365 Days! The Best Worst Year ever! – A letter from Mike Beckwith Sensei

Monday March 17th 2020 is a day that will be remembered as one of the biggest days in history!  The day when we were all told to stay home and limit contact with others.  We were told we could not mix with people outside of our households and could only exercise for one hour a day outside! COVID 19 had arrived.

At that moment Red Tiger Karate Club was brought to its knees, the club took the immediate decision to close all classes for the safety of all our Students and Instructors, until some clarity as to the announcement was sought.

On Tuesday March 18th, the news was not good – we could no longer train in Dojo’s for the foreseeable future….

Paul Sensei and Rachael Sensei looked round to see how we could continue and after discussions with other karate club leaders, the decision to use Zoom was made (most of us had never heard of this programme before).

Meetings with the Club Instructors were held over the next couple of days and the decision to trial Zoom classes was made.

On Friday 21st March, our first Zoom classes were taught by Paul and Rachael Sensei – just 3 (THREE) days after it all seemed so disastrous, a glimmer of hope emerged.  We still needed the most important ingredient of the club though, we needed students to train in the classes.  Whilst we were hopeful you would join us; we were overwhelmed when over 130 of you trained in the first 2 classes on that Friday night!  Your solidarity and support was incredible.  Were there some technical issues? – yes, did we enjoy it? – definitely yes!  Were we surprised and humbled by your support? – Absolutely.  However, this was only one night – could we sustain it???

On Monday the 23rd March we set about our first, tentative, week of classes with a relatively full timetable.  28 classes over the normal 6 days of training.  You all absolutely blew us away with your support.  Over 500 students trained across that week including, for the first time, day training run by some of our amazing Cadet Leaders.

Throughout the rest of March and April, even with the Sun shining outside, you all joined us online.  Front rooms, Kitchens, Dining Rooms, Gardens, Garages all became dojo’s!  Little did we know that, apart from a brief return to Dojos for the kids in October, we would still be doing it online 12 months later.

We tried all different classes, Yoga, Fitness challenges, Sensei Bingo and Grade specific classes to name just a few.  The response was fantastic.

Within a few weeks we were running the new normal and were even having classes with Honbu Instructors live from Japan as well as classes with Matt Price Sensei.

Without listing every single class we have done (as that would be too much to write) and boring to read, suffice it to say that we didn’t just come back, we bounced back with our usual Red Tiger tenacity!  Zoom gradings soon followed and we were amazed at the bravery of the Students putting themselves forward and blown away by the standard.  There was one reservation about Zoom training that instructors were concerned about, and this was maintaining our high standard of karate.  You guys have proved us wrong!!! Thank you, you are amazing!

Throughout the last Year we have tried to keep you all as motivated as we can.  We appreciate Zoom isn’t for everyone.  We applaud every one of you that has given it a go and look forward to welcoming back those who couldn’t take to it.

A couple of the good things to some out of all this:-

  • Kata and combination videos, created by Mike Baron, Grace Baron and Vanilla Pod studios,
  • The App to register and monitor classes
  • Flexibility to know that, when we have bad weather, a real alternative is there that we can all use.

Its been a tough Year and one we hope to never repeat again, but every cloud has a silver lining, and we have made great progress through it.

Huge thanks to our Instructor Team for accepting the challenge of Zoom teaching and training and also to Paul Sensei and Rachael Sensei for making swift, decisive and difficult decisions in the best interests of all the Club.  The biggest thanks should go to those of you reading this now.  Parents, Partners and family members who have sacrificed their homes to allow us to keep training, you don’t know how much we appreciate it.  Also, the students of the club.  Without your continued support we could not have continued and developed.

Now, with a Roadmap out of Lockdown teasing us with a potential return to dojo’s for us all, we cant wait to see you all for real again. I’m sure that all the parents can’t wait to catch up with their Karate friends again whilst the kids are training and also to reclaim their living spaces.  I bet the students cant wait to see (and hit) their karate friends again too!!!

There are only two words that we can say, from the bottom of our Hearts, Thank you!

Thank you for your support in the most challenging year ever.

Thank you!

Many of you may have taken a break from your training and that is ok. Just know that we are here when you want to return and the welcome will be a warm one! We want each and every one of you back training with us no matter how long it has been. You can pick up right where you left off.

Finally, as we reflect on the Year that has passed, we would love to know what you have enjoyed, what were your highlights, your funny moments etc.

In closing we are aware that some of you have had to make your own personal sacrifices too.  Whether it is by staying away from family members to keep them and you safe, experienced illness or, in some cases, have sadly lost loved ones.  Our thoughts are with every single one of you.

As Captain Sir Tom Moore said – “Tomorrow will be a better Day” and “For all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment – the Sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away”

We can’t wait to see you all very soon!

Mike Beckwith Sensei – Assistant Chief Instructor