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Backwell, North Somerset
Nailsea, North Somerset
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A YEAR OF ZOOM! LOOKING BACK
15 March 2021 1:13 pm
A massive thank you to all of our members, instructors & guest instructors over the last 12 months.
The first karate club in Great Britain to enable their students to continue training through Zoom.
Six special Academy-organised Zoom seminars with instructors from around the world.
Almost 7 hours of Zoom classes taught each week.
At 5pm on 16th March 2020, Boris Johnson announced to the nation that all non-essential contact with others should stop in order to help control the coronavirus pandemic. By 1.52am on 17th March, Bristol Karate Academy launched plans for online classes, with emails going out to all members at 8am that morning and our first ever Zoom karate class running that evening.
We could never imagine that 12 months later we'd still be Zooming away, with our homes still our dojos. And, of course, it’s not just been Zoom. We’ve been outdoors in groups of six (and then 30), indoors with shoes on and even holding our first ever (and perhaps last!) grading outdoors in a car park during winter!
In an acknowledgement of your incredible resilience and unwavering support over the last 12 months, here’s a look back at the strangest of years.
On 16th March, following a 5pm announcement by Boris Johnson to avoid non-essential contact, a quick dash to PC World to buy a tripod and other supplies meant that plans were already starting to take shape for the start of online lessons.
By 1.52am on 17th March, Bristol Karate Academy post updates to the Academy website confirming our move to online lessons. By 8am, emails started to land in members’ inboxes to confirm the move to online. The first ever Zoom class for the club was an invitational pilot session with nine attendees. 30 Academy members Zoomed the following day in our first full session. We helped several clubs across the country – across multiple associations – get set up so that they could replicate the approach for their own dojos.
By 19th March, we started to see a few guests make an appearance. Sensei Matt Price, along with his wife, Zoe, and daughter joined their first ever Zoom session. Matt Sensei then returned to teach his first ever Zoom lesson in our first ever special Zoom seminar on Sunday 22nd March! Pulses were racing as the session kept us working from minute 1 to minute 90! This was the first of many special Zoom seminars, with the second being the following weekend with Sensei John Bruce.
The toll of no hairdressers was really starting to tell! Academy instructor Sensei Dan Salter raised a whopping £762.50 for being brave (mad?) enough to let his kids cut his hair with beard trimmers. The results were nothing short of spectacular.
Our youngest 5-7 year old ‘Warrior’ members ended their unusual term of lessons with certificate presentations through Zoom, with the real certificates winging their way through the post shortly after.
Our first ever Zoom quiz night was hosted by Caroline Walton on 17th April. With multiple rounds and plenty of you taking part it was a great way to bring in some of the usual chat that we’d normally have at the end of a face-to-face session at the dojo. Later that month we held our first ever ‘challenge of the week’ with members competing to have the most impressive ‘Karate Korner’ homage in their house. Thanks to Brandon and Quaid for the inspiration and congratulations to Oli for winning!
On Sunday 10th May we were delighted to be joined by Sensei Holly Bruce, who taught a special seminar for the Academy. The session was the first time Holly Sensei has taught for us since a special face-to-face event in 2012 in celebration of the opening of our Nailsea dojo. She certainly reminded us why she was such a popular instructor back then as she impressed everyone with her kick control.
29th May also saw the very first loosening of restrictions, with socially distanced outdoor private lessons allowed to take place. Michael was the first to bite the bullet, with a session up at Backwell Playing Fields.
Our special seminars went international! We were delighted to welcome ISKF world champions Senseis Adam and Tracy Pearce as our Zoom guest instructors, all the way from Adelaide, Australia. Both instructors are phenomenal athletes and their session was both hard work and inspiring.
The first of our ‘rule of six’ outdoor training sessions also took place in June, with the first being on The Downs in Bristol on Tuesday 16th and the next being at Backwell Playing Fields on Sunday 21st. The outdoor schedule grew and grew over the course of the month.
After ten weeks of the Warriors summer term taking place on Zoom we were delighted to hold the last two classes for our youngest students outdoors. It was so good to see everyone’s smiling faces and to be able to present the Warriors their certificates (through an over-engineered system of envelopes and medical-grade gloves for signing and packing them!).
Our outdoor class booking system was creaking, so we moved to a new system with instant online confirmations.
WTKO Chief Instructor, Sensei Richard Amos was our next guest instructor. Richard Sensei is the most senior instructor we’ve had teach for our dojo through Zoom and we were so pleased to be able to have him and his wife Yanti guide us through the kata ‘Suishu’.
On 12th August, 150 days after our last indoor class we were finally back in the dojo! The first session was held in Nailsea School. There were a few changes in place to meet with government and EKF guidance, so it was mandatory for members to read our ‘return to indoor training’ guide. The guide became a template for several other clubs who got in touch.
At the end of the month we were delighted to be able to hold a socially distanced grading with Sensei Frank Brennan (8th Dan). This was Senseis first face-to-face seminar since before the pandemic began and we were honoured to be able to start to bring a sense of normality to Sensei, to our members and to our guests from across the region.
While Zoom was still a part of our weekly training schedule, September saw the continuation of a really mixed schedule. Sessions were held outside in Bristol and Backwell, inside in Nailsea and on Zoom.
By mid-September, government restrictions began to tighten once again, with mixed messages coming from the government for sports and activities. Nevertheless, karate could continue and a further booking system enhancement came in on 13th September to cope with the demands of multiple lesson formats and different number restrictions in each venue. The system rolled out in September continues to be the one we use today.
By the end of September, the last of our venues – Long Ashton – was able to re-open for face-to-face classes.
Intense flooding on 4th October stops outdoor training, but thankfully only for one session! Meanwhile, Eden arranges an appeal to help patients in South Bristol Community Hospital.
Academy members collect over 200 items – from shower gel to hair brushes – for patients who are unable to have visitors in hospital due to the risk of bringing coronavirus into the setting. Well done everyone!
Despite the enforced cancellation of our biggest event of the last two years we were still able to hold a successful face-to-face seminar with Sensei Matt Price. It was so great to have a window of near normality to help build our resolve for the months to come.
A new lockdown from 5th November forces the closure of all bricks and mortar venues, as the Academy moves back to Zoom.
The Bruised Arms – Bristol Karate Academy’s virtual pub –opened its doors for the first time on 6th November, with the drinks on the house for one lucky prize draw winner! Quizzing makes a comeback, this time led by Quizmaster Ian Connell. Highlights included the “will it float?” round and some expert Photoshopping!
November also saw Academy instructor teaching a special Zoom seminar for Sendai Kushiro karate club in Sunderland, alongside Sensei Greg Hegarty.
In a real test of what can be achieved with a dedicated grading examiner, sheer bloody-mindedness and a dedicated membership we held our first (and hopefully last!) ever outdoor grading. While outdoor winter gradings are a bit chilly it was fantastic to see such spirit from everyone in attendance.
Some indoor classes for under 18s were able to take place during December, but our annual face-to-face Christmas party and awards ceremony was clearly not possible. This moved to Zoom, with a brilliant Christmas Quiz and dozens of members and their families in attendance.
The year started with a change in karate associations. Bristol Karate Academy joined JKS England and could now benefit from the raft of online seminars provided by JKS worldwide, including one with JKS World Champion, Yamaguchi Sensei and WKF World Champion Arimoto Sensei.
January 2021 also saw a return to the kind of restrictive lockdown brought in during the first pandemic wave. All classes moved back to Zoom.
February started with ‘Vote for a kata’. Academy members voted in their numbers, with most choosing to run through the Asai-Ryu Junro katas. Throughout two weeks, all five Junros were explored. Online seminars included one with the phenomenal Okamoto Sensei, WKF Karate1 Okinawa Premier League Champion.
We held our 2nd annual kangeiko through Zoom, with morning runs in the rain. Congratulations to over 20 of you that took part.
Zoom training continues, as does lockdown. We look forward to a special ‘Zoomiversary’ seminar with Senseis Matt Price and Steve Carless.
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Without a doubt, this has been the strangest of years and we thank you for your phenomenal support over the last 12 months. All of the instructors have been blown away by your endless positivity, training efforts and dedication.
As the coronavirus vaccination programme continues to roll out we look forward to a return to the dojo soon. Planning has already started for the phased return of face-to-face karate at the Academy, with details to be announced once we receive confirmation from our venues.