Alliance provides platform for martial arts to strike back during COVID-19

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Ikkaido ()

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an unprecedented amount of online activity as organisations worldwide have tried to find new ways of interacting with their audiences during a period of tight restrictions.

The sport and recreation sector has been no different and the Alliance has been at the forefront of helping its members navigate through the ‘new normal’ and go digital.

Since the start of the first lockdown in England, we have provided 27 of our members with a free business Zoom licence, paving the way for a flurry of virtual physical activity sessions and saving those involved £4,500 collectively.

One of the organisations to have benefitted from this offering is Ikkaido, the world’s largest martial arts organisation for people with a disability.

All its staff and participants are from sections of society that are often marginalised, be it victims of domestic violence, refugees or people with visual and hearing impairments.

With the pandemic hitting these individuals the hardest, the Zoom licence has allowed Ikkaido to continue to reach out and support its community at a time when it’s been needed the most.

In the height of the pandemic, the BOOST programme came to fruition – an inclusive and accessible wellbeing initiative aimed at improving the health of children, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities and women and girls.

BOOST provides participants with a plethora of indoor and outdoor activity ideas and awards anyone who completes the programme with a Level 1 qualification from Transcend Awards.

One Ikkaido member said: "I have Asperger's and was never a sporty person at all. I was very quiet but was also dealing with episodes of depression and different types of anxiety. 

“I discovered the inclusive sessions at Ikkaido and found a new passion that I was excited to get involved in. The regular commitment to physical activity put me in a permanently better mood.  And it was at Ikkaido that I finally found an opportunity to overcome the barriers that had restricted my choices and kept me from reaching my potential".

The licence also enabled Ikkaido to take their work to an international stage. Together with the Mediterranean Karate Alliance, they created and staged the first ever online Inclusive Martial Arts World Championships in which more than 50 countries participated.

Back in March, the organisation had booked flights and accommodation to take their first seat at the United Nations Headquarters in New York but never got there due to coronavirus.

Ikkaido used Zoom to take part in digital meetings with UN Women, UN Global Compact for the Sustainable Development Goals, UNGC Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, and with hundreds of other partners all around the world to ensure they didn’t miss out on promoting inclusive sport opportunities on a worldwide stage.

In a year that has been rife with change, disruption and uncertainty, Ray Sweeney, CEO of Ikkaido, spoke of how much of a difference the Zoom licence has made to the day-to-day running of the organisation during the pandemic.

"When COVID-19 came along, I couldn't see a way around things, I just couldn't see a future for our charity. 

“How could we communicate? How could we deliver martial arts sessions? How could we continue to engage vulnerable people? I could see that we needed to go digital, but I didn't want to have a kneejerk reaction and end up with really poor-quality outcomes. 

“Zoom was the key piece in the jigsaw puzzle to enable our collaboration with other partners who were in similar situations. 

“The free exchange of knowledge on Zoom with cross-sectoral organisations and experts with cross-cutting skills enabled us to share and develop new knowledge, competences and skills which empowered us to create high quality innovative materials to cope with a world turned upside down by the pandemic.

"I would like to thank the SRA for their support and for setting us up with the Zoom offer. SRA have changed lives by helping us to maintain engagement with our partners in the UK and abroad as well as all of our participants with a disability during lockdown".

“Zoom sustained us and we want it to be an important part of our toolbox from now on.”

If you'd be interested in a free business Zoom licence, please contact us at membership@sportandrecreation.org.uk. (Please note, this offer is only available to organisations who have an annual turnover of less than £100,000.)