covid safe martial arts

99 – The COVID Safe Return Plan Course For Martial Arts Schools

Walt Missingham from MAIA, The Martial Arts Industry Association, shares insights about the COVID Safe Martial Arts Instructor Course.


  • Removing fear and ensuring safety with a COVID safe return plan for your martial arts school
  • What MAIA’s COVID Safe Martial Arts Instructors Certification Program is
  • How to get certified and the benefits martial arts instructors can reap
  • How does it differ from the courses provided by the government and other institutions 
  • And more

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This is a coming together of a range of people in the martial arts industry to put out a course that people can educate themselves and then go to their respective local government and state governments, because as many of your listeners will know, they are being asked to provide a COVID safe return plan. And that is beyond the administrative capacities of many of our martial arts teachers.

GEORGE: Good day, this is George and welcome to the Martial Arts Media business podcast. I’m joined today by Walt Missingham from MAIA, the Martial Arts Industry Association. And at the time of recording this, we are talking about the pandemic and COVID-19 that has drastically obviously impacted the martial arts industry community. So I want to talk about a few things that they have put in place to basically give some assurance to the public in regards to legalities and so forth, with running your school and with all the restrictions and everything that goes with that. So welcome to the call Walt.

WALT: Yes, thanks for giving us the opportunity to speak with you George.

GEORGE: Fantastic. So if you could just give us a 2-3 minute introduction of who you are and what the focus is of what you're doing?

covid safe martial arts

WALT: I really don't think I need to introduce myself, anyone who doesn't know who I am is probably not in our industry. I'm the president of the peak body for Martial Arts in Australia, the Martial Arts Industry Association. We deal with all manner of problems and programs associated with martial arts. But the key focus, as you correctly said at your introduction, is the COVID-19 pandemic and again, as you correctly said, that's impacting not just the industry here in Australia, but globally. And so like many organisations, that's been our key focus for the last several months.

GEORGE: Gotcha. Now, with everything going on, you've put together a COVID safe martial arts instructor certification program – what is that about?

WALT: We identified a number of key problems, by reaching out to different people in the industry, liaising not just with people from martial arts, but people from the board of coaching community. You may not be aware, but we liaised with the Australian Coaching Council for the construction of this certification program. And a sister certification program for non martial arts coaches: swimming, football, etc. has also been released and that's only been released three days ago and we're just passing 4000 coaches have gone through that program, the coaches and officials.

So one of the problems that we very early identified is that it's perfectly reasonable, but most instructors had a concern about when we can resume and what we can do when we resume. And it's a fair comment to say that a lot of the information from the government has been unhelpful, confusing and ambiguous. So we put together a certification program that just cuts to the bone in terms of what information a coach or an instructor needed. There's an education component to it and there's also a procedural component to it about what to do and what not to do in teaching martial arts classes under the various phase 1, phase 2, phase 3 conditions.

But we also identified through polling companies that the return date is not the biggest problem that our industry faces; that date will occur at a point in the future. In the near future by the looks of it. The problem is the large numbers of people that were giving us feedback that they were not going to go back to training because they are frightened to do so.

So we have two problems, one is we can't teach under government regulation, but that changes at a point in the near future. But the more substantive problem is the fear component that people have in the general community. I mean, my goodness, I saw the other day a woman driving in her car with a face mask on. And apart from the overwhelming advice that face masks aren't going to help you, I mean, what is she going to catch driving around in her own car? And that's the sort of illogical fear that we have to deal with and we have to do it in a considered… 

We have to empathise with these people and we do that by getting proper training and proper information out there. Which is why we moved towards the COVID Safe Martial Arts Instructors Certification Program. To create a non-political, it's an online course, it's free of charge. In fact, it cost us money. The MAIA has committed considerable financial resources to assist our industry in recovery. And then this logo that is getting huge prominence, you know that George, you've looked on social media, this thing is not just all over social media in Australia. We’re assisting bodies in Canada, the USA, England throughout Europe and Asia, getting similar programs up and running.

GEORGE: Fantastic. So can you give us an idea, so what is in the actual certification program?

WALT: Well, you go through it step by step. First of all, it outlines how the disease is transmitted, what the disease is, it exposes a lot of the myths as well, there's a lot of people out there who were rushing to get, for example, the flu vaccine and that's one of the questions – does the flu vaccine protect you from the COVID-19 virus? Answer, no, it doesn't. And there's a whole lot of myth exposed there. And then we move from that section of the course to the actual procedural specifics of running a COVID safe martial arts class.

GEORGE: OK. So now, what does it really mean for a school to do this? Like, how does it help, in which way would it help them?

covid safe martial arts

WALT: I've always taken the view that education in any subject is a help, but never more urgent than right now. We're dealing with, at the moment, and I'm just getting some figures. We’re now knocking on the door of 10,000 instructors having gone through this. Let's do the math, let's look at how many students those instructors are coming in contact with. Their websites, their social media, their interaction at every level is pushing the COVID safe martial arts school logo. There is a point, the pressure from other sources, such as parents is going to be enormous for people to be COVID safe certified.

There is also the insurance component. Insurers are looking at this type of education. I know for a fact there are some insurers that are specifically looking at excluding claims of in sport, if they emanate from COVID safe infections, and that's a very serious thing that we’re currently liaising with insurers on behalf of our industry. There are a lot of other things out there that many people, they get about their day to day business of teaching martial arts aren't aware of. And we’re addressing that as well and the COVID safe certification is part of how we're addressing that with insurors.

GEORGE: OK. I guess just to play the devil's advocate here, right? So how does this differ – I know there's mention of a few government courses and things like that?

WALT: Really? Name them.

GEORGE: So I'm just going through a couple of comments here.

WALT: I said, I didn't say name the comments, I said name the government courses.

GEORGE: Yes. Yes, I'm just reading here: Australian Government Course, Australian Coach Mission Course, all the health organisation courses… and that's all that's coming up from the list here.

WALT: And that's fairly nondescript, so…


WALT: We’re really talking about probably fictionalized versions of something in someone's mind. But to move on from that: even if those courses existed, and I'm fairly confident that most of them don't, how do they address martial arts?

GEORGE: Not sure.

WALT: Well, I'll answer that for you, although the silence answered it: they don't.

GEORGE: Perfect. OK. What else do we need to know? What else do we need to…

WALT: I'll give you an example of misinformation, just by way. And I won't name names to embarrass the people. The COVID Safe Martial Arts Instructors Program rolled out. It is without question the most successful mass communication of the martial arts industry ever in Australia. The volume of people doing it, and the comments and social media are enormous. The fact that other countries are taking it up, not only are we leading the way in Australia, we are leading the way in the world in terms of instructor education and how to deal with the aftermath of this pandemic.

But to give you an example of how poor the level of grasp of the problem is by some in our industry: there was a group of martial artists that said, oh no, we're not doing that course; we're doing the official course run by the Australian Coaching Council. Now of course, if you read the fine print of the Australian Coaching Council Course, they acknowledge the help that the MAIA provided them in constructing a coach course based on the martial arts instructors certification course. 

So in other words, they're doing the same course by a different name, but for them, no this is the official one. And when you have that level or that lack of intellectual evaluation of something, it gives you cause for pause that these people actually drive cars and vote, let alone teach martial arts. Next question George?

GEORGE: Perfect. OK. So, my questions are on my limited experience with this, so I'll take your guidance on where we should steer this conversation in your experience. But from looking at something like this, is it endorsed by the government, or…

WALT: Any course – which is why in your earlier question I knew that that was going up the wrong pathway. As a matter of policy, the government will not endorse any course. This is up to industry. In fact, they even say if you go to their website, “This is the responsibility of industry bodies.”

GEORGE: All right. So what else should we know about this? I'd ask you this way. Which questions should I be asking you in regards to this?covid safe martial artsWALT: Well, it's an interesting take on an interview George. I think we've covered it. I mean really, this is about two things: this is about making people aware of the course and making them aware of the second thing: it's non political, it's free. Just for argument's sake, if we were motivated financially and we were charging for this course and we’re currently kicking over 10,000 and when we go global, we’ll be looking at more like 250,000 then if money was our objective, then we'd be doing OK wouldn't we? We wouldn't be doing too badly at all.

But money is not our objective. This is a coming together of a range of people in the martial arts industry to put out a course that people can educate themselves and then go to their respective local government and state governments, because as many of your listeners will know, they are being asked to provide a COVID safe return plan. And that is beyond the administrative capacities of many of our martial arts teachers. They don't know where to start, they don't know what to do. How do I know that? I'm getting on average a 100 emails a day asking for help with stuff like that and we're giving it to people. Any people, not just members of MAIA – anyone in our industry we're helping.

So this is the problem: you've got a gap between what is required and how to get to that point just to satisfy the minimum requirements of the government. In some jurisdictions, it's not just about waiting for the government to say, oh you can now do this and this – you must submit a recovery, a resumption plan, a pathway back. And that is something that a lot of our people in our industry are simply having trouble with. We've done that for them. They click on this thing, they get certified and we’ve even put up template pathway plans for them as well.

GEORGE: Ok, perfect. So once a martial arts school owner or instructor has completed the course, what's the next step from that point?

WALT: OK. Then that's up to them, isn't it? I would think it would be a real good idea to be using that logo in your advertising. We also provide support materials, like posters, COVID safe martial arts school posters that show procedures that you can print up and put in your dojo, your training area. We have a range of things. You see, we didn't just look at this as oh, we've got to do a certification course. We have a range of initiatives that we’re rolling out from this point into November of this year. 

All of them focused on educating instructors, helping instructors with marketing and getting students back into the classes of our industry. Not just classes in the MAIA membership, even though that is very, very large. We have approximately 3000 accredited instructors under the MAIA banner – there's no one else that can make that claim. And so we have a large number of people already, but this is bigger than that. This is an industry based problem. We have never faced a problem of this magnitude before and I hope never again. And this is where we have pulled together many, many people. 

Look at our COVID safe martial arts Australia website, and you'll see a supporters list. Look at the list of the thousands of now certified COVID safe instructors. You go through those names and you'll see, you've been around the block a few times George, you'll see instructors there that have been highly critical of me personally, and highly critical of the MAIA – and yet, they're listed there. 

Because they see, they're grown ups, they can see the need for this, this is a time where people put aside whatever preconceptions they have and all work together for the betterment of our industry. Because this is a really big problem. There are many instructors and schools George that have closed down and I fear they won't be coming back. And we've got to minimise that damage to our industry. That's our job and that's what we're doing.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Walt, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I know we've actually had a chat a long time coming, it was going to be on different terms, but glad to have had a chat.

WALT: I'm happy to always talk to you George and it's important that we get out there and communicate. I think that information is important, the right information is important. If you'll just do me this favor and just send me the link from next week, I'm doing a lot of media and we're going to be putting a media link on our site so we would be happy to put your podcast up there on our site, which is being seen George by thousands of people every day, so I think maybe it's a good idea if you do that.

GEORGE: Perfect. Thanks so much and for anyone that missed the link, it's

WALT: In fact,

GEORGE: Perfect, yes, so double s. And we'll have that link in…

WALT: It's not hard to find, yeah, you can put it on there, it's not hard to find. Half the planet seems to be able to find it at the moment, so we’re having to bring in extra people to help. It's a good problem to have, it means we're reaching people, but it's still a problem. The administrative logistics at the moment for this are enormous. But we're gonna keep at it and we're gonna do our absolute best for everyone out there to help them to get their schools back on deck and their students back into the classroom.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Walt, thanks so much.

WALT: My pleasure George, as always. We'll talk again no doubt. Thank you mate, bye bye.

GEORGE: Thank you.

Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top and smart martial arts school owners, and have a chat about marketing, lead generation, what's working now, or just have a gentle rant about things that are happening in the industry, then I want to invite you to join our Facebook group.

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Thanks – I'll speak to you on the next episode – cheers!

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George Fourie

Hi I'm George Fourie, the founder of When I'm not doing dad duties or training on the mats (which I manage to combine when my son is willing! :), I'm helping Martial Arts Gym owners grow their business through the power of online media.

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