The half-way point of 2020 is fast approaching, in a year that has brought a string of events many of us couldn't have anticipated as it started. A viral pandemic effectively shut down business across the world for two full months; every customer-facing business had to shift to zero-contact models to help slow down community transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Heading into July, many areas across North America—and the rest of the world—are cautiously, optimistically navigating reopening for the summer.

One sector that has been particularly hard-hit is the fitness industry—including martial arts. In a line of work which often involves one-on-one contact, the risk of infection was far too great to allow students in the building for lessons. Instead, many martial arts schools closed their doors before receiving instructions to do so from the government. Some schools have shut down altogether, while others have turned to virtual classes to stay online. But one thing remains clear heading into the future ahead: the landscape of martial arts will never be the way it once was.

"At the end of the day, we're fighters. We're martial artists. You get knocked down, you get up again and go."
- Master Ingrid Katzberg, Co-Owner & Head Instructor, Champions Martial Arts Academy

What has changed?

The greatest changes to dojos today are physical distancing, limiting class sizes, and ramping up sanitization protocols. These efforts combined together make enormous strides towards eliminating the risk of COVID-19 altogether. How do they work?

Physical distancing

Physical distancing is defined as "keeping two meters (six feet) away from one another". When physical distancing can't be maintained, it's recommended to wear a mask. There are concerns about wearing masks while undergoing vigorous activity, as they may not provide the oxygen and ventilation we need during a workout. It is recommended to allow students to wear masks if they wish, but not make them mandatory if proper physical distancing is enforced.

"Be ready for great growth, be ready for parents and students to be knocking on your window, begging to come in."
- Sensei Jason Wenneberg, Head Instructor, American Martial Arts Academy

Limiting class sizes

When capacity is limited, students and staff inside the school have more room to move around and practically distance themselves from others. This measure reduces the difficulty to practice social distancing in high-traffic buildings, and lowers the chance of infection. To establish how many people can be inside your school at a time, measure the square-footage of your space to see how many people can properly maintain two meters of space between one another. As well, connect with your local occupational safety board to ensure your school's allowance is under their recommended limits.

"For anyone who's feeling a little nervous, do what martial arts teaches us to do to overcome a situation: adapt, improvise and overcome."
- Grandmaster Tim Wakefield, Owner & Instructor, Shaolin Martial Arts Canada

Boosting Sanitization Procedures

Cleaning surfaces in your school thoroughly and often can help prevent the spread of illnesses, including the novel coronavirus. All frequently touched surfaces, including toilets, sink tap handles, doorknobs, light switches, tables, floors, and equipment should be cleaned at least daily, ideally between every class. As well, ensure your staff and visitors are practicing proper handwashing, too. Viruses such as COVID-19 can be broken down by any antibacterial soap, so washing often with warm water for at least 30 seconds is critical in ending the transmission chain before an outbreak occurs.

Now that the 'new normal' is a reality, what can you do to make the most of this situation? Read more to learn about how Sensei Jason Wenneberg of the American Martial Arts Academy turned everything around and found success even in unknown territory.

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