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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Armchair Warriors and Futon Fighters.

A friend of mine suggested a subject for one of my blog posts..... "is YouTube killing regular martial arts classes at bona fide schools?"  I liked the idea, but I want to expand on the idea a bit.

I would say....YouTube doesn't kill martial arts class schools. I am not saying that videos can replace a good instructor and classmates. If done correctly, a school's YouTube videos can recruit more students. Videos can be a good reference for students who are already familiar with a particular art. A good video can be a "video notebook"  if a student learned a form and forgot how to do a transition or forgot the exact angle of a form technique.

The issue here is not "is YouTube decreasing martial arts class attendance". The real issue is "Are video viewers thinking they can learn martial arts from a video, without a real instructor?"

I've met some people that claim to know martial arts, having learned from videos and books. Upon seeing such people display their skill, it is glaringly obvious that they learned from media instead of a good teacher. I've even heard of "practice groups" where members (with no actual experience under an instructor) will get together, watch videos or study books, then gather together to practice, spar, or even bout with swords!

Now, its one thing if you live out in the boondocks somewhere and cannot access a school. I would venture to say that if online videos are all you have, then videos would be a good initial exposure. It is when individuals think their skill is growing just because they've memorized a bunch of techniques or forms from video, that it becomes a "iffy" thing.

I see this a lot at an online discussion forum that I frequent or am a moderater for. "I want to do martial arts, but there are no schools near me. Can anyone help?" Usually, as a service, I'll research the location of schools near the forum member's location....and most times, I'll find schools within 25 miles. When I list these schools on a follow up post, and give hints on what to expect or what gear to purchase if they attend the school,  I hear all sorts of stuff. Here's just a sampling of stuff I've heard, and my responses to them.

- - "I want to do Kendo, not Karate or Tae Kwon Do. The nearest Kendo Dojo is too far from me"
          * It wouldn't hurt to get some training in *any* martial art, be it Karate or Tae Kwon Do. It will allow you to learn about body movement and coordinated technique. Ask the Tae Kwon Do teacher if they offer Kumdo, the Korean equivalent to Japanese Kendo. When you do find a Kendo Dojo, see if you can attend once a week to start. Or ask if they offer private lessons. You won't make progress as quickly, but at least you'd learn something.

-- MMA is the BEST! I want that, not wimpy Chinese stuff" (really, someone posted that)
         *See this post: (link to the post that has the smae comment in the above paragraph... "it wouldn't hurt to get some training in *any* martial art...." And by the way....a round kick in MMA is the same as Kung Fu's. Chinese arts have "Shuai Jiao"....grappling and throwing...and its just as hard pounding as MMA. Please refrain from calling an art "wimpy" until you research it.

-- "What do you mean I gotta spend $300 to $500 on a beginner's set of Kendo equipment? Can't the Dojo just let me borrow theirs?"
         * Wow, really? You really want to do Kendo but not willing to invest in the art? You shouldn't depend on the dojo to give you bogu to "borrow". Bogu should be fit specifically to YOU. Besides, the thought of wearing a Men that a bunch of other people sweated in, doesn't sound like fun.

-- "$65 bucks a month....too expensive. Any dojos that have classes for under $30 per month?"
       *$50 to $150 per month at an established school, is the average tuition fee, depending on how many classes you attend per week. If cost is really an issue, try your local YMCA or see if an established school has sliding scale fees. Offer to work at the Dojo as part of your tuition payment, they might take you up on it if it suits both you and the school"

-- "I want the best art that can kill people quickly, like in the , I don't want some traditional art that won't do anything"
       *You're not going to learn how to kill people from videos. And do you really believe everything you see on

-- "I'm good at following videos, why would I need to pay money to someone to learn what I can easily follow on the video?"
      *A good teacher has gone through rigorous and serious training to be able to become a teacher. They have the experience. Tuition itself doesn't pay the teacher, because really, there's no price you can pay for the teacher's experience. The tuition pays for the facility you're in, and the school's bills. Your tuition helps you be able to be in a place where trained teachers can instruct you. You wouldn't expect to learn open heart surgery online and for free, would you? You NEED a skilled eye (instead of one's own overconfident eyes) to correct your mistakes and be a physical example for you."

-- "I'm learning from a friend of mine who studies . He's done it for 2 years so I trust him"
    * Two years is not enough experience for someone to teach. He's still learning himself, so how can he teach you? If anything, what will happen is that you'll end up just being as good as he can teach. And if he can't teach well, then you're not doing anything except for imitating him.

You'll notice that comments such as those listed above, are comments that really mean:
"I want free martial arts training and I don't want to travel"
"I don't want to invest in the gear and accessories...I just want to learn the cool stuff."
"I want to be able to fight and possibly kill people, but I don't want to work for it"

If you really want to learn martial arts, find a way or a means to do so....and be ready for some hard work and even eating some humble pie. Videos and books are great tools for your training, but not a replacement. Once you've practiced a long time at one martial art, you'll find that your understanding of another martial art is easier to grasp, but even then, videos and books should be used as reference, not replacement for good instruction. you might even find that when you get into another art, you'll be working just as hard as your other art.

So in a nutshell, it is not the video sites out there that are preventing people from attending real martial arts classes. It is the attitudes of the viewers. They *think* they can learn from videos. And 9 times out of 10, one's perception of their own skill is greater than their actual skill. If you want You can't get good at any martial art without hard work and possibly taking a few lumps.

If you want to study martial arts and become good at it, don't settle for being an "armchair warrior" or a "futon fighter".

See this Yahoo! question and answer session for more comments about this very subject:

1 comment:

Chris said...

Some guy showed up for my regular open practice in North Seattle, after having learned solely from videos. Problem wasn't that he was bad exactly--he had absolutely no idea what he was doing, or supposed to be doing.

He left practice early, but before he left, he asked whose videos he should watch instead!? I told him not to trust anything he saw on YouTube. I don't think he was willing to accept that answer though.