We run a boutique Taijiquan and Qigong School based in Melbourne, Victoria. Like a lot of businesses, we had to react quickly to the COVID-19 restrictions as they were introduced. Not only did we face the risk of losing our business but more importantly we risked the physical, psychological, intellectual and social wellbeing our students had come to rely on through their studies and training.
Stage One saw us having to change the way we taught to ensure physical distancing and student safety. All of a sudden, we had to re-think the way we taught and take our students on that journey with us. Some of our students have been with us for 15 years so it meant them having to accept that change can be a good thing. We introduced more theory-only components to the class, more foundational training etc.
Stage Two saw us having to limit the number of students we could have in a class and we had to move our classes outdoors. This started to become very problematic with the fickleness of Melbourne’s Autumn weather but Stage Three quickly brought a halt to this anyway.
Stage Three... non-essential businesses to cease trading and we had a few hundred students wanting to debate the fact that Tai Chi and Qigong were considered non-essential.
That’s when our business got turned on its head. There was no way we could let our students down, nor sit and see the business die. In the matter of only a few short weeks we went from having a vibrant face-to-face based business to working in the virtual world, dealing with technology and video production. None of us are “technologists” but we’ve learned a lot in a few short weeks mainly by taking Taijiquan’s greatest philosophy of “Bend Like Bamboo” and applying it to everything we’ve had to do to keep the business not only surviving but flourishing.
In short, we have moved all of our students into teleconferenced classrooms. We’ve installed the appropriate technology so we can see them clearly and continue to make the necessary corrections and adjustments to their movements, while they can also see and hear us with as much detail as is technologically available. We have even commenced running a series of Beginner classes for people who want to try and learn Tai Chi while in lockdown. The beauty of the teleconferenced classes is that the students aren’t limited by distance. So, PC (post-COVID) we will continue to offer these classes particularly for our Private students who tend to travel extensively for business. They will now have their weekly class whether they are in London, New York or Melbourne.
The other thing we have had to learn is how to quickly and cheaply produce educational videos for the local government sector. One of our clients, City of Darebin, run an ongoing program to provide physical and social wellbeing to marginalised members of the community. With the start of the Pandemic those programs had to cease. Most of the community had access to phones and social media but not much else so the Participation Officer had a great idea to supply weekly videos to everyone via social media. It has proved to be hugely successful, with lots of the community connecting via the videos, asking questions and generally sharing in the experience.
Of course, we have also lost a lot of business as corporations, local and state governments have adopted a work-from-home policy. We doubt that aspect of our business will return in the foreseeable future. However, while we have had to “Bend Like Bamboo” more than we ever thought possible, in so doing we have tapped into a whole new way of working and delivering our services. It’s enhanced the lives of our students, of people who couldn’t access classes previously, and created a level of excitement and challenge amongst our instructors. We will definitely survive this and definitely be the better for it!
Our message to everyone is, in times of crisis, it’s all about bending with it, not trying to resist.
Tara Brayshaw, Principal of JinLi Wushu-Tai Chi