This pandemic is really changing everything. As of now, New York state is not allowing anything
but essential service businesses to stay open. That means, martial arts schools cannot teach classes.

We don’t know how long this will last. It could be two to three months at least. However, some news articles are suggesting we need to socially isolate as much as possible for up to eighteen months, when the vaccine should be ready.

Martial arts schools are not multimillion dollar industries. They rely on students coming to class for their revenue. Depending on how you structure the payment of your classes, you may not feel the impact right away. If you have many students on monthly plans, shutting down for a couple of weeks is not going to cost you money. But what happens if the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t calm down for two or three months? Or longer? We really have no idea how long this will last. If it goes on for longer than a month, some of you might start feeling it in your pocketbooks, especially if you opted to avoid long term contracts.

You may lose students if this drags on too long. Maybe not the serious, truly dedicated ones, but you may lose the new ones. You may lose the ones that are semi-serious, but can’t see paying your school while it’s closed or while this pandemic is happening. Then when the pandemic is over, well, they’ve gotten out of the habit, or can’t justify the expense, so you lose them. What to do?

There is one thing you can do that can help keep students, even if they can’t leave their house or you can’t stay open. And that, is to live stream your classes. Why am I recommending this when there are obvious drawbacks to not being there in person? One word. Engagement. If you keep your students engaged during this pandemic, you won’t lose them. You want to keep your students engaged with your school, so that they have a reason to continue paying your monthly fee, (or class fee) no matter how long this pandemic lasts. Additionally, if you keep your school top of mind for them, they won’t get out of the habit of practicing, which means they are more likely to return when this pandemic is over. You may even be able to get new students, as people start feeling cabin fever under these restrictions.

Ok, you may be thinking, that that’s not ideal. How are you going to properly teach a martial art that needs to be physically done? Having someone sitting at their computer watching a class isn’t going to work.

Well, having your students sit at a computer while you teach is not what I’m recommending. Instead, I recommend having them physically follow along with you during the class. But how can this be done? You can do this by live streaming with YouTube Live. Why? Because many, many TVs today have access to YouTube. If the TV doesn’t have that capability, devices like Roku and Fire TV can provide it. However, some TVs may support YouTube, but not YouTube live, and other students may have older TVs that don’t have access to the app. In those cases, your students can use an HDMI cord that goes from their computer to the TV. This works just as well and is simple to do. Another option your students have, is to use casting or Airplay to connect the computer, iPad, etc to the TV by mirroring it. Make sure you let your students know that they should test out the process for watching on their TV well before the class. That gives them time to download and figure out how to use the app if it’s not pre-installed, or buy an HDMI cord if necessary.

One thing to keep in mind…there is a difference between the regular YouTube app that will allow you to do YouTube Live, and “YouTube TV”. YouTube TV is more like a streaming service where you can watch sports, movies, etc just like regular cable, and it costs a monthly subscription. YouTube TV is not what I’m talking about here, so you need to let your students know that they do not need a YouTube TV subscription to watch your videos. They just need the free YouTube app on their TV (or an HDMI cord).

However, for some of you, this may admittedly work better than for others, especially if your school has a lot of grappling in it. If your students absolutely must have a partner to work with for your martial art to work, encourage them to involve their partners or family members, just for now. Another option, if things have calmed down a little, is for one of your students to visit the house of the other. Just make sure that if you have two students pairing up, that they don’t switch around with other students. Worst case scenario if they can’t get a partner, they can watch and follow along as best they can. They will still get something out of it, and do the techniques in the air as best as possible, even if they cannot do it physically with another person.

You can even keep your phone open for texts, and encourage students to ask questions if they are confused about something. (Though if possible, I’d recommend having someone else such as a spouse, watch the incoming questions, and read them aloud to you when they come in). Live chat is also available directly in the YouTube app, but students may find it easier to text you if they are using YouTube on their TV.

In many ways, it will be harder to teach this way, but if you want your school to retain as many students as possible during the pandemic, especially if it lasts for awhile, this will help. You may also want to have occasional classes that are open to non-students as well, which can help you find new students.

Another benefit to doing this during the pandemic is that you’ll give your students something to look forward to, even though they are unable to leave the house for anything but the grocery store or similar essential services. You will also keep your students physically active. Physical activity has been shown to help boost the immune system.

With YouTube Live, you can choose to stream the live video publicly, so that anyone can find it, or privately (called unlisted) so that only your students with the link can access the video. Ultimately you might want to do both. Live streaming the occasional class for anyone in the public to see might bring in more students who will be looking for something to do during the pandemic. However, keeping the majority of your classes for just your paying students will bring in revenue.

So, how do you go about doing this? First, you will need a laptop or computer with a webcam. (You can also use your mobile phone, but only if you have over a thousand subscribers). You may also want a table or chair, to prop up the laptop. Next, you will need the space to do your martial art. Finally, you will need a YouTube account, which means you need a gmail account. Make sure you also give yourself at least 24 hours before you want to run the live streaming class, because YouTube live requires a waiting period to activate this feature.

YouTube requires that you have a gmail account, so if you already have a gmail account for your business, then I’d recommend using that. (If you don’t, it’s easy to create one). If you don’t already have a YouTube account and a YouTube channel, this link will show you how to create one: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/161805?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en

Once you have created a YouTube account and YouTube channel, the next step is to activate the YouTube Live feature. You can do so by doing the following:

  • In the top right of your screen, you will see a circle, either with the first letter of your business name (or whatever you entered) or a picture if you uploaded one. Click on that, and you will see a drop down menu. Go to “YouTube Studio”.
  • Next, at the top right of the screen, there will be a button that says “create” and it will also have a camera with a plus sign on it. When you click it, a drop down menu will appear and one of the options will be “Go Live”. Click that.
  • Follow the prompts.
  • YouTube will ask you to verify your account with your phone number. After that is done, it will make you wait 24 hours to activate this feature.
  • When the 24 hours is up, go back to the “Go Live” option under the plus sign camera. Allow access to your webcam and microphone.
  • Next, fill out the title that you want for your live streaming video.
  • YouTube defaults to making the video public, which means anyone can see it. If you only want your students to view the file, and you don’t want anyone else to see it, make sure you click the down arrow where it says “public” and select “unlisted”.

Selecting unlisted will give you a shareable link that only those with the link can see. Your YouTube live will not be available when searching YouTube, or when students go to your YouTube channel, so you will need to give them this link. (You will get this link a little later).

You can also schedule to have the live video posted later after you make it, if you decide not to go live right away. You have the option to upload a custom thumbnail, and if you want something other than a profile picture of you, I would recommend having something prepared.

Fill out the section asking if it’s made for children (unless it’s a children’s class, put no). Next, YouTube will take a photo of you if you haven’t uploaded a thumbnail photo, to use for the video. It gives you three seconds before the photo is taken. Select “Create stream” to save your settings for the live video.

If you have selected unlisted, take the following steps to get your shareable link:

  • At the top of the screen, you will see three words: Webcam, Stream, and Manage. Select Manage.
  • Hover your cursor over the video, and three dots will appear to the left of the date.
  • Click the three dots, then select “Get shareable link”. This will copy the link to your clipboard.
  • Finally, you will then need to email this link to all students who told you ahead of time that they want to participate. Paste the link into the email to send it to them. You cannot really get this link until you’ve done the above steps, so make sure your students know that you will give them the link five minutes before the class starts.

YouTube makes it hard to enter unlisted links on the TV, so for those students using the YouTube app on their TV, you will need to instruct them to first, go on their computer, click the link in their email, then add the link to a YouTube playlist in their account. Let them know that they should add it to a private playlist, or create a new playlist for your martial art that is private. That way nobody but your students will be able to see the live stream. After your students do this on their computer, instruct them to go to their TV, and select their playlist which should have the unlisted video. Students who are using casting, AirPlay, or an HDMI cable can skip this extra step and just select the link.

If you haven’t gone live yet, or, you have gone live and you absolutely don’t want to keep the video, you can delete it by going to YouTube Studio in a new tab, clicking videos, then clicking the tab that says Live. There, you will see all your Live videos, including the ones that haven’t gone live yet. If you click the three dots to the right of it, you will have a drop down menu with the option to delete the video.

When you are ready to go live, click on the title or the picture of your video under “manage” and click “Go Live”.

Make sure to also give your students instructions on how to watch your class. Invite them to watch your YouTube live on their TV, and follow along. Each student’s TV will be different, so it may be hard to help them figure out how to watch YouTube on their TV if they have trouble, but if they get confused, google is always helpful. Ideally, you want to make this process as simple as possible for them. Make sure to let them know they can ask questions via text during the class. The only thing left to do is to pick your class time, let them know you will be live streaming, and go.

However, there is one disadvantage to using YouTube Live. With YouTube Live, you won’t be able to see your students performing the techniques. This may be a deal killer for you. In my next blog, I will be going over how to use Zoom as an alternative. Unlike YouTube Live, it’s a little harder to put it on your TV (though not impossible). However it will give you the advantage of being able to see your students.