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Karate studio reopens for sensei and students

Sensei Tom Kelly and his Shotokan karate students participated in virtual workouts via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now that studio was reopened for training sessions two weeks ago, Kelly said little has changed for his pupils’ lessons except for the new requirement of staying six feet apart.

The dojo has a large enough room that the students are able to practice without any hindrances, although there is still no Kumite (sparring) allowed until more restrictions are lifted.

Prior to the dojo reopening, the students and Kelly held Zoom sessions where the pupils worked on their Kata (forms) and Kihon (basics).

However, those virtual workouts were nothing compared to the feeling of being in person and the athletes enjoyed being able to spend time with each other again.

“There was a tremendous feeling of being overjoyed by everybody. It was refreshing to see that they’re back and doing the thing they love,” Kelly said.

Not only do the in-person sessions allow for more free flowing socialization amongst the students, but it also allows Kelly to examine a pupil’s movements with a fine tooth comb.

There are specific details of each form that must be performed correctly, and when looking through a tiny screen it can be difficult to analyze the finer points of the Kata and Kihon.

“For 30 years I’ve looked at classes and you get a good eye for it. To see it in person you can see the intensity, power technique and focus. You can’t see that stuff on Zoom,” Kelly said.

How tournaments progress this year will be something Kelly and his students have to keep an eye on.

In 2019 Kelly, along with students Katie Barkman and Hayden Walker, traveled to Montecatini Terme, Italy to take part in the World Karate Martial Arts World Cup, which included Kumite and Kata as two parts of the competition.

However, with international travel restrictions in place, along with the uncertainty regarding countries around the world and how they reopen, Kelly said this year’s championships will take place online.

Athletes will have to be filmed completing Kata and Kihon, but Kumite will not a part of the competition this year.

“I know one thing, they’re going to have to have the ability to let judges look as close as they can (in the videos). It’s going to be tougher in some ways to accurately judge (a competitor),” Kelly said.

The entire world has been disrupted by COVID-19, but the principles of karate are pillars of strength to lean on during times of uncertainty for those who practice the martial art.

Kelly said the lessons learned while practicing karate helps his students, especially in an unprecedented situation like a pandemic.

“One thing karate teaches you is perseverance and that’s the only way you get through karate is you keep trying. We all hit roadblocks and we have to find a way to keep going,” Kelly said.