A Safe Return to Martial Arts Training

Safeguarding Children in Martial Arts (SCiMA) recognises the concerns that martial arts practitioners may have in returning to training, as part of the Coronavirus COVID-19 recovery phase. SCiMA believe that it is essential to implement safe training practices for all participants in martial arts. Following the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and the requirement for activities such as martial arts to cease, it is important that the the return to martial arts practice must be made as safe as possible. SCiMA has produced this guidance, which is consistent with government guidance, for martial arts participants and organisations to consider. It is recognised that risks in close contact activities, such as martial arts, cannot be completely eradicated, but with appropriate measures in place, martial arts participants are encouraged and enabled to manage the risks and reduce the likelihood of Coronavirus COVID-19 transmission.

About this Guidance

This guidance is designed to provide advice to martial arts organisations planning to return to training.

The advice provided is for all participants about key action to take prior to, during and after martial arts training.

This guidance is applicable to martial arts practiced in England and is aimed at all participants:

• Athletes (Students)
• Coaches (Instructors)
• Parents and Carers
• People in Positions of Trust (Safeguarding/Welfare Officers).

This is new guidance to provide advice to members to help them to make informed decisions about the environment and equipment used for martial arts training in response to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. It should be read in conjunction with:

government guidance
Sport England guidance
• National Governing Body (NGB) guidance (if applicable)
• insurance provider advice and recommendations.

Martial arts may attract a range of individuals some returning to class and some new to class. Some participants may have suffered mentally or physically during lockdown. Participation in martial arts can help them to regain a sense of control, which is highly beneficial.

Children are particularly vulnerable as they are still developing mentally and physically, so training methods need to be modified to take account of the impact that lockdown may have had on them.


According to current evidence, Coronavirus COVID-19 is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces.

All participants should ensure that where a surface is frequently touched that it should be cleaned regualrly.

Airborne transmission is possible in specific settings where certain procedures or activities are performed in close proximity.

All participants should wear face coverings for the duration of any indoor martial arts activity.

Managing Risks

The purpose of this guidance is to provide advice to enable a return to martial arts practice as part of the easing of social restrictions from Saturday 25 July, 2020, onwards.

The aim is to enable participants to make informed decisions about their martial arts practice to understand the risks to themselves and others and to minimise the risk of Coronavirus COVID-19 transmission.

The actions taken to manage the risk should also comply with the latest government guidance in relation to social distancing, group sizes and the wearing of face masks.

As the majority of martial arts practice takes place indoors, compliance with current guidance on social mixing must be maintained at all times.

All participants must comply with here stricter local lockdown restrictions, where those arrangements are in place.

Communicating Risk

It is important to communicate risk of transmission to all participants, as some martial arts practices have a high probability of transmission risk.

The assessment of transmission will be based on three factors:

droplet transmission: the risk associated with each action in an activity based on duration and proximity of participants.
fomite transmission: the risk associated with the handling and transfer of equipment in the sport
population: the number of participants likely to take part in the proposed activity plus known risk factors of participants with underlying health conditions who wish to participate.

Based on this overall risk profile some martial arts activities will be lower risk (e.g. form, kata or set practice and drills) than others (e.g. sparring and wrestling) and better suited for practice in the current environment.

Particular attention needs to be given to children and young people under the age of 18 and vulnerable adults who may be less able to understand or maintain social distancing requirements. All association and clubs where martial arts practice includes children should also consult the DfE guidance on Protective measures for out-of-school settings, this guidance provides advice to minimise the risk of transmission for children attending an out-of-school settings.

Returning to Training

You may only reopen for martial arts practice when the appropriate measures have been put in place.

Compliance must be with this guidance and general government guidance in relation to recreational sport.

Risk assessments should be completed in line with HSE risk assessment guidance

Preparation for returning to martial arts training should include specific training for coaches.

It is advisable for people with underlying health conditions to take additional precautions or to be advised not to return to training, at this point, if the risk assessment suggests that participation may present too high a risk.

All associations and clubs must have a written Coronavirus COVID-19 plan and risk assessment.

Test and Trace

NHS Test and Trace efforts should be supported by all participants.

Information on participants at should be collected. This must be detailed enough to allow contact to be made if a participant becomes ill with COVID-19.

Coaches should understand how how NHS Test and Trace works to be able to explain the process to interested participants.

If you suspect that you have been in contact with someone who has Coronavirus COVID-19, then you should follow the NHS Test and Trace guidance.

This informaton that coaches ohould collect from participants before training starts should include:

• first Name and surname
• mobile telephone number
• email address
• class attended - date and time.

These records must be kept for 21 days.

All participants should provide their details to enable test and trace efforts to be managed in line with government advice.

Pre-attendance and Symptom Check

Participants must be made aware of any increased risk associated with taking part in activity, based on the local risk assessment.

All participants and spectators must undergo a self-assessment for any Coronavirus COVID-19 symptoms. No-one should leave home to participate in martial arts if they, or someone they live with, has symptoms of Coronavirus COVID-19 currently recognised as any of the following:

• a high temperature (over 37.8 °C)
• a new, continuous cough
• a loss of, or change to, their sense of smell or taste.

Should an individual have demonstrated any such symptoms, they must follow NHS and PHE guidance on self-isolation.

The temperature check should be made on arrival. To temperature should be no higher than 37.8 °C before participation can be approved. While warming up before training in martial arts is beneficial, to reduce the risk of injury, it also increases the body's core temperature and the body's muscle temperature. So, participants should only warm up after approval to participate has been granted.

All participants are strongly advised to comply with public health restrictions and avoid high risk behaviour outside of the martial arts training setting to reduce the risk to their fellow participants when they do attend.


All participants should review their insurance provider documents to ensure that their training practice does not contravene insurance provider advice in relation to COVID-19.

Like most forms of exercise, martial arts can carry some risk of injury. These are more likely in styles that involve sparring or other close contact with your opponent, like punches, throws, and joint attacks. During the Coronavirus COVID-19 recovery phase physical contact should be avoided. Anyone with an overuse injury, has reduced physical fitness due to inactivity, or who is not already physically fit should check with their doctor or a physical therapist before attempting to return to martial art. Older adults or people with health problems should check with their doctors before starting or re-joining any martial arts class.

It is important to ensure that participants are appropriately prepared and understand the risks of participation. While the modified approach to martial arts may sound daunting it is to ensure the safety of participant in the recovery phase and beyond.

Coaches are trained to ensure that the athlete is prepared physically and mentally to participate. Coaches will be trained to explain the fundamental concepts of reasonable behaviour in the ‘new normal’ and what is acceptable in practice and what is not to comply with government guidance and insurance provider advice and recommendations.

It is important that the risk of personal injury is explained but that the coach takes every necessary precaution to minimise the risk of accidental injury and mitigates the risk of transmission of Coronavirus COVID-19.

Booking and Payment System

Participants should comply with social distancing requirements at all times and agree an attendance and payment with their coach.

Coaches may want to institute an electronic booking and payment system, to enable them to confirm the number of people attending a class to help them to manage the risk of transmission by maintaining the social distancing requirements.

Electronic payments such as contactless card payments, BACS transfers, Standing Orders, will help avoid the need for payments by cash which it is understood has a higher risk of transmission due to the direct physical contact.

All participants should comply with the terms of attendance established by any booking and payment system put in place by your coach.

Physical Environment

The physical training environment in modern practice must comply with safe practice standards and now with the requirements for managing the risks of transmission of Coronavirus COVID-19.

The training venue should be appropriate for the martial art that is being practiced and should have the necessary equipment to ensure safe practice. Put simply, the physical environment should be clean with appropriate space to practice for the number of individuals present (compliant with government guidelines on social distancing), ventilated, with appropriate lighting and heating (comfortable training temperature). The training venue should have appropriate clean flooring. Toilets, surfaces, door handles, cupboard handles, and training equipment should also be cleaned appropriately to mitigate the risk of transmission.

Toilet facilities should also be available, but participants must be reminded about the hygiene controls and the requirement to wash their hands thoroughly. All participants should be encouraged to use contactless payments. Coaches should avoid paperwork being transferred by enabling such processes as bookings through online channels. This approach will also help to control the number of participants attending (to an agreed maximum bearing in mind the size of the venue and social distancing requirements).

There are many examples where components of the physical environment can influence human performance. Noise can interfere with signals and auditory communication or cause distraction; athletes who are cold can have reduced hand skin temperature leading to numbness and reduced ability to focus; poor air quality can influence performance; whole-body vibration can reduce visual acuity as well as the ability to track objects. These factors should be considered when planning lessons to avoid increasing the risk of transmission through shouting or taking a temperature in an environment that might affect the reading.

Signage should be used to mark out required social distance to allow controlled flows of participants. Coaches must advise participants to minimise contact with surfaces, and other participants within the training environment or while participating in martial arts.

All participants should note that the main control processes for minimising transmission through contact is through sufficiently frequent handwashing and avoiding sharing of items during martial arts training.

Participant Practice

All participants should ensure that they should take all reasonable measures to comply with social distancing and hygiene measures at all times, before, during and after martial arts training.

All participants should arrive dressed to participate. Training uniform should be clean, and the participant must wear a face mask. The pre-attendance checks should be declared (on request) on arrival. If approved to participate, the participant must wash their hands thoroughly. Use of changing rooms and showering facilities should be avoided, although these must be available for participants with disabilities or special needs, with prior agreement.

While individual practice of forms, kata or sets, and drills or on assigned mats would be permissible (as individual practice), paired technique practice is not advisable at this point, and should be avoided.

The practice of supervised socially distanced forms, kata or sets (with or without weapons) should be possible with appropraite risk mitigation in place. The practice of supervised individual pad work should be possible with appropriate risk mitigaton in place. The practice of supervised individual conditioning techniques should be possible with appropriate risk mitigaton in place.

Throwing arts should for example make us of mats for beginners and intermediate students. Whereas advances students would be able to fall equally well on a matter or unmatted surface given their proficiency or falling and rolling.

Coaches should be mindful of the vulnerabilities of those training and ensure that safeguarding practice is also at the highest standards. As we enter into the recovery phase and athletes progress in their training, they will become proficient at the techniques and improve in physical health which has associated benefits for mental health and wellbeing.

Coaches should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to shout. This includes - but is not limited to - refraining from encouraging shouting, even if part of the training technique. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission - particularly from aerosol and droplet transmission.

All participant should avoid physical contact and sharing of equipment with other participants outside of their 'bubble'.

First Aid

All participants should follow first aid protocols in addressing incidents that occur during martial arts training.

All participants should ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to comply with social distancing requirements and hygiene measures.

It is recommended that all participant to bring their own Personal First Aid Kit with them to martial arts training, which should include:

• water
• plasters
• tape
• scissors
• bandages
• towel
• hand sanitiser
• antiseptic wipes
• disposable gloves
• face mask.

Anyone administering first aid must have an up to date first aid qualification by an approved provider.All incidents requiring fist aid must be recorded as per first aid guidelines.

All first aiders must familiarise themselves and abide by the HSE Covid-19 first aid and CPR specific rules.

All first aiders should ensure that they use Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), when administering first aid, disposable gloves, and face mask, as a minimum.

Equipment Use

Participants should avoid sharing equipment and coaches should manage the risk of contamination by ensuring any equipment to be used is cleaned (e.g. mats).

Coaches must check for gaps or worn areas or patched areas on the mats that might create a hazard; and for objects on or around the matted area that might cause and injury. Safe Practice is not limited to these basic checks, the mats should be clean (sanitised) before and after use to avoid the risk of transfer of communicable disease.

Coaches are trained to ensure that athletes (and children in particular) pay attention to form and structure of the technique in order to perfect the skill. Children may also be very enthusiastic, so coaches are trained to explain in language that children can understand the importance of following instruction to ensure that they do not injure their classmates while practising and maintain appropriate social distancing at all times. The discipline in martial arts training is such that children participating in martial arts are much more inclined to follow instruction than their counterparts in other sports, where a strict ethos of discipline and instruction may not be present.

All participants should ensure handwashing and/or anti-bacterial (60% alcohol) hand sanitiser available in toilets and training area. Mats in use must be cleared and cleaned using suitable government recommended products. All additional areas should be cleaned with government recommended products after training. All pedal bins contents sealed in bag and disposed of appropriately (in accordance with government guidelines).

Organisers' Checklist

Organisers should read the SCiMA and associated guidance documents regarding a 'A Safe Return to Martial Arts Training'.

Before re-opening for martial arst training organisers should:

• prepare to return to martial arts after consulting with venue owners
• read and comply with government guidance on social distancing and SCiMA advice on returning to martial arts training
• ensure that the venue is compliant with social distancing, hygiene, signage, equipment cleaning and general safety requirements
• complete a Risk Assessment prior to your return to martial arts training and ensure countermeasures are deployed to manage risks
• contact parents and participants to inform them of what to expect when returning to martial arts and when they can return
• communicate to all participants to make sure that they know to complete the pre-attendance checks
• ensure information is taken to respond to the NHS Test and Trace process, as required.

Organisers should not re-open until they are satisfied that the appropriate actions have been taken and measures are in place to ensure the safety of their participants.

More Information

World Health Organization (WHO)

For more infomration about the worldwide impact of Coronavirus COVID-19, visit the WHO website.

What does SCiMA do?

SCiMA is focused on implementing child protection policy, developing safer recruitment practice and enhancing coaching standards with a view to professionalising martial arts instruction, in the United Kingdom and partner organisations in the Republic of Ireland.

SCiMA services will include:

• SCiMA registered martial arts coach database
• Child protection and safeguarding training
• Safer recruitment practice
• Anti-bullying awareness
• First aid essentials

Although self-governing, SCiMA will work in partnership with national and international organisations to promoting best practice in martial arts coaching and organisational management. This includes local and national government organisations, in the UK and internationally.

For more information contact us