LUTZ, Fla. — Social distancing doesn't seem like a concept that would fit naturally with an activity like martial arts, which is why Krav Maga Martial Arts is keeping its doors open -- and its community connected — virtually.

  • Students now attending classes by video
  • Courses also posted online for free
  • More Pasco County stories

Stephen Del Castillo has taught a blend of martial arts and life skills at the physical location for 20 years.

"One of the most important lessons I teach here is that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to what happens to us," Del Castillo said. 

It's a lesson he's putting into practice now. 

Del Castillo, whose students call him "Shihan Steve," said around 30 people on average attend a typical class at KMMA. Like so many businesses nationwide, he said he knew social distancing guidelines would mean he'd have to close his doors.

"Of course there's that hole in my heart. One day, I posted the empty dojo, and I said, 'I can't wait til the day that all my students come back,'" Del Castillo said.

So, Del Castillo decided if his students couldn't come to the dojo, he'd bring the dojo to them.

"You can see your dojo. You can feel your dojo. And wherever you are, wherever you're watching us in the country, it's irrelevant because we are one dojo right now," Del Castillo told students who connected to the dojo by video Thursday.

The only difference is this dojo is virtual.

Students from Tampa Bay and beyond took their belt tests by video this week. 

"We were able to cheer each other on. It was a little awkward doing it electronically, I guess, but it was still a lot of fun," said student Michelle Cummings.

Del Castillo also posted courses from his program online for free.

It's a scary time for businesses. Del Castillo estimates the dojo's income is cut in half, but he said it's important to him to not only help students develop their skills and also keep that sense of community strong, especially now.

"We have been able to maintain the community in a way that I believe, to be honest, is going to bring us even closer and male us even better," said Del Castillo.

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