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Reviving a 32-year-Old Martial Arts School Hit by the Pandemic

Published in June 2022

Alex Kiesel, an ATCQA-Certified Tai Chi Master Instructor and owner of Yang's Fitness & Martial Arts, and his wife, Diana, tell their comeback story after they had to close their 32-year-old school in 2020 because of the pandemic. If you are interested in knowing more about their experience, please contact Alex at



(Photo courtesy of Alex Kiesel)


Q: When you had to close your school in September 2020, what were you going through in your mind?

We were running two businesses inside a 12,000 sq. ft. facility, a full-service health club/gym, and a Martial Arts school.   On March 13th, 2020, we were ordered by the governor of Massachusetts to close our business. The governor originally anticipated a two-week close to curb the spread of the virus.   Little did we all know, the two weeks expanded into almost four months.  We were eventually allowed to reopen but with many restrictions.

My wife, Diana, and I were analyzing the future of our business which did not look promising given the unreasonable restrictions. We made many attempts to work out a rent reduction with our landlord, but we were not able to come to a mutual agreement. We were operating at almost 80% of the "normal" carry cost but only receiving about 15-20% of the "normal" revenue for both businesses.   Given the situation and the outlook of the virus continuing beyond the summer of 2020, we came to the hard conclusion that it would be best to close our doors after 32 years.  Our hope was to always revive the martial arts program when COVID subsided.


Q: What did you have to do when you were closing the school?

After informing our staff and members of our closing, we assisted our staff in finding employment and/or helped them create an income stream with our current members.  Secondly, we wanted to help our members continue their health and fitness regimen by quickly pivoting to Zoom and/or Facebook Live programming.  One of our Instructors offered outdoor classes when the weather permitted.  Lastly, we needed to legally dissolve our business.   We stayed in touch with many of the staff throughout the pandemic as many of them had been with us for most of our 32 years. 



(Photo courtesy of Alex Kiesel)


Q: Did you get any support from your community and/or other sources?

We did apply for and receive the pandemic assistance funding (EIDL and PPP loans); however, based on advice from our legal and financial counselors, the assistance was not sustainable long-term, so we opted not to use those sources.

Our members were very supportive of our decision and were as devastated about our decision to close as we were.  Seeing our community come to an end after 32 years was the worst part.  If we only had the obligations of the martial arts studio, we may have been able to weather the COVID storm, but the overhead of the fitness facility was too great.


Q: Before you started offering Tai Chi classes in the current location, have you tried any other ways?

Once we learned of the state-mandated closure, as mentioned above, we quickly pivoted to offering classes on Facebook Live and produced some reference videos for YouTube and Facebook for those students who were currently enrolled prior to the temporary shutdown.


Q: How did you work out the current arrangement for offering your classes?

You've heard the saying, "it's a small world"?   One of our former Tai Chi students contacted us about a friend who was looking into opening a Bootcamp style business in our area and asked if we would be open to speaking to him about this.  We had our first call during the state-mandated close and thought the gentleman was rather bold in attempting to open a brick-and-mortar fitness facility during COVID.  After a lengthy phone conversation, we didn't hear from him for a while until we learned he had negotiated a lease right in our town for a franchised Bootcamp business.   

We reconnected after he opened and discussed the possibility of us utilizing his space when his offerings were not held.  Their classes end at 6:30 pm so it worked out perfectly where we could offer Tai Chi/Qigong classes at 7 pm M-F and any time on Friday afternoons, Saturdays after 11, and all day on Sundays



(Photo courtesy of Alex Kiesel)


Q: How are classes doing now at the current location?

We are currently offering Tai Chi classes four nights a week plus one on Sunday Mornings.  Having most of the weekend available to us, we also host workshops. We are very pleased that most of our Tai Chi/Qigong staff have returned to join us as well as many of our prior students. 

Not knowing if the general public would be ready to return to in-person, group activities, we have been pleasantly surprised by the number of new students as well.  Our long-term goal is to find a home we can call our own again but for the moment, this arrangement has been working very well.  We are thankful for the support of our members, friends, staff and community.



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