by Lucas Peltier
HENDERSON, NEV. – Around 9:45 in the morning, martial arts instructors Devin Neudeck, 28, and Yasmin Brown, 26, of Spirit Taekwondo connect their laptop to a monitor and wait for the faces of about 20 or so eager students to appear on the screen at 10 o’clock. The two instructors then run through a cycle of exercises, kicks and punches within the confines of their living room for 45 minutes and end the online class. Neudeck and Brown later hold another online session at 6 pm and repeat the same schedule Monday thru Friday – until it is safe for them to reopen their studio due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Neudeck and Brown are one of many gym owners who had to shut down after Governor Sisolak announced the closure of all non-essential businesses in Nevada in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but fortunately, they were able to improvise to online instruction using remote conferencing services like Zoom. They opened Spirit Taekwondo in 2015 on St. Rose Parkway and Eastern Avenue, teaching adolescents from the age of 3 to middle age adults (some of whom are the parents of younger students) the ways of taekwondo, both traditional and Olympic-style. “We started completely from scratch, “Neudeck said. “We had only one kid come in and we gave him a 30-minute private lesson and then we were done for the day.”
However, aside from regular closures for travels to tournaments or holidays, Spirit Taekwondo has never closed its doors for more than week – and Neudeck and Brown question the studio’s future in what many are calling “the new normal.”
“It’s been weird, “Brown commented. “We’ve been trying to focus on the positives, but we’re definitely in a cloud of uncertainty and really not knowing what will happen next as far as the studio goes.”
Both Neudeck and Brown have been practicing taekwondo for almost entire lives. The two are certified blackbelts, won numerous competitions and awards – and found each other through the love of their sport and are currently engaged. Since opening the studio, Neudeck and Brown felt it was their mission to create a safe environment where students can only exercise and have fun, but also grow as individuals. “I don’t care about raising champions or if one of our kids goes to the Olympics,” Brown said. “I want to raise awesome human beings and empower them to go live the life they want.”
photo courtesy of Spirit Taekwondo
But with most of the U.S. population now stuck at home because of Covid-19, the goals established at Spirit Taekwondo are put to the test as Neudeck and Brown have to improvise new ways to teach a sport that heavily relies on social interaction.
“So far it’s been good. Everyone is enjoying it and we’ve had really good attendance, but I’ve been tested with the creativity of the classes.” Brown mentioned. So far, most of the drills taught online have been exercises that do not require equipment or kicking bags, Brown hopes that will eventually change.
“If all goes well and we’re still able to have [the studio], then we’ll try to go completely online and have a virtual program, which is kind of exciting just the thought of something new,” she said.
While the future of Spirt Taekwondo’s reopening is uncertain, the next in-class is expected to be a blast for the students. “It will be a lot of fun. Probably all contact drills,” Neudeck joked.