Hurt by virus-driven lockdown, Pinoy taekwondo instructors learn to roll with the punches

Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 27 2020 01:13 AM

Like many sports, local taekwondo and the traditional way it is taught and practiced have been forced into a standstill by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The past three months have become a trying time for more than 3,000 taekwondo instructors whose livelihood largely depends on the Korean martial arts.

Arnold Baradi, who owns a taekwondo school in Las Piñas City and is the head instructor in three schools including Assumption College, was not able to teach students face-to-face this summer because of the lockdown.

"Sa totoo lang, 'yung kita dito for the whole summer, equivalent to 1 year na 'yun na ipon ng isang instructor," said Baradi, a gold medalist in the 1984 Asian Taekwondo Championships. 

"Kasi 'yung volume ng students nandito, nasa summer talaga. So dahil sa pandemic lahat ng schools, lahat ng gym, malaki ang nawala sobra."

He added that the novel coronavirus slowed down the infusion of new blood into Philippine taekwondo since it also affected the grassroots development.

"Kapag summer, 80 percent ng beginners mga bata. Three years old hanggang teenager ang laman ng mga gym. The cycle starts in, then 50 percent sa kanila magdidirediretso na . . . Dito kami maraming nakukuhang potentials na in the future na magiging magagaling na players. Ngayon almost zero," said Baradi.

Instructors find second life on the web

This is why the Philippine Taekwondo Association (PTA), the sports' national governing body, has taken steps to cushion the blow.

"The whole sports industry tinamaan talaga, sa eskwela wala talaga. So ang ginagawa namin ni (Korean Grandmaster Sung-Chon Hong) tinuturan namin, ine-educate namin ang mga instructors to do online teaching," said PTA secretary-general Rocky Samson.

"Kailangan nilang mag-connect with their students, online."

Samson said that as early as April, the PTA crafted a standardized web program for instructors. "Kasama na dito ang online class na may lesson plan with video reference," he said.

At the same time, he said, the organization reached out to parents of taekwondo students, informing them that the sport will continue online.

Thee PTA also launched the National Online Poomsae Championships, patterned after the recent Online Daedo Open European Poomsae Championships, to kickstart interest in online classes.

Poomsae focuses on the defined pattern of defense-and-attack forms, while kroyugi is Olympic-style sparring.

"Tinulak namin talaga 'yung competition, para ang mga students ma-encourage magpapaturo kay coach," said Samson.

Even before the PTA's move to propagate online teaching, some instructors have already taken initiative to craft their own online program.

Learning as they go

Ricky Santiago Jr., who handles the taekwondo program at De La Salle Santiago Zobel Alabang and San Beda College Alabang, said they have patterned their own program to the online distance learning of private schools.

"Parang on the job training ka, habang ginagawa mo 'yung teaching online, gumagaling ka na rin," he said, adding that the shift would hopefully mitigate losses incurred by both instructor and student.

"Imagine kung wala kang platform, parang nawalan ng magulang 'yung mga anak.

" 'Yung Zoom operation ko sa ngayon pumapalo around 40 students. Instructors are reaching out to other jins, urging them to practice, kesa mag-Netflix."

But taekwondo is a martial art; at some point, physical contact becomes inevitable.

Samson said, this too, can be taught even without the actual boxing.

"Kasi ang taekwondo, 40 percent focused on poomsae training, 60 percent focused sa sparring. This online class provided avenue for all players to practice both, the poomsae movement and sparring movement," he said.

"Ang naging absent lang sa sparring 'yung combat event, pero 'yung training tuloy tuloy pa rin."

What instructors should focus on in these trying times is to adapt.

"Kasi di naman pwedeng magmukmok na lang at maghintay na lang ng vaccine sa virus. You have to adapt now, kasi 'pag hindi ma-lift 'yan mauubos lang ang pera nating lahat," he said. 

"Sabi namin, don't worry. Just start your class. Start with 1, 2, 3, 5, 10 students. Before you know it, you're teaching full time, teaching every day."

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.