Martial arts gyms in Baguio City remain idle due to COVID-19
BAGUIO CITY — The possibility of extending the closure of martial arts gymnasiums beyond May 31 due to the lingering threat of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been agonizing for owners and trainers here.
For many gyms in this city, considered the educational center north of Manila, March until August is considered a peak season, drawing professional athletes and martial arts enthusiasts who enroll in various programs.
Students on a school break are the gyms’ primary clients, said Melvin Morte, owner and headmaster of UFC Taekwondo Martial Arts Academy here.
Morte, a sixth dan Kukkiwon black belt, said his main gym would take in as many as 400 students while partner schools could teach about 300 others—more than double the usual attendees.
The arts and wellness business sector, which includes martial arts gyms, are projected to reopen in August or September, according to Danrey Velo, founding president and program director of Bravehearts Martial Arts Institute.
The reopening was discussed during a meeting with Mayor Benjamin Magalong early this month, Velo said.
August is within the gyms’ lean months and quarantine regulations still prohibit people below 21 years old, the average age of most taekwondo students, from leaving their homes.
“We really could not meet our projected target income from the summer months. It’s a struggle,” said Velo, a fifth dan Kukkiwon black belt.
To make matters worse, Velo said they were not eligible for the small business wage subsidy program of the Department of Finance and the COVID-19 adjustment measure program of the Department of Labor and Employment.
With practically no income, some gyms and trainers, like UFC and two-time Freestyle world champion Jeordan Dominguez, have resorted to online platforms to train their students. Dominguez, a Southeast Asian Games poomsae freestyle gold medalist and a UFC alumnus and former instructor, has started his own martial arts school, Twist and Kicks.
Since April, UFC has been offering training sessions via Zoom, a live video application, with at least 30 students participating, said Morte, a Kukkiwon-licensed international master instructor who is now in New York.This is also in preparation for the National Poomsae Taekwondo Championships from May 29 to 31, which will also be conducted online, he said.
But the online platform is still not a viable training ground for most students.
Erratic or lack of online connections prevents students and coaches from joining the web-based classes, said Morte, who has also established a following overseas.
Velo said online training was also not a preference for many students, especially those who would like to conduct spar training.
These gyms, including the Baguio Defenders Taekwondo Gym, considered as one of northern Luzon’s top taekwondo institutions, started posting free demonstration videos through a Facebook page called “Baguio Arts and Wellness School.”The page, which also posts music and dance lessons, helps netizens “cope with stress and anxiety” of quarantine by staying fit and active at home. INQ
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