It's been more than a year since the lockdown first began. Since then we've had a second lockdown and we're about to enter into our third one.
In between the lockdowns, we've had periods when we were allowed to go back into the dojo and train with social distancing. There were even brief periods when we could do contact training.
Through it all, I have imposed a masking requirement. The rationale is simple. The virus is primarily transmitted through droplets and aerosols. When you exercise and are breathing heavily, you exhale more droplets and aerosols, which also travel longer distances than when you are breathing normally.
Wearing a mask helps to reduce the amount of droplets and aerosols that go into the air. It also reduces the amount of droplets and aerosols that get into your mouth from the air. Of course, even with masks on, there is still a risk of infection but at least we are doing our best to reduce the risk.
I note that other judo clubs — and certainly most gyms — do not require their members to wear masks. The reason is obvious. They know that people don't like to wear masks during exercise. They want to make their customers happy so they don't require it. But they are also endangering everyone who trains there.
At our club, everyone wears a mask. I'm sure some would rather not do so but they understand the rationale for this requirement and they accept that it is the condition for training at the club. We have to remain diligent if we want to be a safe place for people to train.
One good thing about lockdowns is that they serve to remind us to be grateful for the things we have and to not take things for granted. It's human nature to assume that good conditions will always last. But nothing is permanent and what's here today could be gone tomorrow.
For a long stretch last year, all we could do was socially-distanced, outdoors training. When dojo training was finally allowed, a lot of people attended the first day back. As they say, you never miss your water til your well runs dry. And people missed training in the dojo. Over time, as people got used to training in the dojo, the numbers started to trail off. People assumed that dojo training would always be there.
Then suddenly it was taken away from us when a new lockdown was announced. For a while, all we could do was Zoom training. Everyone missed dojo training again. Once it was allowed, a bunch of people come back for training. But over time, the numbers trailed off... again.
There was also a time when it was possible to do contact training in Putrajaya. Many members back then asked if we could have lessons there instead. Nobody seemed to care that Putrajaya was 50km away. If we could do contact training, it'd be worth the trip, was the general feeling.
Then out of the blue, contact training was allowed in KL. A rush of people came back to the dojo, delighted as they were with the prospect of contact training. But after a while the numbers again trailed off as people got used to contact training. As of last week, if I had suggested training in Putrajaya, there would have been moans all around.
Now, all of a sudden we are told there's going to be yet another lockdown and contact training will no longer allowed, for at least two weeks. I bet if we could train in Putrajaya during these next two weeks, many people would be game.
Like I said, you never miss your water til your well runs dry. But why should it be like that? The answer is it doesn't have to be and it shouldn't be. We should be grateful for what we have and make the most of it, while we can.
A few weeks ago, one of my players, who wasn't able to train for a while due to some circumstances, remarked that she felt grateful for any opportunity to train. I told her that this was the correct attitude to have.
"Today, you have a good dojo, with good instructors and good training partners," I said. "That may not necessarily be the case tomorrow, or perhaps next week, or next month, or next year."
When I was a young judoka, I got the chance to train at LA Judo Training Center, which greatly influenced and enhanced my judo. Not long after I left, the club closed down. A few years after that, the head coach passed away. I could have easily missed the opportunity to train there and learn from that coach.
Good clubs and good coaches won't always be there. And this is true for training partners as well. People sometimes move away for work or for study. They might lose their jobs and have to quit judo. Or they might develop new interests and move on to other things. What's here today might be gone tomorrow.
So, if you have a good club, a good coach and good training partners, appreciate that fact and come for regular training. Don't assume they will always be there. We hope they will be but in this world nothing is certain except death and taxes.
Be diligent, be grateful