Can you Learn Martial Arts Online? The Modern World of Digital Training, Tuition and Coaching!
Can you Learn Martial Arts Online? The Modern World of Digital Training, Tuition, and Coaching!
This is, to some extent, an extremely contentious question to a lot of people. Can you learn Martial Arts online? In today’s modern world, can you be coached via digital training or tuition to become proficient in your chosen discipline?
I think you can quite easily argue it “yes” or “no”, dependent on your view point. This might seem like a crazy topic for me to discuss. As one of the World’s leading producers of Martial Arts instructional videos, you could be forgiven for thinking that I was firmly a “yes” man and would be talking down any nay-sayers. And, you would certainly not be wrong in thinking that I have a tendency to lean towards its more positive aspects.
However, as a lifelong Martial Artist, athlete, coach and gym owner, I also completely understand both the concerns around it and the important caveats to be aware of. Even though I think the real issue lies in how people perceive it, lets take a look at both sides of the debate below
1. Unrestricted Tuition
The digital world never sleeps. 24/7 access is not difficult to achieve unless you have truly terrible internet. Thus, viewing online tuition at any point in the day or week that is convenient for you, is no problem at all. For those people who struggle to get to classes or training because of their work/life commitments, this alone can be a game changer.
2. Access to Training
Depending on where we are born, we can sometimes be hugely restricted by who we can access within our local area with regards to Martial Arts training of any description. This obviously becomes even more difficult if the discipline we wish to study has no instructors with anything like a distance that could easily be travelled on a regular basis. Digital tuition is not location dependent and can be utilised anywhere in the world.
3. World Class Coaches
Following on from above, unless we are lucky enough to live near to a world class academy, we may never get the opportunity to train with the globally renowned coaches who teach there. Digital downloads, Online Martial Arts training platforms and sharing sites such as YouTube allow people to gain insights and coaching material from those regarded as the best in the world as often as they wish.
4. Professional Development
If, like me, you are lucky enough to have made your passion/hobby in Martial Arts a paid career. Then, it is entirely possible, the time you used to dedicate purely to training yourself is now split across a multitude of different students, athletes and coaching/business related activities. These time constraints although wonderful (as they allow you to follow your purpose), they can sometimes restrict your ability to travel and train with other coaches and instructors as much as you might like. As an experienced practitioner, you will no doubt be able to gain a lot from watching and listening to others coach online. Experts recognise expertise in others very easily.
No matter whether you are an athlete, coach or hobbyist, everyone sometimes gets stuck for training ideas or inspiration. Simply watching coaches instruct online can trigger connections in how you could use their methodologies in your own training/coaching or inspire you to create brand new ones by seeing their evolutions of techniques/concepts.
6. The Best Version of the Coach/Material
In class or at seminars, you can sometimes not get all the relevant details of a particular technique, drill or movement because of time, other people’s questions or simply just a restricted view. With digital content, high level coaches will plan accordingly so that they deliver all the key points for each aspect of their material. As long as this is recorded and produced professionally, you will then have all the necessary details and view points at hand to go over as much as you want.
7. Modern Day Scroll
I often think that people have a tendency to sometimes fear change. Realistically, individuals, art forms and cultures have recorded their work for as long as the human race had the capacity to do so. From cave drawings to ancient scrolls, history shows us time and time again how things have been communicated from generation to generation. Digital is essentially the modern day equivalent of recording knowledge so that it is not lost to time. It has thus never been easier to capture our expertise on video and for others to benefit from it, no matter where in the world they reside.
8. Private Lesson/Seminar
Following on from above, we sometimes only get a single or time limited opportunity to take a private lesson or attend a seminar with a internationally regarded instructor whilst they are in our country or we are in theirs. Digital then can be seen as a similar concept in terms of price point if it is paid for content i.e. that private lesson or seminar you paid for can often be the same as a full length instructional volume.
We are all guilty of training in an amazing training session or with a brilliant coach and then forgetting some of the key points that were raised or drills utilised. The benefit of digital is that it is always there for you to re-watch in order to remind yourself of any fundamental mechanics or movements required to make it work.
10. Online Coaching/Feedback/Recording
Some instructors/coaches have now gone one step further and offer the option of online coaching, either live or via recording, in order to give feedback on the application of their digital training material. Thus, you record yourself drilling their instructional content and they then offer their advice/opinion on whether you are doing it correctly or how you could improve it.
11. Train at your own Pace
Sometimes you can find yourself not in a great place with regards to your fitness levels or struggling to pick up the mechanics being instructed around a particular technique or movement. Training via digital allows you the ability to practise at your own speed and at a level you are comfortable with whilst you perfect what is being taught. This can often be very useful when doing additional training separately because of injury or illness.
12. Positive use of the Internet/Social Media
When the internet was created, and then given freely to the world, it’s main ideology was one of unrestricted access to information which would be of benefit to humankind. The sharing of any art then is an entirely positive use of digital technology, whether that is through short martial arts videos such as those found on social media or larger full length ones on dedicated sites such as this.
There is no getting away from it. Training via digital instruction, whether on your own or with a partner or small group, means that you do not have an instructor or coach physically present to train with you, hold pads or mentor your ongoing development. I personally believe that you do need an instructor or coach, no matter what art form you want to learn. This is of primary importance no matter whether you are a complete beginner or experienced practitioner. I think it is especially vital when first starting out. I see digital tuition more as a supplement to existing training, a way to further develop it (with the help of the experienced coaches featured in the material) or as a way to train intelligently when you simply do not have access to a coach, regular class or gym.
- Training Partners/Gym Community
Digital tuition does not automatically bring with it skilled people to train with. Training on your own will have it’s limits in most styles and can be often impossible in others. This is where understanding the role of digital tuition comes in. If you want something to train on your own in an area you can i.e. bag work, fitness etc, then choose the right one. If you are wanting to use something that needs training partners to get the best out of it, then you need to ensure you have some in mind for you to be able to use it.
- Work Ethic/Equipment/Training area
Following on from above, it can often be hard for some people to push themselves whilst training on their own. Training can also require the use of specialist equipment such as mats, pads etc or a dedicated area. Some people can work hard on their own. If you are one of these people then you are going to have no issues at all. If you are not, then it might be helpful to either find others to train alongside or record yourself training as a way to analyse your work i.e. rate, progress, techniques etc. The latter can potentially be gotten around with either the purchase of what is necessary and use at home or stealing the dedicated space at any gym you are a member of when you want to drill it.
- Flexibility of Training material
The benefit of training live is always the coach has the ability to adapt any training you may be struggling with in class. Learning via digital tuition obviously does not give you this. However, a lot of well produced volumes are structured in a linear way that allows you progressions from basic to advanced so that these potential difficulties can be accounted for.
- Live Application/Resistance based training
This is another one of those areas that is absolutely essential to an individuals ability to apply techniques, skills and training in a functional way. Whether it be sparring in striking based arts or rolling in grappling, there is no getting away from the fact you cannot do this on your own. Nor is it always wise to do this without a coach or instructor present (unless you are high enough level and intelligent enough to keep control of ego/contact). Again, as was written above, digital coaching can only help supplement this aspect of training. You will still need access to training partners and everything else mentioned previously in order to do this both properly and safely.
- Confusing Messages
Ask any instructor in the world what their bugbear with students watching Martial Arts instructional videos on YouTube is and very often you will get the same answer. There is sometimes very little correlation between how a coach likes to instruct a particular skill or technique and the video their eager students have been watching all night long. There is also the very common habit of beginners and less experienced athletes trying to skip training steps or focus on low percentage i.e. flashy, impractical techniques as opposed to developing solid, consistent ability with the fundamentals. There are a couple of ways to negate this to some extent. The easiest relies on remembering that digital tuition is a supplement and not a replacement for training learned in class under your coach. You can still look to apply what you learn via digital but ensure it is in the correct context of the class i.e. rolling or open mat. This would be the same for anything you learn elsewhere whilst travelling or on a seminar. The often more difficult way is to remember that time is necessary at every level in order to earn the skills, experience and physical conditioning often needed before working on advanced training concepts.
- Quality Control
Unfortunately the freedom of use allowed with the internet and social media often leads to a lot of poor quality coaching videos being put out. Either in terms of ability/material or with regards to production values/content. This is where a site like Warrior Collective comes in handy. I research every instructor I feature, help where required in putting structured content together and personally film every volume on the site.
- Character Development/Spirituality
Unless your digital tuition is focused primarily on character development or some other unseen aspect to spirituality, it is common that most instructional videos will focus primarily on the physical. Very often, this will be on combat sports, self defence or some other practical application of the art in question. Therefore what you will not necessarily get solely from digital tuition, is a way to develop character traits such as perseverance, courage etc. Nor will you likely feel more connected with the world and people around you as a result of utilising it. This is similar to what I have written above. You have to just accept that digital tuition has it’s huge strengths, but like anything, it will not help in every area. Hence why I stated at the start my belief that regular training with an instructor in a class or lesson always has to be considered the primary way to learn any martial art. Digital training and tuition therefore is either an ideal supplement to existing class/lesson attendance or as an alternate way to practise when other options are limited!
I do truly believe that there is a real place for digital training and tuition in today’s modern world. The ability to learn martial arts online should be seen as a real boon and fantastic use of technology, as opposed to something to be dubious about or completely against. Whether you are a Martial Arts student, active athlete or experienced coach, there is a lot to be gained from utilising awesome digital content. As long as the above strengths and caveats are understood, we can happily add this aspect of learning to greatly assist with our ongoing Martial Arts development!
If you enjoy this article then you may well love The Hardest Fight in Martial Arts – Accepting the Decline of Remarkable Ability or Evolve MMA / ONE Championship Training Camp – Exclusive Warrior Collective Trip February 2020 as already featured on this site.
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