While the COVID-19 pandemic has been at once challenging, difficult and heartbreaking, there have been some new opportunities. The technology for meeting virtually improved  immensely, offering the chance for family and friends to get together in new ways. I’ve  personally enjoyed LEGO Zoom time with my nieces and the chance to train weekly with an  instructor with whom I couldn’t see more than once a month pre-pandemic. It seemed like a  good time to try out hosting a kata contest that also had a virtual component. This would give  students a chance to compete without regard to the distance or the locale.

What went well? We used an oversized screen, a high-quality external projector, and  external speakers in order to see the remote competitors easily. Although it was on a screen, so  judges didn’t have the ability to move around the competitors’ space, it was still possible to see  quite a bit on the large screen. A dedicated person at my dojo made sure that the virtual  participants stayed on camera, and that person also acted as the caller, so the device that was  acting as the mic could be heard by everyone. We also had two cameras that we switched  between so the virtual competitors could see and hear the live competition. Finally, I should  note that the virtual competitors’ scores were well within the scores of those competing in  person. Just because someone was competing in person did not give them any extra advantage.  The virtual competitors were able to show good technique online and actually placed quite well  overall.  

What could we have done differently? I scheduled a mandatory technology check well  before the competition was due to start, and in hindsight, it was not necessary to do it so early. 

All of the people competing virtually had good set ups, probably because they were already  comfortable with the technology. I could have had them check in about 30 minutes before the  competition and they would have been fine. I also probably would have run the adult division  immediately after the children’s division since we had so few children competing. The upside of  that is that we had some time in between competitions for an impromptu workout!  

I was hoping that we would see more out of state participants, since this would have  been an opportunity for folks to complete their contest requirement for black belt exams. I  would be happy to share my experience with anyone else who might be interested in doing this  at their dojo. It was nice to share time with our ‘ohana, both virtually and in person. It was also  nice to see some good jujutsu! Special thanks go to my students, who put a lot of time in during  the day, those who helped tabulate scores, and all the black belts who came to help judge and  compete. I’d also like to thank the Polish American Club, where my dojo is located, and who has  been very generous with their space. They in turn, are located on the traditional homelands of  the Nisenan Maidu. They were careful stewards of the land we now occupy, and in that spirit,  we continue to strive toward fulfilling Professor Okazaki’s legacy of building community and  fostering service to others. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more about how  we ran our virtual/in-person kata contest. Keep training! 

Professor Nerissa Freeman