Barb Lamble and her husband Mike, aka Sensei Barb and Sensei Mike, have owned and operated Elmira Karate Dojo since 1990. Like many other business owners, they have been feeling the wrath of the COVID-19 lockdown. Luckily, the community the Lambles have built has helped keep them afloat.
“It’s pretty hard-hitting, considering that we don’t really have an income from the business at this point,” said Lamble of the economic fallout.
Operated from St. James Lutheran Church, Elmira Karate Dojo (EKD) was slated to run its 35th-anniversary tournament earlier this month at Riverside Public School. It was an event the Lambles and their son were eagerly anticipating. As with most scheduled events, the tournament was cancelled, a decision that was difficult for the couple to handle – all of the equipment and supplies had already been purchased when the plug was pulled.
“When we got the call that it was canceled, we had already bought all of the trophies and sent out the marketing,” said Lamble, estimating the cost at thousands of dollars.
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With the dojo not being considered an essential service and income already reduced to zero, the tournament’s cancellation created more difficulties for EKD. The hardship was tempered, however, by the karate community itself.
“The neat thing is that when we [postponed] our tournament until next year, 90 per cent of our pre-registers [said] to hold our fees until next year,” she said, noting EKD is grateful for such a positive response, which will allow to pay their vendors and trophy supplier. As well, the landlord has also extended a hand.
EKD has moved to online classes, which has been a mostly positive experience.
“Karate is actually pretty suited for solitary training – it used to be practiced in secret as a sort of hidden martial art.”
EKD is exploring the idea of allowing new members to join, but for now are maintaining current students. With a minimal amount of equipment required to practice karate, the at-home time is a good opportunity to get started with the ancient art of defense, said Lamble.
On the other hand, there are concerns about people getting started without in-person guidance, particularly where injuries might occur.
EKD also runs tai-chi classes, which may be the more appropriate option for beginners, she added.
“That one is much easier to teach. It’s relaxing, it gets your mind at ease. It’s not necessarily strenuous, but it is really useful for people who are stressed out.”
Lamble also notes that now is a great opportunity to start a hobby and workout as a means of physical and mental engagement, pointing to learning a new instrument, knitting, painting and the like.
For those interested in picking up an instrument, guitar teacher Bill Wilhelm recommends a community-based approach through social networks, which go beyond the numerous online resources.
“There is a lot of information out there – take it with a grain of salt. Skype … with someone and ask them to show you how to improve through video calls.”
Wilhelm recommends guitarists start off by learning their ABCDEFG chords as a simple way to progress.
“If you can learn those chords, three of those chords can be put [together] for [many] songs.”
Wilhelm is currently not taking in new students due to coronavirus concerns but recommends people take on new hobbies with the surplus of time that exists for many in self-isolation.