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VOL 42, NO 2, SPRING 2020

Teaching During Social Distancing

By the PAWMA Community

Never, in a thousand years, did I think I would be attending karate classes online. During this era of social distancing we are being challenged to be flexible and switch to online learning. I checked in with a few of our schools and teachers to see how they are continuing to train despite the ban on gathering. I learned of creative ideas such as having a technology moderator during class, having senior students call young students to check in on them and keep them engaged, self care time, and having formats such as Google Meet, Zoom, and Google Hangouts support our classes. Read on to learn more about what each school is doing.

Photo courtesy of Nina Thompson.

From Emeryville Martial Arts

by Master Terri Giamartino

I am holding all classes online using ZOOM. This started shortly after I closed my school on Monday, March 16th. I also started shortening my class times so I could hold more classes and I limit the participation to specific ranks in order to better serve the students. I have posted my virtual training schedule on my website and sent the schedule of classes to all my students with the class ID needed to participate. I also asked my adult students to volunteer to start calling a small group of students (5-10 at a time) in order to be able to make personal contact with parents and others to see how they are doing and to inform and encourage them to participate in the virtual training.

Each class I teach brings new revelations about how to use the medium more effectively. Practice makes perfect and for the most part, people who are participating are very appreciative. I have also engaged with several martial arts business groups online using facebook and twitter to brainstorm ideas for managing the problem and teaching effective classes. As an organization within Cuong Nhu, we are hoping to be able to share pre recorded training videos with each other to offer more options to our members and keep them engaged. Providing some diversity in training will be a benefit to everyone.

As far as specific methods being employed, I drive to my dojo, and log into my computer to teach. I am alone. When I leave, I wipe down the door handles, bathroom faucets, etc to make sure it is safe for anyone else who comes in to use the space. I do have a lockbox and have always given teachers and assistants keys. My adult students are welcome to come in and use the space when I am not broadcasting.

I am also trying to make sure that the space I teach in is compact. Most people are trying to train in living rooms, bedrooms, on porches and in the yard, weather permitting. Space is limited, so I try to model effective ways to work out in small spaces. Using shuffle steps when teaching kata keeps people using the correct leg when moving. When teaching bunkai (applications), people have to use their imagination although if I have a household with 2 or more people training, I spotlight them on the screen so other students can see the application actually working on another person. The same is true for self defense.

My goal is to keep people moving so they get the physical exercise they need and seeing others helps to keep people engaged in the community. I mute participants and unmute as necessary when I need to make specific corrections or get feedback, but I try to keep the corrections minimal to keep people moving. Of course with kids it is more challenging. You do have to call our names more frequently, be it to correct or to acknowledge a technique done well. I also spotlight students for these purposes.

If you teach children, be aware, if you are not already, that parents are very overwhelmed. Trying to work at home and manage their child’s schooling. All of a sudden they find themselves homeschooling. Tons of emails are coming in from their workplaces and it is hard to manage all the communication. Emails get lost, people lose information they need because they haven’t yet figured out a system to stay organized.

Students who normally teach classes at my dojo are currently not teaching any classes which of course adds to my workload. Soliciting help from any adult that is not overwhelmed helps. Give people simple, easy directions for ways they can help. Many people who juggle less balls are bored staying home. Some people are isolated, living alone and don’t have people to talk to. Social media is filling a huge gap right now.I personally am beyond busy trying to keep my school afloat, so boredom hasn’t crept into my life.

Finding time for self care is also important. I go out for walks, making sure I stay at a safe distance if I see other people. I am fortunate to have a deck and yard, so I can go outside and garden, get some sunshine, etc. I DON”T watch the news 24/7, but I do stay informed. I don’t watch just one station. I read, listen to podcasts and try to get a mix of media input.

These are very difficult times and things will get worse before they get better. Many people are losing their jobs as the economy comes to a halt. What is happening is unprecedented. We all need to support each other the best we can and keep our schools alive. Events will have to happen virtually. People I know are hosting dance parties, cocktail parties, etc on line in an effort to stay engaged socially and not feel isolated. We all need to get creative and make lemonade out of lemons. This WILL end and hopefully we will come out of it with new skills, new ideas and new friends!

Photos courtesy of Terri Giamartino.

Seven Star Kung Fu

Executive Director and Asst Head Instructor Gina Mares Kurtz, with input from Sigung Michelle McVadon and Sigung Allyson Riley

How Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu has been dealing with the shutdown of “in person” classes:

Seven Star began holding online classes via Zoom as of March 12th and we have had 8 online classes to date. We determined a set schedule this week: Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday one hour classes via Zoom. We have been recording our Zoom sessions so that students who cannot participate live can watch the class and participate as they can fit it into their schedule and so that we can build a resource library for our students. Because we have a large teacher base and student base, we have two teachers co-teaching every session (so someone can just observe and give feedback while the other teacher gives instruction/direction) and sometimes we use a lower ranking asst. teacher (purple/blue belt) to lead stretches/joint rotations. We've found it is useful to have someone running the "tech" side of things (i.e. moderating the video, managing recordings, etc) as well, so the teacher can focus on teaching. Starting next week, we will also be implementing belt specific classes (i.e. white belt class or orange belt class) so that we can begin teaching new material to our students at their belt rank, and also so that they can train with their cohorts present. Each belt rank at our school has a teacher who is their "mentor" and we've been using the mentor system for belt rank check ins and self training. In addition, we have several of our students who have been organizing themselves and self training in small group via Zoom. We have also initiated a Friday "social hour" for folks to just connect and chat. We are supplementing online Zoom classes with short pre-recorded lessons when we don't have classes scheduled. We send regular communications via email to our students around class schedule, training opportunities, and checking in. We also recently activated a Slack channel for our students to communicate and we are doing some limited social media outreach as well.

At the suggestion of Sigung Michelle McVadon's teacher Grandmaster Barbara Bones, we have had a few Zoom calls with the heads of other schools in our Kajukenbo family to share ideas and our experiences as we attempt this new way of providing classes to our students. Those calls have been very helpful and have had a wonderful side effect of bringing us together to connect with each other in a way we only ever get to do when we have seminars! We plan to continue doing them.

Seattle Wushu Center is Training

By Sifu Restita DeJesus 

Are you holding classes?

I'm holding classes via video, on Zoom videoconferencing. I'm keeping the same schedule as we had at the studio, and so far most of the students are attending the video classes.

Are you sending people agendas for self training?

I give verbal suggestions in each video class, as to what the group as a whole can work on, and what each individual can work on.


As mentioned in above, each video class gets verbal instructions after class, as to what they can practice until the next class. I've corresponded via email or Facebook video call to clarify instructions or share diagrams or documents.

What are you focusing on?

We teach several arts at my school, and each class focuses on the aspects of each art: Tai Chi, Kajukenbo, Eskrima. Focal points include but are not limited to: focusing on kata/forms (improvement, learning new movements), cardio/strengthening, solo drills, footwork, boxing/kickboxing combos in shadowboxing format (or on heavy bags if they have them at home), practicing self defense techniques in solo fashion, group meditation, Qigong, weapons work.

How are you holding space for your community?

I feel that all of us in the local martial artists in my area, are holding space for our localities. By providing a means for students to continue practice (video lessons, check-ins, phone calls, etc) and by observing ways to be available for neighbors as needed, I feel that our efforts as a whole alleviates some of the panic response and fosters a sense of community and working together.

What I'm doing at my studio is daily classes via Zoom. Our class schedule remains the same as with the in-studio classes, and the students meet for their scheduled Zoom meetups each day. I have all students wear their uniform so that it counts as a "real" class. So far it is working well.

I'm also providing free videos on my studio's Facebook page, with Qigong and kid's kung fu activities. The follow-along videos are open to anyone.

I'm in the process of setting up "video workshop series" where 2 or 3 "visiting" instructors connect with me on BeLive.TV, (which I use for my weekly podcast "Dynamic Dojo Talk TV") and each instructor teaches a couple of exercises or drills from their respective arts. It allows their own students to learn something different from other teachers and hopefully 1) motivate their students to keep with or start with their teacher's video classes and 2) provide a sense of "coming together" and "community" so that dojos and studios don't feel as if they are just in their own little world and 3) help teachers get their arts out there through the sharing of the live broadcast by those other than their own students.

Goju Karate Center Online Schedule

By Sensei Michelle Vanderlinden-Enfield

Karate, with its emphasis on individual self-mastery and solo exercises, really is the ideal discipline for people of all ages to keep mentally and spiritually centered while being physically active, particularly now when we are restricted in what we can do and where we can go. In addition to our virtual dojo, we also have formed a collaborative with members of our international organization (GKCglobal) in which we have additional cyber seminars with folks from all over the world. We just started a Kobudo series from Sensei Steve Armes in Canada, and we have two more seminars and a Tai Chi seminar coming! All members of our organization have access to these teachings. The annual tuition for our organization is only $99/year, members have access to our weekly virtual classes as well. In addition to that, our adult students from our Saturday class told us they missed going upstairs for coffee. So we now have a “Coffee Time with a Self Important Sensei”, tongue in cheek obviously. We have incredible speakers lined up from all over the world, including Hanshi Cesar Borkowski Canada, Andreas Quast Germany, Simon Oliver UK, Marion Borkowski Kyoshi Canada, so we are staying connected in many ways.

In case anyone wants to join us, we are offering a free community service classes including Stretch and story time with Sensei Michelle this will be on the Goju Karate Center Facebook page and is held every Tuesday and Thursday at 2 PM. The videos will remain there for everyone to watch. We have also launched a pilot program that is a community offering: Creative corner, this is a student led, every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 AM. We feature our students doing various instructional activities including crafts.

How Five Element Martial Arts is Training

By Shifu/Sensei Koré Grate

We are not holding regular classes—but we are doing ZOOM Chats twice a week during the time we would be having class.

We have specific topics and everyone joins in! It’s great because to get promoted every student has to have a NOTEBOOK and know the history, lineage, principles, etc. This gives them time to do the MIND part of Body, Mind & Spirit!

Here are the topics and the schedule we are doing!

Photo courtesy of Koré Grate.


March 18–May 1, 2020

Wed. March 18  6:30-7:10P  Shifu/Megan: First ZOOM - LINEAGE/HISTORY
Mon. March 23  6:30-7:10P  Megan: Five Fingers of Self Defense & Empowerment
Wed. March 25  6:30-7:10P  Shifu: EXERCISES you can do at HOME
Mon. March 30 5:00-5:40P Shifu: TAIJI & QIGONG CLASS (*for ALL STUDENTS)
Tues. March 31 7:00-7:40P 

Sempai Berta: IAIDO CLASS (**Iaido Club only)

Wed. April 1  6:30-7:10P  Shifu: CHI DAO/Wu Tao Kuan/Wu Chien Pai (***for ALL STUDENTS)
Mon. April 6 5:00-5:40P  Shifu: TAIJI & QIGONG CLASS*
Tues. April 7  7:00-7:40P  Sempai Berta: IAIDO CLASS**
Wed. April 8 6:30-7:10P Shifu: FIVE ELEMENTS***
Mon. April 13  5:00-5:40P  Shifu: TAIJI & QIGONG CLASS*
Tues. April 14  7:00-7:40P  Sempai Berta: IAIDO CLASS**
Wed. April 15  6:30-7:10P  Shifu: WARRIORS CODE***
Mon. April 20  5:00-5:40P  Shifu: TAIJI & QIGONG CLASS*
Tues. April 21  7:00-7:40P  Sempai Berta: IAIDO CLASS**
Wed. April 22  6:30-7:10P  Shifu: Dojo-EMERGENCY First Aid & Acupoints***
Mon. April 27  5:00-5:40P  Shifu: TAIJI & QIGONG CLASS*
Tues. April 28  7:00-7:40P  Sempai Berta: IAIDO CLASS**
Wed. April 29  6:30-7:10P  Shifu: Dojo-EMERGENCY First Aid & Acupoints***

DOWNLOAD the FREE ZOOM APP on your phone/computer! Pre-test the Video & Audio before signing on!


*Taiji/Qigong Classes: Start at 5:00! you will need some SPACE to join in

**Iaido Classes start at 7:00 & are for IAIDO CLUB ONLY-you will need an outdoor or large space to practice

***Wednesdays are for NOTEBOOK Study items-For ALL STUDENTS

Self Training: For those of us without fast internet access

By Nina Thompson

Jude stretches before a bit of self training. Photo courtesy of Jude le Tronik.

In the interest of inspiring those without fast internet connections there are some premises to self training that I feel are important to share. Basic conditioning is hard these days but if you can get somewhere big enough to repeat kata that is a worthwhile way to get conditioning. Jumping rope, stretching, and keeping in shape are important for when we can return to training, reducing our own vulnerability, and also for our mental health.

Mental health is super important in these stressful times. Exercise is one of the ways I maintain my mental health. Another way I maintain my mental health is meditation, which is a part of my martial arts practice. We have a short meditation before and after class. I have been relying more and more on my app, Headspace. It is free for educators if you sign up with your professional email.

Lastly, I want to suggest reading. We have many authors in PAWMA. Graciela Casillas, Lori O’Connell, and Debbie Leung write about martial arts. We have fiction writers like MB Austin and Bonnie Loshbaugh as well.

The most important piece is you stay connected to your martial arts, your physicality, and your health.

Photo courtesy of Steve Armes. Here he is teaching an international budoka class.

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