WOODBRIDGE – After three months of hard work and dedication, students at the International Martial Arts Taekwondo school in Woodbridge were ready to test for their first belt.
Then the novel coronavirus outbreak happened. Master Mohamed Elshikh, a sixth degree black belt, decided for the first time to hold virtual belt tests via Zoom Video Communications, with the support of his students and their families.
A belt test is a demonstration of a set of skills students work for 90 days. Each of the nine belts – yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, red, red and black, and black – has a form, which is a pattern of kicks and punches, plus the correct terminology for each, said Vanessa Yellin, program director at the International Martial Arts school (IMATKD).
Each student needs to be able to demonstrate the forms in addition to previous curriculum they already learned. Among the testing requirements include board breaking, ki-hap/yelling, respect, winning attitude and discipline.
Also, in order to qualify for testing IMATKD requires a signature from parents and teachers, Yellin said.
On April 2, IMATKD had its first student, Marylynn Mendoza, test for her yellow belt. Marylynn said she loved the experience of testing virtually and was really motivated to do her best. She succeeded and moved up from white belt to yellow belt.
In the coming weeks more virtual belt tests will take place while social distancing measures are in place.
Gov. Phil Murphy implemented a series of social distancing measures to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey, which included the closure of gyms. The measures will remain in place until the executive order Murphy signed on March 16 has been lifted.
“COVID-19 can’t stop these students from training and continuing their journey to black belt,” Elshikh said, adding he continues to do anything to give back to the communities that have supported his business for the last 20 years from running free classes to bringing toilet paper to his students’ families.
IMATKD has students from ages 2-and-a-half to adults with locations in Woodbridge, Randolph, Belleville, Carteret, Rutherford, and Bronx, N.Y.
Along with belt testing, IMATKD live classes via Zoom were also launched, which have been received “extremely well by our families who are looking for some sense of normalcy during these difficult times.”
“Parents are jumping in and learning with their kids and staying active,” Elshikh said.
International Martial Arts is also offering free 30-minute fitness classes live on Zoom for children throughout several school districts in New Jersey as a way to give back to the community. Free classes are open to anyone interested in staying active from the comfort of their home.
“Staying active is a proven way to boost your immune system, and is also a stress reliever,” Elshikh said, adding he is passionate about keeping kids active, motivated, positive and healthy.
Andrea Paez’ son Thiago is a semi-black belt.
“We are obsessed with International Martial Arts of Woodbridge,” she said. “My son Thiago started at IMA when he was four in 2016. After four plus years of training Thiago looks up to Master Elshikh and would like to become a master just like him. Master Elshikh and his team of instructors and staff are knowledgeable in the art of Taekwondo, patient, caring and always fun. Master Elshikh is loyal and encourages each student to the best they can be, it’s great that Thiago can continue his training from home.”
Barbara Regula’s children, Ryan and Amelia, attend the school.
“I find it amazing how quickly IMA has adopted to this unprecedented situation,” she said. “The virtual classes not only keep the kids active, they keep the parents active as well when we partner up with our kids. It gives us all a sense or normalcy because at least the martial arts training remains a constant. Instructors make the classes interactive and fun, while also challenging. We appreciate the motivational talks given as well. This truly shows how much IMA cares for their students and their well-being in this crazy world we live in. Proud to be part of the IMA family.”
Ryan, a black belt, said he finds Taekwondo virtual learning “okay.”
“We still get to exercise and do our classes, which is grea,t but I would so much rather be in the do-jang [the martial arts school],” he said. “I know instructors are trying their best and it’s great but I miss being in the do-jang.”
Amelia, a blue belt, said Taekwondo is “so cool and amazing because I am never bored.”
“I am so happy when I do it,” she said. “It teaches so many things, like never giving up and overcoming obstacles, and I never stop learning.”
For more information visit imatkd.com/.
Contact Kathy Chang at firstname.lastname@example.org.