Reflection on 2020, or at least the first half…

What a decade it’s been… except we’re only about 7 months into a year.

2020 has been a tough one for many in a whole heap of ways. For MAUL, I (Chief Instructor Wendi), had the great fun of having hip surgery thanks to some poor genetics. This recovery has not been a linear progression, and throughout having to take this past year off of physically teaching or training, MAUL has changed a great deal – and for the better.

The next generation of MAUL instructors, who were growing and assisting and taking the lead almost in the background, have become MAUL’s face. Not only did these amazing women and non-binary members guide the club through the tricky transition of (temporarily) losing its two head instructors, they also then reacted – and fast! – to lockdown and the transition to virtual teaching. As we found our footing, we also reached out to MAULers far and wide to act as virtual instructors from Denmark, Saudi Arabia, and the USA. In the face of darkness and doubt, the MAUL family came together, and held strong.

But not only have we continued to survive the challenges, MAUL has grown in a way only MAUL would.

In just these past 6 months, we have worked on sessions for teen girls, women with joint or chronic illness, and refugees in Cambridge. We have created and developed both instructor and junior instructor support and training, driven by themes of understanding privilege, building confidence, and teaching through empathy. We have constructed a consent session for teenagers on allyship and community defense. And we have had the great privilege of seeing some of our first MiNi-MAULers (members of our families club), growing into young tweens and teens and brown belts, and stepping up during lockdown as leaders for the club. It is unsurprising, and a testament to what we created here, that these particular lockdown stars are young women. Such heroism earned a MAUL first – a park grading, all done at social distancing and under torrential rain.

We have also begun building an international community of women instructors. In reaction to lockdown, we created MAUL Around the World, bringing in a guest female instructor of any art, from anywhere, to lead a virtual session each month. This was inspired by the first MAUL blackbelt test where a panel of female instructors came together to lead the all-women grading. From pilates for kickers to 99 ways to face-palm someone and ending with the joy of Aiki-Yoga we’ve taken something horrible and made something great.

It’s been a rough year, yes, but martial arts is not about what you do when everything is great. The mental strength of martial arts comes from pushing through sweat or fatigue, through brain blanks and mental walls. There is always a reason to quit, there is always a much more comfortable pillow at home. But when you hit the floor, when you are knocked down, when you screw up – you don’t just get up, you get up and go back stronger.

I often tell my students before a grading, “If you screw up, your job is to make the next moves so phenomenal nobody remembers the mistake. You don’t look down, you don’t grimace, you don’t shrug sadly. You stand tall, and proud, and strong.” This is MAUL.