May 27 2020, 13.00
A south London based martial arts school has swapped the dojo for online classes as it continues to teach during lockdown.
Wushu London, which has branches in Twickenham and Brixton, opened in 2019 and is run by instructors Kitty Erickson 45, and 85kg British SANDA champion Josh Villar, 26.
SANDA is Chinese kickboxing, and is one of the three disciplines taught at Wushu London; the others are White Crane Kung-Fu and White Crane Tai-Chi.
Kitty, who first started practising martial arts nine years ago, said: “Normally you’d take someone’s arm and correct it, or stand next to them and show them the shape they should be making, we’ve just had to be a bit more creative.”
She added: “You can’t get that physical feedback but there are so many aspects of martial arts to work on.”
Studies show that regular exercise can have a positive impact on mental health and with depression and anxiety a by-product of life under lockdown, Kitty feels that keeping active is especially essential at this time.
She said: “There’s lots of tension for different people in different ways, exercise is really helpful, it’s a mind-body connector, you focus on yourself, you haven’t got space to think about anything else, it gives you a break and I think that’s very important right now.”
The classes are hosted on Zoom with both group sessions as well as individual classes available.
Utilising practices such as shadow wrestling, (training with an imaginary partner) focusing more on the technical aspects of strikes and adopting a more fitness-based approach, Wushu London has adapted its methods to allow it to continue to teach its array of styles to a range of students.
Josh, who first started teaching martial arts aged 16, said: “The good thing about having many different styles is we can appeal to many different people.”
Josh trains alongside Wushu Olympic bronze medallist Nick Evagorou and has been fighting professionally for a year.
He has enjoyed success thus far; having already been accepted onto SN Combat Academy’s K1 fight team, he was also due to compete at the Wushu European Championships in April, but that was cancelled due to coronavirus.
Josh’s debut in professional fighting took place at the Takedown Fighting Championships in February against Hendrix Grivalliers; a bronze medalist at last year’s Mediterranean SANDA Championships.
He lost the bout on points and the ongoing pandemic has disrupted his fight plans for 2020, however he aspires to pick up where he left off when it’s possible to do so.
He said: “The World Championships are next October, hopefully by then all this will be over and I can go and compete. I’m raring to get back, I’m really looking forward to fighting and competing, it’s a huge part of my life.”
Josh plans to fight well into his late 30s and has lofty goals for his fight career.
He added: “I want to fight for as long as I can, my dream would be to win an international title.”
His demanding schedule also includes running the fight school, training up to four hours daily as well as teaching 2/3 hours a day four times a week.
He added: “It’s really full on, but I really love it, I really enjoy it and that’s how I manage it. I want to become the best I can possibly become as a fighter and as a teacher and that’s what keeps me motivated.”
Josh and Kitty’s vision for Wushu London is a small base of students with whom they take the patterns and forms of traditional Chinese martial arts and apply them to combat situations, something they both feel is lacking in how other schools teach.
Kitty said: “Our interest as a martial arts club is how you translate pattern into function.”
Josh added: “We want to change the face of Chinese martial arts; we want to make it combatively effective again.”
Wushu London’s online classes run throughout the week, you can find out more information at https://www.wushulondon.co.uk/