Practice during the corona pandemic in the Netherlands

In February 2020 the Netherlands registered their first corona patient. In March 2020 the Netherlands went into the first lockdown. On March 16th our first practice was cancelled due to the measures against the spread of the virus. From that moment some of our members joined the weekly online practice by Aspire dojo (London). .It wasn’t until the 12th of June that there was face to face training. This was when one club was lucky enough to use a tennis court to continue practice.

As many things were unknown about the virus we did all we could to have the safest possible practice. One of the main measures was practice without kiai..

If you are used to Naginata practice. you will immediately notice the important part the kiai has in the training. Because of this some of us felt like it was not a real practice without kiai and it led to a few people to pause their practice.

By the beginning of July we were allowed to practice inside again. Even though we only did individual practice some of us were lucky to have mirrors to work on their kihon. By September we decided to wear facemasks during practice and get back to doing Shikake-oji and even bogu practice. We all installed the face shield behind our mengane to further protect. We closed again for 2 weeks in November. Then it seemed to be able to restart but unfortunately we closed mid December until the beginning of April 2021.

Then the weather improved and we managed to go outside again. We were allowed back on the tennis court and another club also managed to practice outside.This time we keep our distance, but we do allow kiai and we do practice in pairs. However the pairs are not allowed to mix.

Currently 2 of our clubs are having weekly practice outside if weather allows it. We are hoping gyms will reopen so we can go back to the dojo and the other clubs can also resume the practice. 

Meanwhile the vaccine rollout is on its way and we may be going back a form of normal again later this year. However it has to be seen how many people will still come back after such a long pause. Some of our members have not practiced since the first lockdown and motivation seems to have been on a low. 

One of the realisations I had during this crisis is how important a physical dojo can be. There are some people that manage to do weekly online practices and keep up their practice from home. But for many it seems that the dojo provided a place of grounding, a place without distractions, a structure in which they can just focus on the training and not think about their daily lives. 

It can be hard to bring that into your own home, it takes a lot of discipline of the person training but also cooperation from the people you live with. Not every house may have optimal space to practice. But if you are motivated and really really want to there are ways to practice.

I feel we are very lucky to have had the opportunity to continue our practice in the dojo for about half of the year. It has slowed us down, but it has not stopped us. 

I am positive that things will improve in the coming months and we will all be able to get together again for a face to face practice soon. 

Mark Berghaan

Member of the Nederlandse Naginata Renmei