DRKA embracing virtual platform

Posted 7/30/20

As the world continues to battle through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many karate schools have turned to virtual instruction as well as virtual competitions to keep the sport rolling. The Don Rodrigues Karate Academy in Warwick has

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DRKA embracing virtual platform


As the world continues to battle through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many karate schools have turned to virtual instruction as well as virtual competitions to keep the sport rolling.

The Don Rodrigues Karate Academy in Warwick has done just that and has been conducting classes on Zoom with students and has recently begun to compete in these virtual tournaments.

Each April, Rodrigues and his team host the Rhode Island Grand Nationals at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, which is one of the largest American tournaments each year that features hundreds of competitors from all throughout the country and globe.

This year, Rodrigues was forced to move the competition to a virtual platform. However, despite a different layout, the tournament was still a large success and had over 400 competitors from 33 US states and eight countries overall.

“We decided to cancel the tournament originally, but then a bunch of our promoters got together and we thought about doing the tour virtually. We saw that other places had already been doing it. It was about just getting the technology set up and that is when we found ( and we have been doing the tour. It has been quite extraordinary, a little bit different and something we’re not familiar with. We haven’t charged them since it’s virtual, but it keeps their interest piqued,” said Rodrigues.

In these competitions, the participants are able to upload videos of their different routines, whether it be weapons, forms, etc. They then send the photos to a centralized address online for judges to score and compare them with the other competitors. From there, judges select winners.

“They upload a video based on the date and the tournament that they’re competing in. It actually helps them because they can record their best routine … they upload their routine and then our judges judge them. The quality of performance has been terrific because of this, our competitors can bring their best. It also helps because we have judges all over the country. It’s pretty unique,” said Rodrigues.

Students and competitors have been very pleased with the product, and Rodrigues is thrilled to see his program continue to run and provide the same level of instruction as it always has.

“We’ve gotten nothing but great feedback from it, people have really loved it. They get to receive a certificate that they can download. It has been very successful, and the more it catches on, the bigger it will be. We really want to keep our competitors interested. If we don’t, then this will all be out of sight, out of mind,” said Rodrigues. “We have been teaching classes on Zoom, many other karate schools have not been doing that and have lost many students that will not come back. We have been lucky to keep our kids interested, our school has been doing very well all things considered.”

Don’s wife, Christine, is also an instructor at the school and has been heading the online push for its students. Christine enjoys the flexibility that the online platform provides, even if it is a bit of an adjustment.

“The students love it, especially the ones that are older, have health concerns, have family members, it lets them continue to learn. I think for the competitors, they miss the camaraderie of competing and traveling together, but at least it has allowed them to continue to train. They still can have a goal, continue training and keep their performance at a high peak,” said Christine. “It also gives them a chance to compete against other countries that may not have been able to come here even without COVID. It gives them the opportunity to see how they compete against people from all over the world.”

On top of that, Christine believes that this may even help the school increase its numbers moving forward.

“It’s challenging teaching online, but I think it forces you to be creative as an instructor. There is some positivity that has come out of this,” said Christine. “We have college students that go off to college and train somewhere else and sometimes they will fall behind. Now we have online classes and they can continue to train. We’ve had a ton of students that have moved, gone to the military, and often they tell us that they can’t find a school in their new location that they have really liked. So we have talked about reaching out to those people to see if they would like to continue to work with us.”

Team Rodrigues Karate / DRKA sponsored by Ocean State Collision from Pawtucket, captured 35 medals at the 2020 Ocean State Grand Nationals Virtual Karate Championships on July 17-19.

The team / school captured 13 Gold medals, 10 Silver, five Bronze, three runner-up medals (5th-8th place) and four Overall Grand Championships. Ashley Sacrey won two Gold and two Overall Grand Championships, while Kathryn Tian captured six Gold and two Overall Grand Championships and was awarded the Adult "Power Ring" by Point Fighter Live.

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