As a way to stay in operation amid the pandemic, area martial arts centers have adapted to keep students and staff safe.
Valentin Karate has locations in Meriden, Plantsville, Middlebury and Berlin.
Owner Efrain Valentin Jr. said that having a large space at the Meriden location on South Colony Street has been helpful. They have been utilizing colored mats, so students are nine feet apart.
“We were able to separate (students) and give each kid their own physical training area,” he said.
Valentin said that even before the pandemic, the business cleaned regularly.
“Kids are barefoot, they are always touching things,” Valentin said. “... The only thing that we had to do was make it more visible … We clean in between classes, anything that gets touched … We required everybody to wear a mask right from the get go.”
Students are encouraged to bring their own equipment and sparring bags are not used because they require close contact.
In person classes, which cannot exceed 25 participants, are also offered online.
“... We were lucky because 10 years ago when the Swine Flu hit, they were talking about shutting down for two weeks and at that point, we started putting our curriculum online, so we were ready to go,” Valentin said.
Located in Cheshire, JC Karate has been in business for over 21 years. Before the pandemic hit, they had 160 to 170 active students, held birthday parties on weekends, women’s self-defense classes and more. When COVID-19 first hit, the school had to start holding online classes.
“This was not easy as space at home is limited and many students never had done any kind of online learning before,” said Jennifer Couture, owner and master instructor. “Both instructors and students struggled at the beginning.”
Since then, Couture said students and staff have adapted to the COVID-19 protocols, such as social distancing, having smaller in-person class sizes, wearing masks and disinfecting between classes.
“I have learned that we can adapt, work together and continue quality martial arts training throughout the pandemic,” Couture said. “Training outside, Zoom training, and all our safety procedures for indoor training have become part of our growth.”
Baran’s Kenpo Karate
Before COVID-19, Baran’s Kenpo Karate in Wallingford had classes with 20 to 25 students and full contact, such as sparring.
Now, each class has a virtual option and in person classes are at 25% capacity.
“We only have nine spaces for our students and with over 200 students, it’s really hard to accommodate,” said instructor Mackenzie Wilson. “We have Zoom classes available for our students so they can attend virtually. What we’ve noticed with that is we’ve actually had people watching from different parts of the state or even parts of the world.”
Social distancing is encouraged throughout the school, masks must be worn at all times and there are no contact activities during classes.
“We have a gap in between each of our classes to make sure that that sanitization can go on after students leave,” Wilson said. “... We also have a professional cleaning company that comes in every Saturday and does a deep clean of the entire school.”
Bergamo’s Martial Arts and Bergamo’s Personal Training
Owner Ralph Bergamo has been in business for 40 years in Cheshire.
“We do a lot of Zoom classes and we do a lot of on-training online with Zoom and obviously that’s good for them,” Bergamo said.
Bergamo has been certified by the state for outside recreational, so he is able to open the large garage doors to circulate the air.
“Even in the winter, with the heating system that we have, which is circulating fresh air inside and out every hour and with the filters and distancing and most of it being private one-on-one, so it’s not a problem,” Bergamo said. “We can clean it and have it ready for the next person.”
Classes have no more than three students at a time. All students are between 40 and 50 feet apart.
“They don’t touch anything,” Bergamo said. “Everything is sanitized, there is no contact. There’s nothing.”