The Martial Sports Federation of Barbados (MSFB) is contending that Government’s recent Covid-19 directive that allows all other sporting activities to continue during the island’s current lockdown with the exception of martial arts/ combat sports translates to that sport being specifically and unjustly targeted.
In a frankly worded statement distributed yesterday, treasurer of the body Wayne Quintyne, speaking on behalf of acting president Ricardo Sealy who is currently overseas, suggested that the reason for this was as a result of the lack of understanding of these art forms which is fuelled by misconceptions.
If this is the case, Quintyne believes a meeting with the relevant authorities to explain the practice and training methods involved in these activities would allow for a more well-informed decision to be made on this matter. A request was made previously in writing to Minister of Sports, Dwight Sutherland, but that has not been fruitful.
In his statement, Quintyne argued that few organisations, by their very nature, are more concerned with the health, safety, and well-being of their members than the martial arts/combat sports community. Yet since the pandemic reached Barbados in March 2020 their collective sports, inclusive of Striking Arts (boxing, karate, taekwondo); Grappling Arts (judo, wrestling, jiu-jitsu); weapon-based Systems (Bajan Sticklicking, Fencing, Archery, Firearms); and Blended Systems (Mixed Martial Arts, Chameleon Combat Karate, Japanese Shoot-wrestling), have been one of the first activities halted and were again one of the last allowed to resume (April 2021). However, Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), which follows the same format of all other martial arts (forms, partners training, equipment training, weapons training, and even grappling) was allowed.
“So why is this discipline allowed and the others not? We empathise with our cousins the dancers for it seems that the perception also exists that solo dancing does not exist.
Haven’t they heard of ballet, jazz, tap, and Afro- Caribbean dance all of which can be practised socially distanced?” he asked.
Since the start of the pandemic martial arts training facilities have been taking measures to mitigate the spread of Covid19. Quintyne outlined some 14 which included: a reduction in the number of athletes training at any one time relative to training space and the subsequent increase in the number of classes to facilitate the reduction in numbers; temperature checks (no one above 37.5˚C is allowed to enter the training facility); washing/ sanitising of hands and equipment before and after training; anyone who has travelled or has come into contact with anyone who has travelled, must refrain from training for a minimum of 14 days; anyone who is generally ill or shows symptoms of the Coronavirus must refrain from training until given medical clearance from a physician; only instructors/coaches and students/athletes participating in the class are permitted into the training area- no spectators; and athletes should bring their own personal training equipment (gloves, hand wraps, and training weapons), there should be no sharing of equipment during practice.
“The fact is, the protocols implemented by martial arts facilities are in many cases more stringent than those instituted at other facilities and businesses. We have always had to be concerned about personal hygiene and the sanitation of our training environments.
Staph infections, hepatitis B & C, and HIV are all real concerns that we have had to address in our training environments and protocols had to be in place to combat them. Covid-19 protocols are a natural extension of this and we have implemented them accordingly. Why then are we being singled out and penalized? What makes us more dangerous than other businesses and sports? How many cases of Covid-19 clusters have been reported within the martial arts community? Zero!” Quintyne stated emphatically.
Highlighting the impact on athlete’s performances due to the lack of coaching and training, Quintyne also pointed out the economic ramifications. As he expressed fear that if a “full and fair” review of the matter is not had soon it would redound to the permanent closure of the gyms/clubs that have been unable to operate for more than a year. Thereby, leaving some instructors/coaches jobless, especially those who teach combat sports on a full-time basis and those who have businesses that supply these services.
Quintyne added: “Many of them are categorised as self-employed and did not benefit from any assistance through the National Insurance Scheme. Others only received a $500-$1000 grant from the Small Business Bureau of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs for this entire 17- month period that Covid protocols have been in effect and have impacted us. Some have received no financial assistance at all.
“We were also informed by reliable sources that Covid-19 may well be with us for the next five years. What if the shutdown is extended again due to another outbreak? How are we expected to survive? We have to adapt and cope with it, and indeed many of us have already implemented steps to do so. Our members, coaches, and instructors have families to feed and many have expressed that they have already exhausted all their resources (personal savings and loans). If something is not done, we will see the permanent closure of some of these gyms/schools as has happened in the much more affluent and developed countries,” he stressed. (KC)