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