An Open Letter To Our Friends & Colleagues Across UK Martial Arts
July 1, 2020
UK Martial Arts has suffered immeasurably with the Government Imposed lockdown in response to Covid-19. Almost every club in the country – across all nations – has hit some form of hardship. This direct strain is also permeating associations and governing bodies for all styles – including those that are multistyle in nature.
Most recently we have had our hopes of an early return dashed by further Government Guidance on the phased return of indoor sport and recreation. This has created tension, divide and derision between organisations, associations and clubs from all styles and affiliations.
We’re in this together and now, more so than ever, is not the time for us to draw up battles lines or see each other as enemies.
We may be ‘competition’ to one another in our day to day work representing clubs and instructors. We might disagree on the best way of governing our members. We might have different ideas on what a quality membership organisation looks like, or the best way to support our martial arts.
None of this matters.
This recent round of confusion has arisen from a complete void of direct guidance to martial arts clubs and associations. We have between us received not a single word that identifies what we should all be doing specifically. We have been left to read between the lines and make our own best judgement on what that means for us, our clubs and our students.
Martial Arts participation is vast. The best statistical data we can find demonstrates more participants take part in weekly martial arts than Rugby & Cricket combined, and we’re almost certain that’s just taking into account the ‘core’ martial arts. The real figure is likely much, much greater.
We receive no funding from Sport England and no backing from the DCMS. We are left to make do, as best we can, with disciplines and styles that have survived millennia of war, migration and social progression. We are guardians of martial arts across this great union.
I have today written directly to Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Secretary of State for DCMS and have implored him to provide something tangible, direct and specific for martial arts. We’re just about the only sport without any official representation, and it’s simply not good enough.
I extend a further hand to all of our partners and peers across UK Martial Arts. Associations, Governing Bodies, Clubs, Instructors, Participants. Our Group of organisations will do everything we can to navigate the uncertainty with a level-headed professionalism we have become renowned for holding. We understand you too will be doing all you can to keep pushing on, supporting members and keeping martial arts alive. We know we may find conflicting positions and differing standpoints on many issues over the coming months, but we do so with the same love, humility and respect that martial arts instils in us all.
More so than ever, we need unity and common-purpose. This doesn’t have to be conflated with dilution or infiltration. Sovereignty is as important as ever but, I believe, more so than the gain of our groups and associations at present, the collective survival and resurgence of martial arts nationally takes precedent. So, please know that we remain a friendly corner of the UK martial arts market, open to extend a hand of support or friendship to anyone or any association whom needs it. If you don’t need or want to directly contact us, that’s fine too. Please know that we know you’re trying hard, as are we, to make sense of little to no direct information in the midst of our arts’ greatest challenge in living history.
Martial Arts saved my life. At worst it lifted me out of a life of poverty. At best, it is the sole reason I am alive today. I have seen and experienced first hand the great things martial arts instills in people of all ages, backgrounds, races and beliefs. I have taught for many years and seen these same realisations in countless students. Now at the helm of one of the UK’s largest supporting organisations I see first hand, day in and day, the difference we all make. Associations, service providers, clubs, instructors, coaches, volunteers, students, parents. We are a part of one of the most sacred and cherished ‘sports’ in the country. We’re not just sport, we’re a way of life to so many. It is easy to forget the bond we all share when we’re so busy trying to navigate our own members through such uncertain times. The worst thing right now, I believe, would be further isolation and fragmentation of an already deeply unstable sector of sport and recreation.
I have released in excess of £45,000 with immediate effect to form an industry forum to help us stay connected, without concerns surrounding politics, power or finance. This will be ready to step in shortly and will be entrusted to the wider community – not just us. More details will follow shortly.
In the interim we will do our best to press on with a level head. Please be assured our door is always open to collaboration or friendly disagreement.
We’re in this together, and together we can survive this.
Sincerely, GIOVANNI SOFFIETTO Group Chief Executive Officer
We love all things martial arts. As the head of the group, we have insights and opinions that stretch across all areas of the martial arts industry. Most of our observations are around governance, external interventions and the martial arts industry as a collective.