Kicking through COVID: Exercise takes on new meaning at Dublin 7 kickboxing club.

The Black Belt Team at Martial Arts Incorporated, pre-pandemic. Photo Credit: Martial Arts Inc.

A new focus has been brought to the mental-health benefits of physical exercise since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic. 

Gyms, sports clubs and public parks have become beacons of light and escape amid endless weeks and months of little-else-to-do. 

According to the HSE, “keeping active helps protect both your physical and mental health. Exercise helps reduce stress, boost energy levels and can cause chemical changes in the brain which help to improve your mood.” Never before have these things been of such paramount public focus. 

In the heart of Dublin 7, Martial Arts Incorporated (MAI) have kept the beacon burning for members old and new. The now 20-year-old kickboxing and martial arts club, situated on Stable Lane, has adapted its classes to ensure people can still enjoy the benefits of training while staying safe. 

“Partner drills and sparring are normal elements of any martial arts training but they are sadly not possible at the moment. Luckily, we have plenty of floor space and punching bags so that everyone can train solo and socially distant on their own individual bag. All the equipment is sanitised before and after each session,” said Declan Kidd, senior coach at MAI.

Usual goals like fights, tournaments or belt gradings have all evaporated and what is left is the training for the training’s sake. Thrown in for good measure is a little human interaction, another simple commodity with a renewed appeal and importance. 

For many, aims of six-pack abs and bulging biceps have taken a backseat to simply “clearing the head,” as we navigate our way through the ever-thickening haze of pandemic life. Since we have few places to go and fewer people to see, emphasis has perhaps shifted to how we feel over how we look.

MAI student and professional stunt performer Philip Condron echoes the HSE’s sentiments:

“Although keeping in shape is now a necessity for my job, it’s always been a necessity for my mind. As we all try to live and cope with this pandemic, exercise is one of the best things someone can do for themselves. MAI has been a real lifeline for me over these past, uncertain months.”

The current level 5 restrictions have unfortunately meant the temporary closing of even gyms and sports clubs until early December. Like many small businesses, Martial Arts Incorporated have had to roll with the punches again, but the end is in sight:

“For anyone who loves the buzz of a gym, the social interaction, the mutual encouragement of a group class, it’s been disappointing. I understand why NPHET encouraged it but I think if you do look at the numbers, there are very few cases coming from these kinds of environments. In the meantime, I’ve been keeping up my training and studying in the hope that I will come back a better instructor,” said Kidd.

Whether it’s kickboxing, yoga, walking or whatever you enjoy, it is important we each make the effort to keep active during this time; for our bodies and more than ever, for our minds.