July 20, 2021: Incidental and Non-Sustained Contact Training During Step 3 in Ontario

Ontario Union of Martial Artists July 20, 2021: Incidental and Non-Sustained Contact Training During Step 3 in Ontario

As many of our OUMA member clubs start to re-open they may be concerned about contact training.  Whether you are training in Karate, Kung-Fu, Taekwondo, Jujitsu or Boxing; physical contact is a natural outcome of the martial art.  How can you truly learn how to block a punch or kick (or take a punch) if you can’t have contact?

As a Dojo owner, I have exceeded all safety standards recommended by my local Health Unit over the past year and a half regarding COVID constraints for Martial Arts Training.  As Ontario entered into Step 3 of its re-opening plan, I looked for clarity and guidance from the Provincial website.  The legal requirements seemed ambiguous to me with respects to Martial Arts.  It was unclear where my Dojo was classified – but I assumed it was under recreational and sport facilities?

But then I started thinking about the kids playing soccer in our local parks, and how they keep bumping into each other.  How is this so different than a controlled block, kick, or punch – or even a jujitsu technique that lasts a couple seconds?

Although I had my assumptions, I also know they weren’t good enough to establish policy in my dojo when it came down to public health, governance and the well-being of my club members.

I reached out to my local health unit, the Middlesex London Health Unit with the following email:

Good afternoon.
I run a martial arts club in Glencoe, Ontario – within the Middlesex London Health Unit region.
We are practicing non-contact martial arts but have a question regarding incidental contact and non-sustained contact training.  
We practice active COVID-19 screening, including temperature checks and contact lists of all participants.  Participants are required to answer the screening questions and sign-off on their acknowledgement of the health protocols.
There are no drop-in classes, all require appointments and pre-registration.  We are also practicing the capacity restrictions for participants and spectators.  All spectators are required to wear masks.  
My question is for fully vaccinated participants, is incidental and non-sustained contact permitted?  I could not find any specifics on the MLHU or Government of Ontario website on this topic.  
Can you advise me?

I was very pleased to receive the below response:

In the current COVID-19 regulation: Step 3 (O. Reg. 364/20), physical distancing may not apply to members of the public who engage in sports indoors or outdoors. However, we do encourage that physical distancing be maintained whenever possible. There is no specific direction for those who are fully vaccinated versus those who are not.
If you require any further clarification about requirements for your facility, you can refer to the current regulation (O. Reg. 364/20): https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/200364#BK3
  • Under Schedule 1 – General Rules
  • Under Schedule 2 – Section 16: Facilities used for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness activities
I hope that answers your question.

There are still some ambiguities to resolve, and if you have questions – ultimately you should seek input from a qualified legal resource (like a lawyer).  But your first step is to engage with your local Health Unit and understand their perspective.  In the past, there have been Section 22 orders which provided additional legal constraints to the Provincial legislation.  In the Middlesex London Health Unit area, no section 22 orders exist as of today (07-30-21)

You can find your local Health Unit’s website and contact information from the Ontario Government Website here: https://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/system/services/phu/locations.aspx

I hope this information helps you in your re-opening journey.

Best regards,

Randy Horton
OUMA President, Shichidan

Photo Credits:
Top Left: Doug Horton Jr., Boxing Card at Quinte High School, Belleville Ontario, circa 1983
Bottom Right: Hogar Creek (left) and Bob Wilcox (right) at the Canadian Karate and Kung-Fu Dojo in London, Ontario – circa 1970-1972