press coverage, below;
We believe that;
Grassroots clubs should have access to emergency funding to help them remain open whilst running on reduced capacity (or not at all, as some contact and grappling styles are facing) to ensure there remains a safe, well managed place to learn martial arts when COVID restrictions lift.
That DCMS should review our return to play protocol with a view to permitting responsible, well managed and safely regulated training at a distance less than 2 meters on training aids (effectively allowing partner work and contact training).
We will continue to lobby for progress and will keep our community of clubs and instructors updated. Unfortunately, despite our numerous attempts to work constructively with other martial arts associations, we remain in this fight alone. The intervention of an interested MP is certainly a positive development, and one which we intend to utilise fully.
“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.