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Once Bitten, Twice Shying Away From Calling It A Lockdown (it’s Heightened Alert, y’all)

There were warning signs, alright. The Ministry of Health has been reporting daily cases for over a year now. For a good half year or so, the number has been consistently low. Sure, there were imported cases, but they had been picked out during the mandatory quarantine. Things were working as they were supposed to. Community cases for the past several months had hovered in the single digits. It was easy to count them out on our fingers and then use our open hands to shield our eyes from the sun, because there had been some semblance of normalcy in our lives. There were still limits on capacity, of course, and the maximum number for social gatherings is 8 people, but come off it, who really has so many close friends?? Oh, they do? Well, good for them. I, too, also have 7 friends, who just happen to be stuffed with leather scraps and swing like punching bags. (Spoiler alert: they ARE punching bags…)

Punching Bags

But in April 2021, there were rumblings of what was to come. Community case numbers ticked upwards and suddenly, they hovered above single digits. The newspaper headlines grew bigger: “unlinked”, “more infectious variant”, “picked up from surveillance”. It felt like a wind was picking up and a storm was about to unleash. Here at Onyx, we felt unsettled as well, and stepped up the sanitation measures. We barked at people to keep their masks on until the start of class, and nagged at you all to wear them immediately after training. We spritzed the gloves, the bags, the mats at more frequent intervals and advised (gently) for people to not loiter around too much by playing the most annoying song “Shan Ding He Du She”. If you know which song I am talking about, don’t click it. If you don’t know, please for the love of god, don’t click it too!

There is only so much we can control within our individual outlets though. The cases in the community still continued to rise, so we weren’t that surprised when the government announced the tightened measures on 4 May 2021, to take effect from 8 May 2021, a mere 4 days later. It was a feeling of “ah shit, here we go again”. There wasn’t a sense of dread, just of listlessness and resignation. We knew what we were supposed to do (close, once again), but we also knew from experience that the circumstances are unpredictable. It was a chaotic Tuesday, with people from all over messaging the hotlines, calling us, coming up to us, asking if we would be closed. We were all afloat in the ocean and we had hoped Onyx could be the driftwood that people clung to, but we also understood the waves were choppy, with different government agencies pulling us in different directions.

Initially, we decided to close the gym from 8 to 30 May 2021, as the government’s rules stated a blanket ban on all fitness centres. Over the next few days, there was pushback and conflict from all fronts, so guidelines were amended. With the amended regulations, it seemed that Onyx could operate as we could obey the caveats. Then, there was further pushback from another segment of the fitness community and yet another announcement of tightened measures, this time called “Heightened Alert” to spice things up. In this iteration of bureaucratic decree, it was impossible for Onyx to run classes the Onyx way: high-intensity, no excuses, altogether. And if we couldn’t provide the same quality of classes, and especially if we could do our bit to control the tumultuous Covid-19 spread in Singapore, why not? It was a painful decision, and a costly one, but ultimately, the only decision Onyx could arrive at. We have lived with this virus for a year and we have witnessed its trail of destruction worldwide. Yes, there are vaccines, but it hasn’t reached critical mass of our population. Yes, there is an efficient healthcare system in Singapore, but we should also do our best to safeguard everyone’s health. So once again, Onyx will be forced to close until 13 June 2021.

Onyx Suit Up

We hate it as much as you do. Probably even more. I know it seems like the coaches bear a personal grudge against each and every one of you, because of how much they enjoy torturing you during classes. But that’s how they show their love. I think; that’s what I psych myself when PiKeng told us, without blinking, to do 10 minute of jump knees and we really jumped for 10 minutes in various expressions of anguish.

However, this is not our first time on the rodeo. Everybody is more prepared, more at ease at letting go of things beyond our control. The New York Times recently wrote about a communal feeling of lethargy, which they termed “languishing”. It is a “sense of stagnation and emptiness”. No doubt, we did feel that way when news of the NOT-CircuitBreaker first hit. It is as if 2020 never ended and we were back to square one. Being closed from 1 Feb 2020 to 22 June 2020, and again from 8 May 2021 to 13 June 2021, these disruptions add up to 5 months docked from the calendar, gone down the drain!

But, here is the nub: we have also grown through the past experiences. We had seen the light at the end of the 2020 Circuit Breaker tunnel, how we stuck through social isolation and emerged (albeit with very rusty small talk skills). We had seen how fast life springs back into bloom when we are allowed to flower. We have also grown to forgive ourselves more, because we have to be in a good space to take care of another. “Ah shit, here we go again” only this time, we are certain we are going to walk out of here okay, better than okay!, because we have done it before. We know where the yoga mats are stuffed, which YouTube fitness videos burn the most, how long the running routes around our neighbourhoods are. We know we can text each other, lamenting how it’s only been 4 days and 4 weeks without kicking and punching/getting kicked and punched seem impossibly long. We watch old Onyx videos on YouTube to see familiar faces light up our screens again. We know there’s a “we” waiting at the end of this government-mandated lockdown.

For most of you members, martial arts is a hobby, a recreational pursuit, a stress reliever, a passion. It is a pocket of time for you to breathe and enjoy the physical exertions. For us, the Onyx staff, martial arts is a livelihood and a lifeline. It is what we wake up every day choosing to do and for the past decade, whether Onyx was at Tradehub or West Coast or Science Centre Road or Tampines SAFRA or Yishun SAFRA, we feel so thankful to be able to have that choice, But the biggest blessing has to be having you people choose us along with it. So come what may (not really, Covid-19 please gtfo), there’d be new bags and new mats and new days to do what we’ve loved from the good old ones.

OnyxMMA, Punching Bag









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