There is no denying that there is a huge amount of martial arts instruction available online. There are a few channels that I check out regularly for tips on everything from fitness training to technique short cuts. I have seen some great seminars online as well by some very prestigious teachers. There are even entire training programs online. Not to mention that now you can also find just about any book ever written on any martial art. I have written a book, articles and made videos myself, so obviously I am a proponent of learning from online sources. With all of the material available though it makes me ask: How has martial arts training changed in this digital age?
There was an occasion once where a young man walked into my school and told me that he knew “everything” about what I taught, because he had seen some videos. When I inquired further it turned out he had just watched a lot of videos, but hadn’t actually even practiced what he had watched. Unfortunately, a person like that can lead some people to dismiss online resources entirely. Let’s say that a student like that does not represent the best use of online resources and leave it at that.
That said, I think the question is: How does online content fit in with traditional martial arts training, and how do you get the most out of it?
As great as some online resources are, (and some are awesome) I don’t think that they can replace a teacher entirely. I think that they can supplement, enhance and augment personal instruction, but ultimately I think that you still need to have a teacher at some point. The subtleties and nuances of martial arts training make having a teacher necessary to learn properly.
Learning directly from a teacher enables a student to avoid mistakes, and also to learn in a way that is tailored to them. Having the watchful eyes of an experienced teacher making sure that you are doing things properly and safely is indispensable. On a lighter note, can you imagine if “The Karate Kid” was just learning from random YouTube videos? Whose cars would he wash? I should clarify that when I say “teacher” I am assuming that the reader found a good one.
If you learned an arm lock from a video, an article, or a book it is just as valid as an arm lock learned in a class. The student just needs to make sure that they are diligent about doing what is necessary to absorb the information. Here are some tips to get the most out of online content:
Some things really lend themselves to learning online, and some things are a little more difficult. I taught some standing Qigong forms online, and they were pretty easy to learn through a video, because they are a solo practice. They only had a couple steps, and you didn’t need to worry about an opponent. Once you involve another person though, I think the quality of teaching needs to go up as does the quality of student in order for the lesson to be successful.
Just like with most martial arts material it has been my experience that beginners have a more difficult time with online content, while experienced martial artists seem to get more out of it. Be sure and follow the steps provided earlier, so that you can get the most out of the material you find.
Learning from articles, books and videos is a good thing. Exploring the vast amount of material available should be encouraged. Online content is a great way to supplement your martial arts training, but I believe you will get more out of it if you are using the content in conjunction with personal instruction as well. I think using them together is the best way to get the most out of both.
The best case scenario is to be a great student with a great teacher, and then be able to utilize the best content you can find in the various mediums available. I think that an integration of online content and personal instruction is the future for martial arts, and I think that it is already here.