Derrick Kennington - The Next Element Academy - Open for Business

Martial Arts academies, a sanctuary for all fighters alike, has become a source of stress and anxiety instead of relief during these times of COVID-19.

Gyms were one of the first to be forced to close up shop when the rise of COVID-19 cases began. It’s been a few weeks now since the shutdown of many states and with the different and ever-changing regulations implemented on each county, it’s been hard to keep up with the latest news for most of us. Derrick Kennington, the head Professor and owner of South Carolina’s The Next Element Academy, points out how everyone is eager to train and for things to go back to normal but a lot of people are now scared to be in close contact with others. Although a few cities are anticipating to open, there is an undeniable new norm that we must all get used to.

Prior to running his own Martial Arts Academy, Professor Kennington served in the United States Air Force for 12 years as a Technical Sergeant and combative instructor for joint military forces including the USAF Ravens. He’s been teaching Martial Arts/self-defense for over 13 years and have combined his knowledge as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, a certified USA boxing coach, and experience as a pro fighter to grow and build his gym. The Next Element Academy has only been open for a little over a year, so when COVID-19 appeared, they experienced a huge setback in their plans for expansion. The transition to virtual classes was also a tricky pursuit.

“We have been doing online ZOOM virtual classes; however, the attendance in the virtual classes has slacked off tremendously compared to the first couple of weeks,” Kennington admits, “there are only so many solo drills that I can teach my members until they get bored of doing them.” This is the harsh reality for a lot of us in the community. As fast as the fire was lit for people to remain active at home, the limited resources and no contact with others have seriously inhibited some of us from maintaining a routine. Still, Professor Kennington found a way to keep his gym afloat by saving the money that was intended for a bigger expansion. He shared, “As of right now, we have only lost a few members. But because the gym was closed, it has stopped any and all growth.”

Luckily for their area, The Next Element Academy is scheduled to open within this week. This same good news have spread across a few cities in the US. The question now remains to be: what are we allowed to do with this new opportunity? It’s hard to say what regulations would be mandated for the opening of shops and facilities, including Martial Arts academies. Professor Kennington took it upon himself to put forth some rules for his gym, which includes:

• Classes must be booked in advance online
• Temperature check upon entering
• No visitors/spectators allowed
• No rolling
• Unnecessary items should be left in one’s vehicle
• Properly sanitize before entering
• Do not come if you feel sick or have been in contact with anyone who’s sick
• Class is limited to 45 minutes to allow for complete sanitation after each class

Although this is still not the reality for many, Professor Kennington is able to lead by example for the rest of us who are patiently waiting for our turn. Sooner or later, we will face the same opportunity and we should readily prepare to accept and change with the new norm.