Pre/Post COVID Seminar Tours (UK)
“I think we need to leave right now!”
This was how the seminar tour ended in Livingston, Scotland at 11pm on March 17th 2020. A few days after that the country would be in lockdown (and I would have COVID…probably from one of you). What happened leading up to that was such an ever-changing rollercoaster ride that it’s hard to put the pieces back together two years later.
The seminar tour began in the usual way but there was a feeling of impending doom that it could all get shut down at any moment. At that point there were no restrictions in place so we took the decision to ‘keep calm and carry on’ albeit with caution (keeping distance, no more hand shaking etc). We started off with a seminar in Attleborough with the students of PKJN’s Gillingwater’s schools as friendly and welcoming as ever. The next morning was the big black belt training session in Norwich which was a great turnout despite the current climate. We then headed up to Liverpool for the next stage of the tour and another well attended black belt workshop the following day. Thanks again to PKJN Carl and SBN Karl for their hospitality. At this point, cracks were already starting to form and hints of potential venue shut downs were coming in as we went further North. SIKJN John made the very wise decision to end his tour there and a skeleton crew continued the journey up to Scotland.
It was from here that things were getting worse with our fears starting to become a reality: Monday seminar in Aberdeen = cancelled, Tuesday seminar in Falkirk = cancelled, Thursday seminar in Edinburgh = cancelled, Saturday black belt workshop in Bathgate = cancelled. Not to mention rumours of international flights being cancelled and Master Alex unable to go home. Our lovely Scottish house in Livingston (thanks again KSN Nichola) became a mission control centre with everybody on their phones trying to come up with a plan …and JIKJN Taffy taking selfies on his. So, the new plan was to move Friday’s seminar in Glasgow to Monday and change Wednesday’s seminar in Livingston to the black belt workshop instead. The Glasgow seminar went ahead with a great turnout and our first ever visit to PSBN Andrew Cameron’s dojang right in the heart of the city but that ended up being the only event that took place in Scotland. Wednesday night = cancelled and the flight situation was getting worse and worse. In the end, the decision was made that instead of going to bed, we could get on the road and drive through the night to Heathrow and try to get Master Alex on a plane first thing the next morning…and that’s what we did.
“You’re on mute/Turn your camera on!”
Little did we know at that point what was coming next: Lockdown happened, then lockdown 2, then lockdown 3. Teaching via zoom became the norm and it would be 18 months before the next seminar tour. I’d like to take this moment to congratulate everybody on their resilience and strength during that time. My heart goes out to those who promoted then, every promotion is special but I feel it was extra tough for the new JKN and PKJN’s. On a personal note, I’d like to thank the community for their compassion. I lost my Father to COVID and was taken aback by the support I received from the WKSA community.
“I wonder how many will turn up?”
In August 2021 it was finally time to start trying to get back to some kind of WKSA normality…well as normal as things can be with JIKJN Taffy around. Flights from the USA to the UK were finally allowed and SIKJN Alex made the trip over. Was it too soon? How many would feel comfortable coming back? Only one way to find out…
Picking up from where we left off, we travelled up to Liverpool where seminars were held in the Widnes and Liverpool dojangs before the long drive up to Scotland on day one. The next day saw a black belt workshop in Bathgate which was very well attended and the following day we drove up to Westhill for a big seminar for all the Aberdeen area schools (thank you to SBN Richard Walker for a great lunch beforehand). By this point, we were seeing that yes, this was the right thing to do. All events were well attended and there seemed to be a genuine happiness for everybody to get together again. Seeing smiling faces at each school was a reminder of what we had missed and spirits in the camp were very high. I say smiling faces but there were a lot of masks worn so I just assume you were all smiling.
Speaking of masks: we took care to be as safe and responsible as possible and wore them where appropriate and also took daily tests. There was a slight panic when an unnamed (you can guess who) JIKJN found a red pen and ‘doctored’ my test to make it look like I had COVID. Not funny. Especially as he got the wrong one and SIKJN John actually thought he was positive instead!
Some things had changed, some things had stayed the same and one of those was the food. We take eating very importantly on seminar tour and this was no exception. A visit to Scotland can’t go by without a visit to our favourite Korean restaurant in Glasgow so we made up for lost time and made two visits where a lot of food was eaten! We were also supplied with lots of cakes by our amazing Livingston hosts but I didn’t see any, I guess SIKJN John got there first.
We rounded up the tour with seminars at the lovely new dojang in Livingston and finally in Dunfermline where the sun was shining so much we had the seminar outside. I can’t think of many (any?) times this has happened so it was a great way to end our time in Scotland. After that, we travelled back down South (via Manchester for a pre-flight COVID test for SIKJN Alex) that ended up taking almost 12 hours due to traffic. No time to worry about that though as the next day had a full schedule of master and then black belt training in Norwich. To wrap things up the final day was a seminar in Attleborough which brings things neatly full circle as that is where this whole saga began back in March 2019. A lot happened between those two seminars in Attleborough!
As ever, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kuk Sa Nim for allowing me to be a member of the seminar team and help on these tours.