For a couple of months after the lock-down was eased, we were actually allowed to do full-contact judo. During that time, I would always feel a bit sad whenever I came across social media postings by foreign judo clubs with pictures or videos of socially-distanced judo.
"That's not how judo's meant to be," would run through my mind. I would remind myself to be grateful that we could do regular judo.
Then the second wave of Covid-19 hit and we found ourselves having to do socially-distanced judo again. To quote Yogi Berra, it's deja vu all over again!
And it really was.
The first time around, we had some kids drop out. And so it was this time too, with several parents pulling their kids from the club. As with the first time, most of our adult members stuck with the club though.
The reason is that kids don't get to make their own decisions when it come to judo. The decision to take up judo is often made for them by their parents and the decision to stop is also made for them by their parents.
In the case of adults, every single one who has joined our did so because they wanted to do judo, not because somebody else wanted them to. They made the choice to join. And because they are adults they also tend to develop a stronger appreciation for the club and the family of judokas there.
At first I wasn't so sure how well-received our socially-distanced classes would be. The government allows up to 10 people per session. I figured it'll be highly unlikely that we will get such numbers. Maybe four or five people will come for training, and some days maybe just two or three. So far, on most days, it's been a full-house.
Seeing all those people set aside time to come for socially-distanced judo motivates and inspires me to come up with innovative and unique training programs.
I didn't want to offer them the same ol', same ol' that you see happening everywhere. Boring HIIT, boring band work, boring tandoku renshu. I wanted to create something fun and exciting, that would really allow them to learn some techniques despite the restrictions.
I had some ideas on what to do but they weren't enough. So, I researched online and found a host of interesting ideas that I could adapt for our club.
Some exercises could be done solo, some with a partner (but socially distanced). Some involved using a belt, some the judogi. We also had sticks and cones that we could use for some activities. But generally, I tried to come up with drills involving the judogi and the belt.
After coming up with a few different sets of exercises, I thought that's it. We can just rotate these ideas. I had enough different modules that it shouldn't get boring. But as the days went by, I found myself coming up with more and more ideas.
None of these ideas came out of a vacuum of course. I would come across some ideas and think: "How can I make this better and more fun, more effective, more worthwhile doing?" More often than not, I would find an answer.
So far, so good. Seeing our members participating so keenly, I have no reason to be sad anymore at the idea of socially-distanced judo. They are enjoying the training.
No doubt, it remains true that social distancing is not how judo's meant to be. But if we must do it that way, it can be so much more than just a poor replacement for actual judo. I believe it's proven to be that way at our club.