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Title [Martial Arts Globe] Korea Against COVID-19 / How Douikan is Responding to the Outbreak
Photo not directly related to writing. Photo by @anshu18
Kumdo Master, Douikan Dojang
“Every cloud has a silver lining.” That’s what I repeatedly emphasize to my young Kumdo practitioners. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, not only were all the Kumdo competitions and evaluation tests canceled, operation of dojangs also faced difficulties. This was the same for Douikan. For Kumdo practitioners, every single experience at the dojang, including preparation for competitions and evaluation tests, is critical for development. As Kumdo is considered “a martial arts of experience,” all of these struck hard. Hopeless and negative thoughts filled in. But as the saying goes, I decided to find the silver lining, and turn this crisis into an opportunity.
Since February, Douikan, a Kumdo dojang located in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, Republic of Korea, is currently under operation abiding by the government’s response measures against COVID-19 for sports facilities. Visitors have to list their names and body temperatures, before entering and existing the dojang. In classes, everyone is asked to wear facemasks instead of the usual armor on the head. All gears that require direct contact with the practitioners’ body, including sticks and uniforms, are to be kept safe through thorough sterilization.
COVID-19 measures inside the dojang might seem like nothing more than a round of inconvenient and additional tasks. But positive thinking has allowed to turn the downsides into upsides. The wearing of facemask could provide a good example. Wearing a mask during sport activities was the last thing we wanted. But suddenly, I noticed masks actually creates a similar condition to wearing an armor during Kumdo practice. Both masks and armors, constraints the visual, making it difficult for someone to see, and requires a focus on the opponent’s eyes which is critical in collecting information. Beginners who haven’t worn armor before are now gradually learning how to collect information through visual perception. Also, wearing masks help them have high cardiorespiratory endurance, which is essential in wearing armors. In addition, by looking at their eyes, I can now tell whether they are enjoying the class!
Before the outbreak, classes usually consisted of technical practices there are useful in getting good scores during competitions and evaluation tests. As an instructor, I was worried wearing masks instead of armors might lead to a downfall in the students’ performance. But I realized this is an opportunity to focus on the basics, and make improvements in different ways. Most of all, I can now give immediate feedbacks about their weaknesses, and what they are lacking. Many of which that had been hidden behind the armor until now.
We used to have two classes based on the learner’s level. One was for beginners who were not ready to wear armors, and the other, was for the advanced learners who were. The two classes are no longer separated, because no one is allowed to wear armors during the pandemic. Now that they are training together, regardless of their levels, beginners are being encouraged from the advanced learners of their posture and attitude during class.
In Kumdo, practitioners must be aware of themselves as much as they are aware of their opponent. To utilize the stick to his or her utmost benefit, they have to use all their senses to conceive their situation with speed, and be able to make quick decisions on the distance and techniques to use. In other words, the proprioceptive sense is considered an important skill. To help students maintain the development of this skill, in an armor-free environment, Douikan has introduced a new training system, which helps our trainees horn their sense while keeping a focused and sharp mindset(see video for reference. This creative learning method helps beginners and advanced learners enhance their visionary, auditory, and vestibular senses.
It is true the COVID-19 has caused concern, inconvenience and damage. However, as an average Kumdo practitioner would do, I will take on this challenge, focus on the bright side, and turn this into another opportunity. By accepting these circumstances, I hope my students and I can find the silver lining among the clouds, take this crisis as an opportunity to complement our weaknesses, learn, and become a better person, all together.
*DOUIKAN is complying with the government’s response guideline to COVID-19.