The dojo is closed and I need a backup plan

Kosei Inoue: When Judo Is in Your Soul
10 February 2017
Covid-19 – Oon Yeoh’s Judo Lesson
29 December 2019

Bernard Letendre, LL.B., LL.M.

Head of Wealth and Asset Management, Canada

Manulife Investment Management



For me, physical activity has always been synonymous with social activity.

My thing, as many people know, is judo and I’ve been going to the dojo religiously, multiple times per week, for forty years. Ever since I was a teenager, the dojo has been a second home to me. It’s where I do most of my socializing outside of the office. It’s where I clear my mind of whatever may be weighing on me and it’s where I go to exercise and stay fit.

Over the years, I’ve been away from the dojo from time to time, whether for a holiday or a business trip. But even injured, I’ve usually made a point of getting to the dojo, putting my gi on and being on the mats for the classes. I’ve had workouts on New Year’s Eve and other major holidays, during blizzards and all other sorts of disruptions – I’ve even done groundwork when it was pitch-black during a power failure.

Judo’s a complete workout so I never had to do anything else to stay in shape. Over the years, I’ve done my fair share of squats, push-ups, sit-ups and other exercises as a warm-up for our classes, but never as the main course. I don’t own a bike and I don’t even own a pair of sneakers (exercise is something I do barefoot). I don’t own weights because the weights I’m used to lifting are my training partners. Some people throw balls – I throw people.

I haven’t stepped on the mats for a few weeks and what’s different this time is that I have no idea when I’ll be able to go back. I miss my students and my training partners (I also miss my colleagues from work), but I also know that I need to quickly develop some new healthy habits to get me through this period of heightened stress and extreme social distancing.

I’m thinking of buying a pair of sneakers so that I can go running and this morning, I did some calisthenics alone in my basement. The experience gave me very little enjoyment. Only time will tell if I’m able to keep it up but of course, it’s critical for me, as it is for you, that we remain physically active and socially connected throughout this crisis.

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