• There are a lot of emotions here, a lot to unpack, so here we go.

    (Since I didn’t get to perform the annual telling of this story at the end of the black belt grading this year, please bare with hearing it one more time, for context’s sake.)

    In 2015, walking around a park with my best friend, I mentioned that I had an idea about opening a club. She immediately replied “Of course you are, and we’ll be the first ones to sign up when you do.” That moment gave me the confidence needed to actually do this.

    When you’re embarking on something such as starting your own business, the infrastructure necessary to put it together can be staggering, so the confidence was very much needed and appreciated. The club…I had unfinished business, my students had unfinished business, and we all needed a place where we could take care of that unfinished business.

    In five years’ time, 10 long-time students and 1 contemporary all earned black belts on our floor. And as amazing as each of those gradings, each of those moments were, it still felt new, felt like we were only getting started.

    Because in those five years, we welcomed many new students to our dojang, our home, and watched as they worked their faces off, and earned their home on what I affectionately referred to as The Floor.

    This year, we had our first trip to a tournament planned for our younger students, who in a testament to them, went from fear of knowing that they would compete, to excitedly coming to me and asking when the tournament was, because they were ready to do the work and leave it all out on the floor. 

    Dang, were they ready.

    But alas, 2020. 

    As I write this, it comes on the heels of reading several days’ worth of posts by women in my favourite entertainment industry talking about how often they are put in unsafe positions, and how often they have been hurt as a result. It takes me back to the moment that planted the seed that would become Phoenix (a moment that I touch on here).

    An 11 year old girl, who simply based on how our world is would be in dangerous positions before we knew it, and I had nothing relevant to teach her. Fast-forward a few years, and the entire Phoenix system is based on reality, from our fighting system, our striking system, to our self-defense. All of it is completely real, and when our students did need to use it in real life, it did keep them safe. Because that 11 year old girl was right, and because she had the courage to speak her truth. 

    I always tell my students to “use your voice”, as it is one of the simplest ways to stay safe, find happiness, and make peace with any situation this world brings us. So with that in mind, here’s the situation:

    In virtually every corner of the world, we have perhaps the most contagious, and without question one of the most destructive diseases that our world has ever known. It can be caught by breathing in the same air; it can be caught by sweat moving from body-to-body; it can be caught by contact. 

    That is every martial art that exists. 

    For me to keep Phoenix open, it would be to contradict my internal mission statement, which is that I will keep everyone safe in the club, while teaching them how to keep themselves safe outside in the real world. 

    So at this point I want to say thank you. Thank you to my family and friends who supported this idea, who believed in me and my vision. Thank you to my teachers, who gave me enough knowledge to be able to develop a program that I can only hope was worthy of your knowledge and your teaching. And thank you to every member of Phoenix Martial Arts. Whether you were there for a few months, a year, or several years. You made Phoenix possible, you made Phoenix magical. Those memories that we will all carry with us, those happened because of you. Thank you for putting your faith in me, and thank you for making Phoenix what it was.

    So yes, Phoenix Martial Arts is now closed. However, this message is more than that, so please allow an old teacher one final moment of teaching. 

    For any parent reading this looking to enter their child (or themselves) in ANY group activity, be it martial arts, hockey, anything – please ask yourself: Are the risks worth the benefits? Because not you, not the team’s coaching staff, not the parents of the other kids, no one can control what all of you will be exposed to – who all of you will be exposed to. 

    People of all ages catch this. People of all ages have permanent damage from this. People of all ages die from this.

    Parents, be creative. Utilize your minds, your friends, and the internet to their complete capabilities. It is your best chance of keeping your children safe. 

    For any martial arts club owners reading this and planning to stay open…Why? If this is a secondary venture in your life, then is the little bit of extra money you’re going to make really worth putting your students at risk? Those students and their parents, they trust you, and you in good conscience have absolutely no way to guarantee their safety. So why are you going to risk their lives? Is money really that important to you? How will you look yourself in the mirror when the inevitable happens?

    For you martial arts club owners who use this as your primary source of income, I implore you to be creative. Online programming, extremely small class sizes, plenty of distance, and learn about HOCI-based cleaners. Teach your students the importance of cleaning, everything from themselves to the equipment to their assigned area. And please, spend the money that they pay you on having quality air flow in your space, as the studies are out there speaking about how air flow takes the virus out of the air. 

    Parents, if you are hell-bent on your child(ren) being involved in sports during this, then I beg you to DEMAND that the club takes all available real measures to stay safe. And absolutely do not sign any waiver absolving them of responsibility; if they want to make money by putting your family at any degree of risk, they have an equally great deal of responsibility should something happen.

    The more the martial art or any sport involves touching and close contact, the more people will get sick. This is not working in hypothetical probabilities, this is reality. Kids and adults alike, no one is safe.

    So please, make intelligent choices with an eye on the future, to ensure that there is a future.

    As for Phoenix, I hope that the lessons taught will keep our family safe, which has always been the goal. Beyond that, the best thing that I can say is that once again, a lot of us have unfinished business. And special, spectacular things happened the last time my people had unfinished business…

    – Mike