At the outset of COVID-19, Grand Master Yoo and Mrs. Yoo were in their 14th year running White Tiger Martial Arts in Mills Creek, WA. As seasoned business owners and skilled martial arts instructors, the disruptions of the pandemic presented opportunities to explore the utility of adaptability. Leaning into their nimble natures, Grand Master and Mrs. Yoo discovered that the trade-offs of at-home virtual instruction were not all negative. Much to their surprise, they were able to find creative ways to utilize Zoom classes to engage new traditions and find even deeper connections with the community surrounding White Tiger Martial Arts.
Community Engagement During a Pandemic
Mrs. Yoo will be the first to admit they are looking forward to being back in the studio, “you can’t do everything at home that you can in the studio.” However, COVID-19 has presented a unique insight into the strength of their community. The first place this became apparent was in parental involvement. Virtual instruction created difficulty for students, but through encouragement from Grand Master Yoo, a majority of parents engaged with their children’s learning. These parents slowly began to join in classes and learn alongside their children. This lifted spirits all around and sowed seeds for a tight-knit community amongst the parents, students and teachers. Finally, Grand Master Yoo noticed a key difference in the types of questions parents were asking. Their attention to the intricacies of martial arts became more honed through the process of at-home training.
These types of questions led to more individualized feedback for students. In tandem with 1-on-1 sessions, Grand Master and Mrs. Yoo saw improved focus and attention in students, especially those with attention disorders. This was an unforeseen advantage in virtual training, especially for parents who suddenly had to work from home and share space with their children in new ways. The virtual martial arts classes along with individual feedback offered a newfound engagement level for such families.
Belt Testing from a Distance
Probably the most bittersweet adjustment for Grand Master and Mrs. Yoo was recalibrating their belt testing. Historically, belt testing would be accompanied with big celebrations, often at the student’s home with their family and friends. Obviously, this type of social interaction is not possible right now. In the wake of stay-at-home orders, there were a handful of students up for belt testing. This included a few high school students who had trained with Grand Master and Mrs. Yoo for 12 years and were scheduled to test for their 4th-degree black belt. They decided to surprise these students by inviting a number of alumni and past instructors who were a part of these students’ journey at White Tiger Martial Arts. Having a virtual community gathered for these students added intense layers to the emotionality to the belt testing.
While this type of virtual community could have been possible to some extent before COVID-19, it was not something that crossed Grand Master and Mrs. Yoo’s mind. Their ability to see COVID-19 as an opportunity to learn about their teaching and find new ways to engage students and families during the pandemic has not only helped them maintain their community but actually secured tighter bonds in the foundation of their martial arts school. Even when the studio is up and running fully, Grand Master and Mrs. Yoo intend to offer virtual class options, as it has proven an effective and powerful means of educating their students. Adaptability is a constant process of calibration, and the discipline offered to students at White Tiger Martial Arts shows how useful this perspective can be through trying times.
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