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Pandemic can’t keep this community apart U.S. Kuo Shu Academy uses interactive technology to continue training and keep its students connected

It’s not an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the Americans’ lives. People are living and working from home under shelter-in-place orders and small businesses are doing what they can to survive.

The U.S. Kuo Shu Academy (USKSA) is overcoming both plights by offering its classes in an interactive, distance-learning setting.

“During these unprecedented times, we are doing our best to help kids, parents and families keep some form of normalcy by helping them stay active, engaged and entertained,” said USKSA owner, Master Michael Huang.

Using the video chat platform Zoom, USKSA offers video tutorials, live virtual sash-rank classes, fitness challenges, leadership lessons and homework. There are also “Mat Chats” on teamwork and keeping up a positive attitude at home.

Master Ian Chisholm, USKSA’s director of kung fu, said that under its new virtual platform, the academy has continued all of its regular classes for all of its students, from the very young to senior citizens. USKSA conducts virtual classes six days a week, holds group sessions and provides private lessons.

“We’ve been following all of the CDC guidelines and the directives from the state governor, so we had no choice but to close in the interest of our students’ health and well-being,” Chisholm said. “But at the same time, we wanted to try to find a way that we could continue to support in their ongoing training. So, it was really a matter of looking at available platforms and figuring out what would work best to meet our needs. By using distance-learning technology we are able to continue to deliver instruction.”

And you don’t even have to be a current student to take advantage of distance learning. USKSA is now offering two free weeks of virtual classes until the academy re-opens. In addition, once the academy re-opens, potential students will still be able to get two weeks of free classes.

USKSA’s philosophy had already laid the groundwork for this unprecedented event. Through its courses, USKSA not only teaches self-defense, discipline and focus, it prepares all of its students to cope with the unpredictability of life.

“I think anytime there’s a dramatic shift in how you do things, no matter what it is, there’s always some anxiety or maybe even some resistance in relation to that,”  Chisholm said. “But everyone has really embraced the distance learning and a lot of that has to do with the mindset that we instill in our students in all settings, which is to always try to do everything that you can to continue your personal development.

“And even though it’s being done a little bit differently now, this is really an anchoring activity. Whether there’s a pandemic or not, people like to have a sense of control over their lives and right now this is a way for them to have control.”

While Chisholm said he’s not surprised that USKSA students are adapting to the new way of learning, he is impressed with how well they have adjusted to using the limited spaces in their homes to continue the program. Whether it’s a small area in their bedrooms or going outside to their driveways or out on their lawns, students are proving their commitment to the program. Not only that, but the distance learning had helped students to overcome the more benign byproduct of the pandemic — boredom.

“It’s a great break from some of the monotony some people may be experiencing,” Chisholm said.

Just ask Justin Weeber of Owings Mills.

“When the world got flipped upside-down, U.S. Kuo Shu stepped up,” he said. “Virtual classes have been great for keeping my daughter and I motivated, energized and on track.”

Another student, Shelly Henriquez-Neill, said she’s thrilled that the interactive training is keeping her connected to her USKSA classmates.

“The best thing about doing online classes is that we are able to practice social distancing without being socially distant.”

Master Michael Huang runs the U.S. Kuo Shu Academy with his father, Grand Master Huang Chien-Liang, who started the business in 1973. They have two schools, one in Owings Mills and one in Marriottsville. To learn more about the academy’s distance-learning program, visit freevirtualmartialarts.com


Learn more at freevirtualmartialarts.com.

Owings Mills: 10999 Red Run Blvd. MD 443-394-9222

Marriottsville: 2470 Longstone Lane 443-545-5566

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