How Successful dojos navigate the challenge of COVID-19

Article | Patrick Brown

We spoke to Vince Messina from Martial Arts Spirit (@mastaekwondo,, to find out how their dojo’s are doing now, how they adapted to covid-19 and how the hell do we find our way out of this mess?


Early on during COVID-19 lockdowns, as people came to realise they could no longer workout or train in their gyms, clubs and dojos, a lot of media focus was placed on high profile gym chains. However the humble dojo didn’t get much love during this time, suffering from the same swift shutdowns, but without the backing of large franchise organisations behind them. We knew this was going to be a tough time for dojos.

Through SMAI’s network of customers and contacts, we began to notice a wave of momentum from martial arts clubs. Through our Instagram and facebook feed, beginning as a trickle, and soon to be deluge, online martial arts training programs were being implemented right across Australia. Today, we share the experiences of two martial arts clubs who successfully adapted to online training very early on. We talked about how their clubs have been impacted, how they adapted and what their plans are for the near future.


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Not only did we see the martial arts community be quick to adopt and respond to the new normal, one thing that stood above all was the positivity and strength that was being delivered in their message. This wasn’t just a half-baked effort to go online, this was a fully engaged, online programming movement designed to keep members connected, enjoying their sport and supporting the hundreds of local clubs, dojos and studios, most of which are small business.

Vince Messina (Martial Arts Spirit) told us their first advantage in going online was being aware and having an early warning. “We were fortunate enough to see how the pandemic in other countries had been impacted. We then monitored their response and used their reaction in accordance to our business. This gave use the edge on other businesses to be prepared to inform our members with the knowledge and reassurance that everything was going to be okay. In a positive light, the government restriction unified our club even stronger than before."


For Vince and Martial Arts Spirit, the head start was crucial. At the time the lockdowns were announced, Martial Arts Spirit had no online programming. They had to move quickly, Vince said.

“The program was developed the Sunday evening, which was when the lockdown was announced. So we had a few days to convert our current members to our online platform, which we had to make from scratch. We decided to use Facebook private groups as a way for our parents to receive their Childs training online.” Martial Arts Spirit left nothing to chance, recording online sessions immediately. “We recorded most of our mini rangers and martial rangers content on the Sunday night. But it took us less than a week to collaborate ideas and methods on how we are going to run the classes online”

In a positive light, the government restriction unified our club even stronger than before.

Vince Messina, Martial Arts Spirit

While the Martial Arts Spirit program contains some typical aspects of martial arts training, such as balance, coordination and fitness, Vince highlighted a unique part of their online programming focused around mental health and stress relief “For instance the mini ranger program we would cover perseverance, as it was really important to keep these students mentally challenged during this time. We noticed that a lot of our martial rangers and teens were looking forward to these sessions because it would provide them relief from the stress of the world”

What is the best training type for online martial arts PROGRAMMING?

When asked for tips on what works well in an online session, Vince explained that Martial Arts Spirit needed to get creative for the younger programs to keep them engaged for a long time. “We found mini rangers (*mini rangers is MA Spirits youngest program) reacted well to more lively classes than just focusing on martial arts. Having them create an obstacle course with their toys, chairs and pillows provided great interaction and engagement.”

A student’s connection to their instructor was something that concerned Martial Arts Spirit. On top of a busy, 7 day a week schedule of pre-recorded and live group classes, members and instructors can accesses a shorter one on one session with their instructor. “We have one on one classes with our members and their instructors so that way they are not losing their connection with their instructor. It also gives them something to look forward to during the week. And they go for around 15 minutes” says Vince.

Will martial arts online training be used after COVID-19?

As we move towards stage 2 and stage 3 of easing restrictions, Vince and Martial Arts Spirit are already looking to the future of their club. Vince believes online sessions are here to stay. He says students “finally have the a chance to catchup on their classes online in their own time”


When it comes to opening the dojo again, student and members safety is an obvious priority for Martial Arts Spirit. “We are planning to be extremely vigorous with maintaining cleanliness with suppling hand sanitiser before and the end of class. We will also be purchasing wipes to clean surfaces after the end of each class. We will be mopping the mats at the end of the day, incorporating social distancing in our lesson plans, erecting a sneeze screen and minimising the amount of people in our gyms.”

So if your dojo has not made the transition to online programming, its clear many feel online can exist in harmony with traditional face to face training, offering a new income stream that is no longer limited to your local area.

Have you considered alternate revenue options for martial arts clubs?

Many clubs have also made additional revenue by retailing home training packs and offering free home delivery. A popular combination we have seen is the humble clapper and kick shield, which can be easily used and shared in a household. To help bridge the gap between the online and in-class experience, getting Jigsaw Mats for a 3m x 3m or 4m x 5m matted space is a great idea to practice kicks, katas and patterns and create the dojo or dojang experience at home.

Training packs can be prepared and shipped straight to members, or contact us about our wholesale rates available on our products. Create a new income stream for your martial business through retail sales of martial arts training gear and martial arts sparring gear. Have you considered stocking items for your members to purchase? Or try a welcome pack for members, giving them their own, fresh and clean kit to use in your dojo. Or how about graduation packs for grading seasons? Visit our martial art collections to view our entire range of weapons, sparring gear, uniforms and kick shields.


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