Aikido & Masks

With everyone wearing masks these days in public, you may soon find yourself training in the dojo with a mask. It can totally be done, but should be undertaken with proper prior planning.

  1. Go slow. You will be training with less oxygen as a result of the mask, which will cause you to tire more quickly. It will tax your stamina and lung capacity. As a result, slowly ramp up physical activity, pay more attention to your breathing (and you will need to breathe more despite the mask), and your level of fatigue. Take breaks as needed in a place where you can lower your mask and breathe freely. Over time, your stamina and lung capacity will adjust and you’ll perform better maskless as a result.
  2. Try different materials. The same mask you use to go to the grocery store may not be the same mask you want to wear on the mat. Try different materials but know that you will sweat and breath more, so the mask will become wet faster. So paper marks don’t perform well and cotton will get wet fast also. Man-made materials (often called breathable fabrics) can perform well and allow you to not feel like there is a wet rag on your face.
  3. Try different styles of masks. Neck gaiters, over the ear, velcro around the neck, balaclava: there are so many styles. Gaiters can be adjusted so that wet areas are rotated during the course of training, but often slide down and need frequent adjusting. Over the ear or velcro around the neck won’t move as much, but moist areas will stay where they are. If you are doing a lot of ukemi, it’s important to make sure that your mask can handle being thrown without falling off. Try different masks and see what works best for you.
  4. Observe good hygiene. This one is basic but very worth mentioning. You will need to wear the mask the whole time. Not just while training, not just when you come out of the changing room, but the entire time. Wearing the mask while you are speaking is exactly when you need to wear the mask the most. Wash your mask when you get home (along with your gi) and use a fresh one every class.

These are challenging times but staying healthy, including regular physical activity, is critical. With proper consideration, your time on the mat with a mask can be very comfortable.

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Jack Freund