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Zaine
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1660
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Shorin Ryu, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Mantis, Schola Saint George (Fiorian sword fighting)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 11:15 am    Post subject: The Perception of Online Martial Arts Training Reply with quote

Taking martial arts online is something of a taboo. For the most part, the arguments against them are good ones. Often, it seems, we find that the programs are predatory, uncaring belt-factories that only care if their customer pays the monthly premium on time. This view of online martial art studios exists because studios like this do exist, and we tend to hear about how bad these are far more often than how great a good program may be. This is human nature. We are far more likely to share a bad experience than we are to share a good one. However, are online schools bad? Or is it only our perception that makes them so? Some of the common arguments against online martial arts training include:

"How can you know if you are making a mistake if you don't have an instructor in front of you?"
"How can you objectively be tested if you get 're-dos' and the instructor doesn't know you?"
"How can we get better if we do not have a partner to train with?"

These are all valid concerns and only some of the arguments against training with an online program. Let's look at each of them.

"How can you know if you are making a mistake if you don't have an instructor in front of you?"

This, for me, is a very good point against online karate programs. In fact, I have made the same argument for years. Instructors are instrumental in making sure that we are doing techniques correctly. When a student does this in their own home, with an online instructor, the student runs a very high risk of developing bad technique that could take a long time to correct after they get some face to face instruction.

However, it would stand to reason that an instructor who knew that this is a risk would compensate for this. When we learn, say, a kata in a dojo, it often breaks down in this way: The kata is demonstrated to the student, piece by piece, until finally the student has the whole kata. They take time to learn each section so that they have the prior part memorized before moving on to the next. In general, what we don't learn is specific details such as exactly where our feet should be. At this stage in the kata development, we are learning what to do and not how to do it. From now on, when we practice, it is generally outside of the dojo (or at least we should be practicing outside of the dojo) and we do not have an instructor in front of us. In this case, there is the advantage of going back to the dojo and being corrected so as to avoid taking on bad habits. This is not something that an online student can take advantage of. However, they do have an advantage that does, I think, play heavily in their favor. When they do their kata practice, they can do it "in front" of the instructor every time. They can match their movements, do it with them, pause the instruction if they want to check their own stances and techniques and always be sure as to how it is done.

Furthermore, a good instructor making these videos will take the time to go over every part of the kata, from where the foot should be to how and when the student should throw a strike, and teach the kata in stages just as we do in a dojo. So while an instructor can never correct a student like a traditional instructor can, they do have the ability to give more instruction all at once, and the students have the added benefit of always having that information readily available, which I think is incredibly important to the beginning student.

"How can you objectively be tested if you get 're-dos' and the instructor doesn't know you?"

This is another great point. If we video tape ourselves for a test then we can cut all of the bad examples, send only the best takes and, in a big way, this is dishonest. Furthermore, we are tested when the instructor knows that we are ready, and the knowledge that the instructor has is really important. It helps the student not overextend themselves and also helps their journey in that they are not being tested before they are both physically and, probably more importantly, mentally ready to test. This is something that you lose when you do online training, and there is nothing in the pro column here. You lose that wholeheartedly, and this is another reason that I have often argued that online training is best left to those who are already experienced in this-or-that martial art. They have already gotten over that "maturity" roadblock, and without someone to check that ego, a practitioner can become very toxic quite quickly. This is an unfortunate truth about online martial arts.

"How can we get better if we do not have a partner to train with?"

Get a partner. This argument has always come across as odd to me. Find someone that you want to train with, ask them to train, repeat if they say "no." Partners can be easy to come by, you just have to ask. If/when you do get a partner, train with them regularly. Set up a schedule and hold each other accountable to that routine. I think having a partner is critical to development in martial arts and an advantage of a traditional martial arts path is that you have many. In this case, you start out with yourself, with only yourself to push you to be better. Finding a partner, something that is quite simple, is both a simple task and a great way to help your growth as a martial artist.

There are many arguments both for and against training online. At this point, I am inclined to believe that training online isn't the demon that we martial artists make it out to be. Just like a traditional path, online martial arts takes discipline and honesty with one's self to be effective. If you feel that the program you have subscribed to is bad, then find another one. Yet, we often say that great martial artists can come from the worst teachers, and the reverse is true.

Furthermore, how many arguments can be answered simply by creating better motivation within ourselves? Personally, I have trouble motivating myself to work out at home. This is why I have a gym membership. There is just too much to do at home and the best way to get a workout, for me, is to remove the distractions that I have in my house (e.g. computer, video games, television, etc.). This seems to be a common problem. It is easier, and more immediately rewarding, to watch television than it is to go for a run or work through some kata. In a traditional setting, we have a place that we go to learn martial arts. We set a routine to get in our vehicles and go to a location that is just for martial arts. However, we should be practicing at home anyway, so is it that large of a leap to start learning at home as well? All it takes is motivation.

However, one can really never know without testing and data, and as such, my wife and I plan to enroll in an online martial arts program. I have over a decade of experience, and my wife has none. So I am in an exciting position of getting to observe someone who has never had any training take this journey, and I get to see how they react, and whether or not online training is a good option for beginning students. In 6 months time, I will write another article to update our progress, and come up with some cursory conclusions. Until then, I suggest that we all take the time to re-evaluate our thoughts on martial arts training, because for those who wish to take the journey, but don't have the time to go to a dojo and do so, online martial arts schools could be a fantastic option that we haven't fully considered.
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Patrick
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Joined: 01 May 2001
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Location: Los Angeles, California

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission, John. This is a really interesting piece. You originally wrote this article in December, and I would be curious to know how you feel now with the benefit of 10 odd months experience.

Thanks,

Patrick
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Zaine
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1660
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Shorin Ryu, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Mantis, Schola Saint George (Fiorian sword fighting)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My experience has been incredibly positive. My wife started school, and a new job, and so slowly phased out her training, but she enjoyed what she did. It helped her to have a partner, especially someone who had some experience. I would be interested in knowing how someone who doesn't have the benefit of a martial artist husband handles the day to day training.

All in all, I think I hit the nail on the head with the article. It takes motivation, and the ability to find a good program. Like physical schools, there are scams and there are legitimate programs, you just have to look for a good start.

I think that the partner bit is key for new practitioners. It definitely helped my wife. Since this is already something I am passionate about, I did not need so much motivation to get started day to day.

Again, find a school that is detailed, has a proven track record, and answers their emails. I found that communication is key, and that if you don't have good communication, like in physical schools, then your training stagnates and falls apart.

All-in-all it's been a really interesting journey. This further convinced me that online martial arts is a valid path to take, and one that should be given credence. It's easy to look at it, from our perspective, and focus on the negative. However, I found a lot of positive in there as well, and it gives you a wider range to tailor how you train to both your learning style, and your schedule. I would definitely recommend that everyone at least give it an honest look. They might be surprised by what they find.
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ninjanurse
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Joined: 13 Feb 2003
Posts: 6154
Location: Upstate NY
Styles: TKD;Shotokan;JuJitsu;Tai Ji

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good points! Online training can be a great adjunct to anyones training and a valuable resource for instructors who have limited time due to their teaching schedules. While it is not for everyone, and you must be discerning when choosing a program, it can be an option.


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ninjanurse
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But, let me just add, that while you can learn technique from watching a video you can't learn the other things that come from from training in a dojo with many partners and perspectives.


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Zaine
Black Belt
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1660
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Shorin Ryu, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Mantis, Schola Saint George (Fiorian sword fighting)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 8:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's definitely the biggest issue. There are a lot of things that being in an actual dojo helps with, especially when it comes to that the discipline and respect that is inherent with good dojos. A partner, I think, is the biggest key to success when doing an online program, especially if you are not already experienced, or if you're not using it as an adjunct to a more traditional setting.
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14444
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2016 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good article across the board.

The key, imho, is that no matter the source of the learning, is that the learning is happening. Thereafter, receiving the fine points from ones instructor can be tied together for a positive learning environment.

And that's depending on ones instructor. If someone's instructor doesn't want to help a student who's learning outside of the instructors influence, you'll either be two things...right...or...wrong in effectively interpreting without any feedback.



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DWx
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Joined: 17 Jan 2007
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Styles: Tae Kwon Do & Yang family Tai Chi

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2016 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article John.

I think the crucial thing is to take online training for what it is. Realize its shortcomings but that there are some benefits to it also as a supplementary method of learning or when physically attending a school isn't possible.
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tallgeese
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Joined: 04 May 2008
Posts: 6851
Location: McHenry County, IL
Styles: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bujin Bugei Jutsu, Gokei Ryu Kempo Jutsu, MMA, Shootfighting, boxing, kickboxing, JKD, Pekiti Tersia Kali

PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2016 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic read! It's great to see a well thought out perspective on this. With technology being what it is, I think on-line schools are with us for some time to come. It's great to see good experiences with it.
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bushido_man96
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Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article, John! I feel that with the advent of the amount of resources available online, it is really foolish to not use them from time to time. Great article on how to approach this.

Which online course did you use?
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