UT RecSports martial arts groups have transitioned to Zoom or hybrid practices to facilitate social distancing, using props and focusing training on individual techniques like footwork.
On Sept. 14, RecSports started allowing in-person activities with a maximum of 10 people. Typically, nine martial arts groups, including Texas Fencing, Texas Judo, Texas Wushu and Texas Taekwondo, host almost daily practices in the Recreational Sports Center or Bellmont Hall. This semester, only some of these groups chose to hold in-person meetings.
For martial arts with close contact and grappling, which involves gripping an opponent, socially distant practicing does not accurately replicate results of real close-combat sparring, said Omar Melhem, treasurer of Texas Judo, which is currently hosting online-only events.
“The biggest challenge for moving online is not having the weight of a second person to practice drills,” said Melhelm, a chemical engineering and rhetoric and writing junior. “We are working toward a solution right now, and we’re hoping to get resistance bands to pull and grappling dummies to throw to simulate the weight and momentum of a person.”
Wushu, a Chinese martial art that has many forms, sometimes does not require contact or sparring but practicing it virtually has still come with difficulties, said Rosie Khan, vice president of Texas Wushu and a Plan II government, economics, international relations and global studies, and Asian cultures and languages (Chinese) junior.
“Wushu is considered a more independent and performative martial art, so it’s easier to practice on your own,” Khan said. “But the difficulty in Zoom sessions is differentiating directions and mirroring issues.”
Jadie Pruitt, outreach coordinator of Texas Fencing, said in-person practices were focused on sparring with others using swords, but other components like footwork can be practiced with limited space.
Neuroscience junior Pruitt said RecSports will start outdoor practices for groups such as Texas Fencing to have lessons in person.
Despite the challenges, Texas Fencing, Texas Wushu and Texas Judo have still encouraged students to join.
“This community has really helped me through a rough time, and I know that a lot of people have had issues being sedentary and unmotivated,” said Pruitt. “Having a community that you can go to that gets you active and interacting is really important. It’s just nice to know that there are other people out there who understand and are willing to work with you.”