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Dojo members use technology to train together

Sensei Tom Kelly wasn’t sure how he was going to go about training his pupils in Shotokan Karate during the coronavirus pandemic, but has found a way to continue his teaching by using the app Zoom.

Without proper supervision the athletes could’ve developed bad habits or lost some of their skills, so Kelly had to find a way to monitor his students’ progress.

That’s when the idea for virtual training sessions came to the forefront.

Kelly said it isn’t as impactful as training in person, but the communal workouts through Zoom can help Kelly ensure his athletes are on the right track.

“I have it set up so I can see their whole body and feet. It’s not the same obviously and if they were able to march up the floor it would be much better, but it’s better than not doing anything,” Kelly said. Kelly said there are a variety of exercises and techniques that can be practiced, even in smaller spaces like a living room or kitchen.

First, Kelly will demonstrate what he wants his athletes to do. Once the students understand their task Kelly will grab his iPad and intently evaluate each student as they perform the move so he can critique and correct any mistakes.

The group’s first workout utilizing this method took place on Easter, and Kelly said it was mostly about getting things set up to make sure the virtual workouts would be doable.

The second workout took place April 15 and was a resounding success, which has led to the possibility of including others in the sessions.

“I talked to some brother dojos and they’re going to start joining us, so we can start offering karate every day of the week with one of those instructors doing the days I don’t teach,” Kelly said.

The athletes may have a different sensei depending on the night, but Kelly doesn’t foresee that being an issue.

Each sensei has their own way of teaching, but there are similarities across the different types of karate.

“Even though we have different styles and kata, we use the same basic techniques. We’ll be working on stances, hip movement and blocking. We’ll expand it into kicks and other things as we go on,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the majority of his students are either black belts or approaching that level, which makes it even more important they’re able to train under his supervision so they can maintain their skills. Kelly said the social distancing and other precautionary measures employed as part of the pandemic has led people like himself to create ways to maintain pre-pandemic routines.

“It has made us become innovative and find ways to maintain some semblance of being in shape. It’s not standing in front of a camera and doing some movements, it’s actually doing precise movements, doing them correctly and doing it to the point it’s aerobic,” Kelly said.