Thurston County’s U.S. Martial Arts Center Powers Through the COVID-19 Pandemic With the Same Mental Precepts They Teach Their Students

Local student utilizing USMAC online class while practicing social distancing. Photo courtesy: U.S. Martial Arts Center

Indomitable spirit and perseverance are two of the “Five Tenets of Taekwondo” that Thurston County’s U.S. Martial Arts Center (USMAC) exercised to adapt to the changing landscape that the COVID-19 outbreak has demanded from businesses owners across the board.

USMAC is one of Washington’s leading family marital arts schools and is a family owned business that has been uplifting Thurston County, and beyond, for 35 years.

For two weeks now, ThurstonTalk has been highlighting businesses that have had to change and adapt in order to weather the COVID-19 outbreak. The most common theme uncovered is that the amalgamation of community support and perseverance and ingenuity from the business community provides the necessary ingredients for success.

When Governor Inslee mandated the closure of non-essential businesses and placed heavy social restrictions on our way of life, USMAC took their curriculum to the digital landscape. They started creating online classes, in the form of video content, to keep the community engaged in a healthy constructive manner.

“This is a way for us to give back to the community and also bring some sort of normal routine for the kids, with them no longer at school and stuck at home, and it also gives the parents something to look forward to,” says Master Angie Lee, daughter of owner Grand Master Young-Hak Lee. “Our classes are very interactive; the instructor talks to the students through video just like if they were in-person classes at the school.”

Master Jason Lee in studio executing online classes for the community. Photo courtesy: U.S. Martial Arts Center

Their current members get access to the online classes, and for those members whose accounts were placed on hold due to job loss, they still allow them to access the classes free of charge. Additionally, they have “free Fridays,” where anyone in the community can jump online and experiences the classes for free. Lee explained this is there way of giving back to the community. “Another reason we decided to do this is to provide people with a distraction from the negativity in the media—the politics and the fear of how long this shutdown will last,” he adds. “We want to provide an uplifting place were the community can get involved in positivity.”

Shifting their classes to an online format wasn’t easy, but they had two choices: shutdown completely or act and do something. For USMAC, they decided to act in a way congruent with what they teach their students, day in and day out, about self-defense. “As martial artists, we know we have to be able to adapt to any situation—and this is no different,” Lee explains. “In a self-defense scenario, for example, it’s not always going to be choreographed. Most self-defense is unpredictable, unexpected. And so we chose to adapt. If our students can’t come to us, then we will go to them, in the comfort and safety of their own homes.”

In addition to the online classes, they also shifted their belt graduation to an online format. Lee said it’s not easy, but their students have been working too hard and preparing for too long for them to not find a way to accommodate and recognize their hard work and commitment.

Shy students are finding the online classes a bit easier, another positive to the digital landscape. Photo courtesy: U.S. Martial Arts Center

Lee and the other instructors are positive they will come out of this with a greater sense of love and support from the community. The amount of support they have seen has been above and beyond anything they could have expected or hoped for. Originally, they didn’t know how to navigate a lot of the technological side of bringing their classes to an online environment, but some of their members stepped up to show them how to navigate the digital landscape with ease and success.

Forecasting the future, Lee says they will absolutely continue online classes, to some degree. They have seen the ways in which they are able to interact with their students differently, in an online environment vs in-person. “We noticed some of our more introverted students who struggle a little during in-person class sessions displayed more confidence with the online training,” he shares. “We also have had many students who moved away start back up with us now that we have online classes because they missed our school. Former students now living as far away as Hawaii, Germany, and even Korea.”

This pandemic is difficult for everyone, but businesses owners across the board are finding ways in which they will come out of this stronger than ever, simply because COVID-19 forced them to adapt and evolve into something greater.

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