In the era of COVID-19, United Martial Arts has found a way to keep training students.
Stan Lee observes his United Martial Arts students grappling on the floor.
"Ronnie, get her in your guard," Lee says. "Don't just lay there. Work."
Ronnie and Alexia Manousakis, both 6 years old, listen to Lee's instruction, just as they would if they were in the Ormond Beach school. But, due to social distancing guidelines, classes now function a little bit differently.
For one, Lee is giving them instructions through Zoom. Ronnie and Alexia are in their own living rooms.
United Martial Arts, a mixed martial arts school with training rooted in self-defense, has embarking on a digital journey for the last couple of weeks. Chief instructor and Founder Lee, along with his assistant instructors, have broken down their usual classes by age and rank and utilized Zoom, a video-conference platform.
Prior to the governor issuing the stay-at-home order on April 1, made effective on April 3, United Martial Arts had been conducting small individual classes and private lessons. The executive order changed all that, and the school closed for a week. Lee said he and the staff used that time to set up an online format for their classes.
“It’s going good," Lee said. It took some rethinking in what we do. We teach a very self-defense oriented class that requires, generally speaking, students to have contact with each other.”
With around 175 students, Lee said the school is lucky to be so family-oriented. Many of his students have siblings in the program as well, and if they don't, many parents are willing to help with their training.
Lee is grateful for the dedication he's seen in his students' parents. Some have purchased their own mats and training equipment.
“Some of them have made some real sacrifices just to do that because they know these kids need a bit of that normalcy and routine that they were used to," he said.
Robyn Manousakis, Ronnie and Alexia's mom, said the online classes are going smoothly. She said the kids are excited to see their instructors and keep practicing mixed martial arts. They have adapted well.
“It’s actually worked out better than we could have imagined, really," she said.
Before the pandemic, a large portion of Lee's students came for the after school program. Ironically, it's this program that saved the school during the 2008 recession.
“Normally in times of crisis, people tend to skip out on their luxuries and stick to just the necessities," Lee said. "Well, normally for people who work, after school is a necessity.”
But not so much in this situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools and left many parents at home with their children.
United Martial Arts is "soldiering through," Lee said. Some of their after school kids have transitioned to the new online classes, and the school has opened up memberships for new virtual introductory lessons. Once the pandemic ceases, those students can transition to in-person instruction.
They are also keeping up with their students' progress, and will be testing their students for belts next week. Lee said that's an important part of this.
“The enthusiasm for the training comes from feeling that progress," Lee said.