Northampton martial arts club comes back from coronavirus lockdown brink to help students get active
'I'm not going to lie, it was touch and go at one point, but everyone stuck with us'
A Northampton martial arts club has come back from the brink during the coronavirus lockdown to help children and adults stay active.
Endurance Martial Arts Academy has close to shutting for good as a result of losing so many members but owner Shak Ahmed kept going and they are now back even stronger.
"Before Covid we were doing great but we took a knock when the lockdown struck - I'm not going to lie, it was touch and go at one point," he said.
"But everyone stuck with us and we did classes on Zoom and we've just adapted from there - there's no contact still or pads so we're just doing fitness drills - but it's been good."
Shak believes they have gone 'above and beyond' to minimise the risk of spreading the virus, partly after his own experience of being sick in March
They have also dropped classes at two locations - Duston and Kingsthorpe - and moved to a previously-unused community centre in Pineham.
"We were close to stopping - just as we were about to reopen we about two-thirds of our students and realistically I didn't think we could sustain it," Shak said.
"But I thought, 'no, we can do this,' with a little doubt in my mind but I didn't tell anyone that, and gave it 100 per cent and now we're stronger than ever with new classes."
Shak runs classes six days a week from Pineham and Campion Community Centre with students ranging from four-year-olds to adults of all abilities.
He teaches kickboxing primarily but also aikido and judo as forms of self-defence but the sessions mainly help the participants stay fit after so long on the sofa during lockdown.
"My own youngster had put some weight on by being so inactive during lockdown even with the hour of allotted exercise a day, it wasn't enough to get their heart rate up," he said.
"They really missed playing in the park and even we could go, we couldn't play properly as I didn't want them running off and bumping into people.
"Lots of other parents I've spoken to had the same expereicen so when we were first allowed to train again in July and August, we went to the park to get them back being active."
Zoom was a revelation for Endurance with Shak able to do some classes with students virtually but attendance was difficult to maintain.
Despite the return of in-person classes, the trainer has still streamed them on Zoom to allow parents to watch or students who cannot attend for whatever reason to take part.
The release of Cobra Kai on Netflix - a television series based on the Karate Kid films - has helped to reinvigorate interest in martial arts too, resulting in more pupils at Endurance.
"They've been asking to do moves from the show so I've tried to come up with ways to mimic those but it's hard without contact," Shak said.
"I want to get back to breaking blocks and using the pads - all the fun stuff - but we can't at the minute so I have to be creative to keep the classes interesting."
Another highlight of the post-lockdown period has been achieving the safeguarding code in martial arts award from Sports England.
The mark demonstrates the club's commitment to upholding its duty-of-care to its pupils and recognises it as a martial arts provider that has reached and effectively maintained good safeguarding standards.
Shak said: "As a parent myself, it’s important to know your child is in a safe environment special in today’s world.
“I’m proud of the team at Endurance Martial Arts Academy leading the way in Northampton, the safety of our students in our first priority."
For more information about Endurance and how to join, visit endurancefitness.co.uk.