Distance Learning Programs


Blue Belt
Mar 9, 2002
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Martinsville, Virginia
Picture yourself in a typical Dojo: You and the other students stand in rows facing your Sensei, listening as he outlines a certain technique or principle. If you have a question you raise your hand, and when it comes time to demonstrate your technique your instructor or a senior student is there if you need help. Simple enough, but what if youre taking a distance learning program?

Q: For distance learning programs, how is rank usually obtained?

A: Most often, the instructor will require that you send a video tape of yourself demonstrating the techniques before providing you rank certification. Some organizations provide the rank based on the honor system, providing the certificate when you contact them and tell them you feel ready to be promoted.

Q: What do I do if I need help with my technique or have a question about a principle?

A: The most obvious place to seek assistance is from the course's instructor. Be sure to establish a personal relationship with the instructor: Contact him or her routinely and be proactive in seeking advice. Many quality distance learning programs also have help desks to assist students. Many courses have an online forum where you can post your questions and have instructors or other students provide their input and experience.

If youre taking a course that doesn't provide support, youre on your own. But that doesnt mean you cant get help. Try searching the Web for information. The Internet is a vast storehouse of information. Help is out there, you just have to find it. I don't have a distance learning course but I offer free pre-testing or technique analysis to anyone that needs input.

Q: Is it easier to cheat in distance learning courses?

A: Cheating has always been fairly easy for the determined person, there are plenty of places where you can buy a certificate and a belt for under $30 with no proof of experience or previous rank. You can print off a good looking certificate using tools that come standard with most computers. However, cheaters mostly harm themselves. When/if they start teaching (most of them do it just to boost their ego and can pretend to be a know-it-all on the net.) if their students are intelligent they will automatically recognize them as a fraud.

Q: How do I know how I'm doing in a distance learning course?

A: In a well-run online course, students should receive regular feedback. Feedback is the most important thing in learning a skill. Since you are all alone with no classmates to compare your skill to, you need to have an outside opinion. Video tape your practice sessions regularly so that you can watch yourself and compare yourself with your instructor or send the tape to your instructor or if that costs too much, find someone that will give you feed back for a smaller fee. Even if you are not required to get feedback or skill assessment with your course, get it anyway. You cannot honestly claim rank just because you feel ready to wear it, because you will have a biased opinion and either judge yourself too easily or too harshly depending on your character.

Skill assessment in a distance learning environment is great for the distant learner. The examiner is able to play the video tape in slow motion, in reverse and as many times as he needs where as in testing someone in person they student would get worn out if the instructor tried that.

The draw backs of a distance learning course is often the lack of support and the curriculum is often watered down a little bit in order to fit it in the allotted time. Due to the fact that you aren't attending a class you might find it difficult to find a training partner to practice the techniques with. Having a training partner is absolutely essential to progress in any training program.

The benifits of a distance learning course is that the information provided can be viewed over and over until the information is firmly established in your mind. In person the instructor will more likely focus on the one aspect of the technique that he feels is most important and then move on to another technique, on video you can watch one part of the technique and then rewind and then place your focus on his footwork, then his weight placement, then his hand placement, then his hip rotation, so on and so forth. In class if you keep asking your instructor to go back and do it again so that you can see each aspect he'll probably get annoyed. With video you can go full speed, half speed, super slow motion, and reverse. When you tape yourself, you and your instructor can do the same thing in order to best judge the quality of your technique. I feel that this is so benificial that I video tape myself and my students in class so that we can see how we look from the third person perspective.

What are other benifits and draw backs that you see?
Great overview. We are trying to set up a distance program at our school for aikijujutsu. We are within a days drive so the hands on portion and testing would be done in person.
I've had a similar discussion on another forum. I'm not sure if I agree with distance learning. What are some possible motives for it?
I was thinking about something like this for TSD. I moved to NY from NJ (where I studied TSD), but I can't find a TSD dojang (school) near me. But I did find a distance learing program on the net for it.

You made a very good post, Turner. Eventhough I wouldn't recommend this for beginners, I think it would be fine for experienced martial artists (or someone who already knows the basics).

Any other opinions would be helpful for me to make up my mind to take the distance learning thing or not.
Originally posted by Ty K. Doe

I'm not sure if I agree with distance learning. What are some possible motives for it?

I'd love to study iaido again but don't have a nearby instructor.
I just talked with my distance learning student today and he was sick with the flu: The program works well as long as you keep in contact with each other by phone, internet and review the student's questions with him/her one on one! I teach my distance learner exactly what i teach in the dojo. When he sends in his review before testing we cover the new concepts, motions, throw's, etc, that he has missed which are not required for testing. All other materials, hand-outs, charts, history, vital point target pictures, and the like is either mailed to him or e-mailed to him at his web address. I also have a further studies page on the dojo website containing shaolin history, forms, bubishi text info, suttas, and a link to more than 50 online kenpo articles. I keep in touch by phone once a week and at least twice a week by e-mail. The course is working well! I prefer to build the system around the student rather than the student just do and be graded on those basics alone. What i teach one, besides the basics for each belt is not the same thing i teach another. Drills are different etc, even though they will be learning the same belt testing routines. Sincerely, In Humility; Chiduce!
Does your student have a partner to work with or is he practicing alone? Do your in-person students use many two-person drills?
Originally posted by arnisador

Does your student have a partner to work with or is he practicing alone? Do your in-person students use many two-person drills?
To the first question, i do not at this time know if he has. Yet i will check with him on that one. Basically, the system that i teach does not necessarily need another person to practice with except for the throwing when strike or choke throwing is not used. A partner would be useful for trapping also! Thank, you though for your suggestion! The second question, yes my in dojo students practice two man drills for trapping, ashi sabaki and the techniques are practiced sun dome! Sincerely, In Humility; Chiduce!
:asian: The ikca have a great set up for distance learning and they have been at it for pretty much the longest time, if you want tips you should contact them.;)
I'm not sure if I agree with distance learning. What are some possible motives for it?

1. Simply put, knowledge is power. The more you know the better. Distance learning can provide different perspectives on the art that you study or give you a totally different perspective from an art that you have no experience in.

2. Style availability. It is a bad idea to train in a martial art just because the school is the one closest to your house. Each type of martial art is best suited to a person of a particular mindset or body type. If you are tall and limber, kicking arts are great. If you are short, Judo is great... so on and so forth. Often enough the perfect art for a person isn't found in their general area and so a Distance program is the way to obtain that information.

3. Conflict of interests. I've had a couple of people talk to me about driving a long distance to train with me or ask about distance learning because they had a personality clash with the instructor that was near-by.

4. Cost. There are people who desperately want to learn the martial arts but the cost for training is more than their life-style can permit and they don't feel comfortable going to the local instructors and working something out.

5. Personality. There are people who wish to learn the martial arts but don't feel comfortable in a group environment and would prefer to learn in the privacy of their own home.

6. Ego <negative, but still a motivation>. There are those that seek a course that will provide the desired black belt certification without them having to work too hard for it.

7. Time. I started using distance learning courses because I was working a rotating shift so I would only have been going to class every third week. I wasn't about to pay $100 a month for 6 hours of class time.

I know that many people tend to look at the negative, but there is a lot more positive than negative. The person that does it for the wrong reasons only hurts themselves.

You made a very good post, Turner. Eventhough I wouldn't recommend this for beginners, I think it would be fine for experienced martial artists (or someone who already knows the basics).

I agree that distance learning courses can't replace quality instruction and I would recommend an individual getting training in the 'traditional' setting over distance learning, but I do believe that a beginner can make good use of the information and develop skill in the art IF they train seriously on a regular basis. A colleges, using martial arts as a reference tool, did a study and have found that there was no difference in the amount of time a self defense technique can be learned when comparing a commercial dojo and a home-study program.

That IF is very important. You have to be serious about learning the martial arts. If you need external motivation, home-study is bad because you don't have anything but self motivation. IF you are serious about learning the martial arts you don't even need a complete series of video tapes to teach you. You can learn on your own... as I did. I'm not exceptionally smart nor am I athletically inclined... It is just the fact that if you throw punches and kicks at a moderately hard object your body will naturally correct itself. (That is why they say the heavy bag is unforgiving... if you throw a punch or kick wrong it's gonna hurt.) Yes, you will develop skill probably ten times faster with some sort of instruction, but that doesn't mean it is impossible to do without and as an option it shouldn't be explored.
Good post, Turner :) I have been looking at different arts (distance learning) that are not available in my area, and most of them seem legit. Your post made me wanna actually check them out further, and maybe join the program. Thanks.
Originally posted by Turner

A colleges, using martial arts as a reference tool, did a study and have found that there was no difference in the amount of time a self defense technique can be learned when comparing a commercial dojo and a home-study program.

Do you have a refernce for this? It's very surprising.

I think your post highlights the difference between someone with knowledge engaging in home training as an adjunct, which is fine in my opinion, vs. someone who is new seeking ability and rank, which isn't wise I think.
Turner, no offense, but that site is an e-mcdojo. it offers instructor certification with the package. it also quotes bill wallace and david carridine out of context. not to mention how it contradicts itself, saying boxers aren't fighters, yet the champions it proudly displays are nothing but boxers. that study is total bupkiss.

i'd also like to get my two cents in regarding distance learning. last night, we worked on a new way to do a fake-back kick to step-in side kick. the difference in how well i did from when i started to when i finished was definitely noticeable. however, if i had not had my instructor there to comment on the subtle changes i had to make, i would have continued doing it slowly and inefficiently. i really don't think you can get that by watching movies.
That persons web site is down right offensive. The comments made about schools that sparr are ludicrous. And the comments about kata are just stupid.

Also I don't put much stock in statements made by David Carridine.

I believe that all these McDojos Turner has been ranting about is contributed to by the McVideo learning.
I agree, His methods aren't the greatest and the dude didn't know what he was talking about in a lot of aspects (in MY opinion) but that doesn't mean that the research isn't valid.

Yes, distance learning is an obvious way for McDojo's to flourish, but that really depends on program and the student. I absolutely hate the idea of a McDojo and I am more of a traditionalist than not, but I know the value of video learning as does the rest of the world... heck, you can get a bachelors degree via the internet. In the military it was suggested that we do thing like CLEP and DANTES in order to get degrees to further our career... which basically is a way of home-study. Home-study is here and here to stay. You can benefit from it or you can kid yourself in thinking that there is nothing to gain from it.
Ok, lets get something straight here about the McVideo trash. The fact is that the creator of that site and (yes as well as dutches blunt or to the point comments) is a founder of a system with what is believed to be 10,000 students world wide. His students include instructors, sifu, masters, teachers, and soke of other martial arts styles as well as his. So, the McVideo/E-Mcdojo bash here again is a perception problem of the individual. Most people before jumping to conclusions would do some research on a particular, style, creator/founder, or students within the system! Is it fear of knowing the truth about a system, individual, etc,? This is a fact, that you can take to the bank! The DK Class which is being offered this fall semester at Liberty University is so full that another class had to be included at a different time! Your so called E-McDojo, McVideo is making martial arts history as the very first Dragon Kenpo Karate Class to be taught by a Certified Instructor in this same system at a major U.S. University or may i say Christian University! Kinesiology and Dragon Kenpo make a very good combination! :asian: Ami Tou Fou! Sincerely, In Humility; Chiduce!
As a Star Wars fan I love Old Ben's line in Empire Strikes Back. "What I said was true, from a certain point of view." Perspective is what makes us individuals and unique, each of our view points is different and noone can say they are wrong... because that is just another point of view.

My Hutchison had some great ideas. The Dragon Kenpo Creed is awesome and it is what I stand for as a martial artist. I am a Dragon Kenpo-ist because of that philosophy.. A philosophy of freedom. I don't agree with what Mr. Hutchison said about Sparring, Forms, or Belt Ranking... It is my belief that in those aspects he was looking at just the surface and didn't see deep enough to see their value. However, Dragon Kenpo is a way of freedom and so I have the freedom to disagree and do what "I" feel is right and best.

Mr. Hutchison, to the best of my (or anyone else's that I know)knowledge hasn't really worked to develop and enhance the Dragon Kenpo Karate Academy and so I must assume that he was in it for the money which makes him a McVideo instructor. He was the founder of a good philosophy and taught some good techniques... but I don't consider him to be a part of Dragon Kenpo any more. The DKKA is dead. Where it died, the IDKA was born... to do the job that Mr. Hutchison couldn't or wouldn't do.

Dragon Kenpo encourages an individual to strive to reach their highest potential. There are those that don't wish to make that long and arduous journey and just wish to feed their ego by hanging a certificate on the wall that says 'Black Belt' and Dragon Kenpo doesn't care because the belt that they wear and the certificate that they hang on the wall means nothing. You have to back that up with more than just a little talk. Then there are those that have shed sweat, tears and blood on that journey and they hang that certificate on the wall and wear the belt with pride because they have come so far in their journey and see so many obsticals in their path and when they look ahead they see mountains larger than they've ever traversed and yet they smile because they know that while the going will get rough and that they will fall down they WILL prevail because no matter how far back they slide they will continue to get back up and try once more.

In this forum I've had someone tell me that I was irresponsible for telling someone that they aren't required to go to a Dojo/Dojang/Kwoon in order for them to reach their fullest potential in the martial arts. It seems that some people get knocked down so many times in life that they have forgotten what it is like to stand. Yes, making your way alone is a hard thing to do. It will take you so much longer to get somewhere if you walk on your own two feet than it would to lean on someone else to conserve your strength... So what? I'm not in a hurry to get to my destination. I'm enjoying the journey. I don't care if I ever make it to the other side of the mountain because I am having the time of my life enjoying the scenery and overcoming the obsticals. Everything is so much sweeter and remains in your life so much longer when you go slowly. When the person said that, they basically where saying "that road is too difficult to travel, you best stay home and not embark upon the journey." Is the journey that unfulfilling? Is the destination all that matters? Isn't the trip worth taking those risks and reaping the rewards of being able to overcoming the many obsticals in your path?

What is a McDojo in its essence? Someone who is more concerned with the end results than the preparation. The McDojo mentality is 'The Faster the Better.' If you are a person that is telling someone that they can't do something because it is too hard or too much of a risk or 'impossible' then you have a McDojo mentality. Nothing is impossible... Don't strip someone of their hope or close their box because you don't think it is possible... encourage them to reach for the stars because they might wind up doing the impossible and be the one to reach down and lift you up.

-- that is what Dragon Kenpo is about and that is why I am proud to be a member of the IDKA.

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