The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has by necessity transformed how we interact with others, drastically changing every aspect of how we conduct our lives. From work to leisure, education, and fitness, much or most of what we once did in in-person groups moved fully online, but some activities could navigate this transition more successfully than others. Like other organized knowledge-based activities, Okinawan martial arts practice relies on a community of members, a domain of knowledge, and a set of practices, qualifying the members of this community as a community of practice. In comparison to pre-pandemic research on the martial arts community (May, 2015) using Wenger’s (2000) much-discussed communities of practice model, the current project attempts to identify how the Okinawan martial arts community of practice has adapted to the pandemic as well as factors that may, or may not, have contributed to its success as an online activity. Preliminary survey and interview data from 15 countries suggests that, though the practice has changed, the resilience of this community is tied to the long-term commitment of its practitioners to the domain of martial arts and the practice itself. As we progress cautiously through the re-opening of society and the fourth wave looms, we yearn to re-connect with others even as the danger remains. Examination of the perceptions and benefits of online martial arts practice may allow for crucial insights into how to negotiate the pandemic on a personal level while maintaining an active social community.
Samantha May, Alexander College, Canada