The martial arts industry has taken a big hit during the COVID pandemic. Even when they have been able to open, they have been forced to cut class sizes drastically to help prevent the spread of the virus. One tactic that a lot of martial arts schools have been using is online group classes. One gym doing this is Valour Martial Arts, a Muay Thai gym in Thornhill, Ontario. We sat down with Valour’s owner and founder, Pete Arcalas, to talk about his gym and how they have been during the pandemic.
When and why did you start Valour Martial arts?
I was in public service ever since I graduated, and I worked for all levels of government. I was also coaching Muay Thai on the side since 2004, and I started training in 1998. In 2007 I started another gym called Southside Muay Thai in Scarborough with a business partner, and I was there until 2012. I then had a son and a daughter in 2010 and 2013, and I had to take a step back from working with athletes, so I just did more personal training with people.
In 2018 I hit a tipping point, and I took a step back from my day job, but I wanted to continue working in martial arts. I thought that with my experience, I could bring some value to the neighborhood. I want to make Muay Thai a leading option for martial arts when looking into them for their kids.
How big is your team?
It’s mainly just me, but for the kids’ classes, we have our assistant coach Melissa, she’s excellent with the kids, but she’s only in once a week on the weekends. Other than that, it’s me running all the classes both online and in person.
How has it been teaching classes online?
The online classes have been our most constant program since the start of the pandemic since we shut down. We shut down on March 16th, 2020, and we pivoted right away. On April 1st,2020, we launched our online kid’s classes. At the same time, we also conducted an adult Bootcamp and adult Muay Thai. That only lasted till the summer when we were able to reopen. The kids’ program has been the one constant throughout. It’s grown, we’ve changed it up a bit, we’ve added more games. I’ve adapted my coaching style for the 30-minute Zoom classes. I have to change depending on how many there are and the age they are.
Will you continue the virtual classes after the pandemic?
I would love for our kids’ online classes to continue. Most of the kids that are in our online program don’t even come to the school. They don’t live near here. We even have some kids from the States in our program somehow. We’ve opened the door to remote learning now, and I think that it’s here to stay. So as long there are people interested in taking our kids online Muay Thai, I will teach it.
What are your hopes for the future?
I mean, there’s so much. I would love it for our world to get back to normal, but I know that we need to take many steps together to get back there. We’ll still be here to teach everyone all the cool stuff we have to offer when everything goes back to normal. I also hope that we can make an impact in our community.
Valour Martial Arts is only conducting virtual classes for kids at the moment. Virtual courses are how most gyms have adapted to the pandemic and have become very popular. The Ontario lockdown is expected to lift in June 2021, but there is no news on what restrictions will be in place after it does. Many gyms are hoping that they will reopen in at least some capacity to get students in. With most people being indoors most of the time for the past year, the fitness industry expects a big bounce back.
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