Staff play in the old school

In what seems like a lifetime ago – before COVID (BC?), our gym looked much like what you see here. The floor was carpeted and we had a big circle in the middle we would use for sparring drills, steal the bacon, and anything else that seemed relevant. In the days BC, we had been there since the Fall of 2003, first running an aftercare program for West Chester Friends School, and then adding an adult program. In the intervening time, we’ve had more than a hundred students through, seen kids grow into accomplished adults, go out into the world, and sometimes come back, and even seen a refurbishment of the room. In October, a few short days away, we’ll be returning to our gym after more than a year and a half. In that time we’ve met online via Zoom, and more recently we’ve been outside – and luckily – the weather has cooperated except for being rather hot at times, and on one Wednesday night when the remnants of a hurricane came through and we all stayed home bailing out our basements.

When we return, it will be to a new version of this room that we’ve gotten used to over the years. The floors will be of hardwood, and perhaps slightly springy, there will be air conditioning in the summer (!!), and there may be other physical changes.

Class will also be different than before. In the days BC, everyone came to all the classes. This had the advantage of getting everyone together under the same roof at the same time, but meant that my attention was splintered, and it was difficult to give people adequate time when they were learning forms. That way of teaching depended mightily on having assistants around who could keep things running when my back was turned. Under COVID, it became quickly apparent that I needed to have everyone doing the same thing in class or the Zoom classes just wouldn’t work. Amazingly, you all learned new things under these conditions, and in many cases as I have seen you in person over the last couple of months, you’ve done an impressive job. The trade off was that often forms that had not been worked on of late got rusty real fast.

In October we plan to keep to this format as we return inside, banking on the idea that focus on specific forms is OK so long as we can stage some review classes. We will keep one day a week (Friday) online to service those who have been joining remotely due to transit or other issues. Likewise, since we won’t be able to have bags in class at WCFS, we’ll keep doing this at home.

The 6pm class on Fridays will be online review for beginners and intermediate students. I will probably switch off between working with beginner forms one week, and intermediate forms on the off weeks to keep everyone where they need to be, but this will depend on who shows up on a given day.

Wednesdays from 5-8pm and Saturdays from 11am-2pm will be at WCFS. I plan to concurrently broadcast these classes via Zoom to help engage those who can’t come in person. On Wednesdays we’ll continue with Intermediate Changquan during the first hour, move into application class for all levels in the second hour, and have advanced Taijiquan in the final hour. On Saturdays, we’ll start with the beginner class at 11am, continue our work with Compulsory Changquan in the second hour, and finish again with Taijiquan, but this time at the beginner level.

Additionally, we are now building in a couple days off per month largely to accommodate weekend plans. In the time since 2003, our family has had to plan everything around kungfu class and this gives us a bit of a much needed break. This month I’ll be headed up to a wedding of one of my black sashes on the 23rd, and to a school concert on the 29th. In the future, these days off are likely to be on the same weekend.

Finally, these days there is always COVID to consider. We are allowed back in so long as all individuals 12 years old and over are vaccinated and EVERYONE wears masks. Considering that we may have Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5-11 years old by November, it is possible that these restrictions may ease in the future.

In any event, I look forward to seeing you all back in our usual haunts!

All the best,

Sifu Tim


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