COVID Martial Arts

Many martial arts schools are owned and operated by people who love what they do and are committed to the success of their students and business.

For many school owners, the challenge of the restrictions to training stemming from the lockdown and the lingering effects of the pandemic have been to find alternative ways to provide quality instruction in a safe environment. School owners and instructors have had to be more creative, and learn to pivot and diversify as they adapt to the challenges of the constantly shifting sands of Covid-19 protocols.


The Lone Sensei

Richard Trammell

In Atlanta, the legendary champion Richard Trammell (above) teaches Shidokan Karate, Judo and offers personal training. Like many martial art teachers, the lockdown in 2020 made him realize that he needed to have another plan if he was going to survive. One look at his highlight reel on YouTube, and the championship belts encased on a wall in his school, and it is obvious he is not one to quit. Richard spoke to me about his experience over the past year and what it took for him to still be standing in 2021.

As a business that is based on attending a class and getting personal instruction, what do you do when it isn't possible? You have to learn about the alternatives, and you learn them fast. As an independent business owner, Trammell doesn't have a staff to delegate to or a team of people to research new technology for him. It's just him. Alone.

Trammell describes the change and having to learn new technology, "I had a friend in Florida that trained over Zoom, so I reached out to him to find out how he did it." Although dubious about the results at first, Trammell has since found that it has enabled him to stay connected with his students that previously might have missed classes due to travel or other obligations. "There is nothing better than in-person training, but through technology, you are able to stay connected when you can't." Online instruction is now a regular part of his teaching program and has enabled him to offer hybrid classes as well, where students are physically present and some students are online. Using a phone, computer, and the ability to seamlessly improvise, Trammell has created new opportunities for his students and his business.

The Duo of Attrition and Tuition

The cold hard facts of any business are that you need paying customers to survive. Student retention is critical to any school, but during the lockdown and aftermath of Covid-19, it is essential. In addition to opportunities to retain students through technology, adapting to new payment methods was and still is paramount. "Everyway that you can pay for something, I got that," Trammell said as he flashed his phone and swiped through a couple of screens showing icons for Venmo, Square, Cash App, and Zelle. Some of his students still pay with cash and check as well. "If that is how they do it, I'll get it and learn it." So why does that matter? The willingness to learn and adapt, and put aside what is comfortable for what is necessary, is as true an expression of martial arts as applied to life as throwing a punch or a kick.

Richard Trammell is representative of many of the martial arts school owners in America that were faced with unprecedented challenges due to the circumstances of the pandemic. They fought to keep their schools alive with the same resourcefulness they impart to their students to overcome an unrelenting and formidable opponent. As we move toward a return to a world that more closely resembles the one before Covid-19, hopefully, we will take all the lessons learned with us and not just survive, but thrive in the times to come.

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Judo
Saddleburn

Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

A very dear friend and sensei of mine the late Allen Johnson, may he rest in peace made a home at Emerald City Judo. In Redmond, Washington.

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Competitive Edge Karate
Photo Courtesy: Jackson Rudolph

Team Competitive Edge, coached by Jackson Rudolph, Reid Presley, and Cole Presley, has become one of the premier teams in the sport in recent years. The team consistently takes home individual overall grand championships and they are the reigning U.S. Open ISKA Team Demonstration World Champions. Moving into the 2022 tournament season, they have made a huge move to deepen their roster and add seven junior competitors to the team. The new additions range from proven champions bringing their talents to the squad, some skilled workhorses who have previously joined the team for the Team Demo division, and some promising young stars who will be making their debut in the black belt division this year. Keep reading to learn more about each of the new additions (ordered alphabetically).

Gavin Bodiford

Gavin Bodiford

Photo Courtesy: Kellie Austin Bodiford via Facebook

Bodiford is twelve years old and hails from Lebanon, Tennessee, a product of Premier Martial Arts Lebanon (formerly known as Success Martial Arts Center), where the Competitive Edge coaches have all earned black belts. He has five years of martial arts experience and was the 2020-2021 ProMAC Southern Region Champion in four divisions. He also finished the 2021 NASKA season in the top ten for creative, musical, and extreme forms and weapons. Bodiford is one of the competitors who has stepped up for Competitive Edge in the past, joining the demonstration team to help them secure the 2021 U.S. Open ISKA World Championship.

Riley Claire Carlisle

RC Carlisle

Photo Courtesy: Mallory Parker Carlisle

Carlisle (pictured with coach Sammy Smith) is a 10-year-old rising star from Starkville, Mississippi who has been training for four years. In the underbelt division, she has won grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and numerous regional events. She holds multiple divisional and grand championship titles from the ProMAC circuit, and has amassed over ninety divisional wins in recent years. She is moving into the black belt division in 2022 and looks to continue her winning ways.

Kodi Molina

Kodi Molina

Photo Courtesy: Priscilla Molina via Facebook

Molina is a 13-year-old world champion from San Antonio, Texas with 10 years of martial arts training under her belt. She has won many grand championship titles on the NASKA circuit, and has claimed world championships from NASKA, ISKA, ATA, and WKC. At the 2021 U.S. Open, she became the reigning ISKA world champion in 13 and under girls creative/musical/extreme weapons. She is a versatile competitor who can win with extreme bo or kama routines, performs beautiful traditional forms, and is a solid point fighter as well. She is an active member of her community and participates in a variety of leadership programs, making her a great role model for younger members of the team.

Michael Molina

Michael Molina

Photo Courtesy: Michael Molina via Instagram

"Super Bomb" is the 9-year-old brother of Kodi, who is a world champion in his own right. In his seven years of experience, he has already won a variety of titles across multiple leagues, including NASKA overall grand championships at the 2021 Battle of Atlanta and AmeriKick Internationals. Since he began training at the age of two, his regimen has included strength, speed, agility, and conditioning training at "Rojo Dojo", where a number of world champions and national contenders gather to train. He is known for his incredible performance ability, always putting on a show when he graces the stage.

Gavin Richmond

Gavin Richmond

Photo Courtesy: Bobby Benavides

Richmond is yet another world champion being added to the Competitive Edge roster. The 13-year-old from San Antonio has been training for five years and has accumulated several grand championship titles, including wins at prestigious events like the Diamond Nationals and U.S. Open. The young star is a well-rounded athlete, not only because he competes in a variety of divisions at sport karate tournaments, but he also finished in 7th place in the pentathlon at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics which included the high jump, long jump, 100m hurdles, 1500m run, and shot put, resulting in him being named an All-American. He is currently recovering from a knee injury, but his high-flying routines will be back on the mat soon.

Madalynn Wiersma

Madalynn Wiersma

Photo Courtesy: Gabrielle Dunn

Wiersma (pictured with coach Gabrielle Dunn) is another rising star moving up from the underbelt division who is expected to make waves in the black belt division. She first moved up into the black belt ring at the WKC world championships, where she won her first world title. The 9-year-old Georgia native was the 2021 Underbelt Competitor of the Year for ProMAC and she secured underbelt grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and U.S. Open this past year.

Elijah Williams

Williams is a 16 year old from Lebanon, Tennessee who trains at Premier Martial Arts Lebanon. His eight years of martial arts training has culminated in black belts in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. He is on an upward trend as a competitor as he has started breaking into the top four in his divisions, which are some of the most stacked on the NASKA circuit. Williams has been a great asset to Competitive Edge in the past, stepping up to fill in for team demonstration, such as in the world championship effort at the 2021 U.S. Open.

The Competitive Edge coaching staff told Black Belt that they are thrilled to take their roster to another level with these moves. They believe that these new players will create the perfect storm to win more overall grand championships now, strengthen the team demo, and build a great foundation for the future of the program.

Jose Also
cdn.vox-cdn.com Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
The seemingly ageless Jose Aldo won his third straight fight at bantamweight Saturday claiming unanimous decision over Rob Font in the main event of UFC on ESPN 31. Font started well against the former featherweight champion working behind a strong jab that kept Aldo on his back foot and allowed Font to consistently land sharp punches. But with 30 seconds left in the first round, Aldo threw a stiff left jab and immediately followed with a powerful straight right hand that dropped Font though time ran out before he could do more damage.
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