Learning martial arts from very limited sources

PhotonGuy

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Im wondering how much and to what extent a person can learn martial arts if their sources are very limited. Take for instance the fictional Daniel Larusso. Before Mr. Miyagi started teaching him, Daniel was trying to learn martial arts but his sources were very limited. He was learning from a book and also from some lessons he had taken at a YMCA, in the movie you see him practicing techniques from a book and its brought up twice about the lessons he had at at the YMCA. In the novelization it mentions the eight classes he had at a YMCA in Newark NJ before moving to Reseda CA.

Anyway, I was wondering just how much and how well a person can learn martial arts if they had very limited sources like Daniel did before Miyagi started teaching him. Ideally you would want to have more, you would want to be able to get good lessons at a good school but not everybody has that option and you've got to use what you've got and make the best of it.
 

oftheherd1

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If you look around you will find many questions similar to yours here at MT. Almost universally, answers will be that you cannot learn MA from books alone. The same for DVDs or movies alone. There are nuances to many moves in MA that you simply cannot get that way, You will make mistakes in your learning without even knowing it. There are a couple of schools known here that claim to effectively teach a style of Hapkido by DVD and online learning. I don't know how that works out. But I would think any grappling art would be very hard to learn that way. I think both of those offer a chance to go to the school periodically. That would be better, but it might only be a chance to unlearn mistakes.

I take your point about no good teaching being available in your area. My question would be are you sure you can beat that from books or DVDs?
 

wab25

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Heck... just look at all the people that have tons of resources and great instructors that still never quite get it. Even after years of dedicated training. Martial Arts is hard enough to learn with all the resources... I would say next to impossible without.

However, the best example I could give would be the Gracies. I think (someone correct me here...) they had like 2 years of Judo instruction to start with. Then, they had enough siblings and friends that were willing to go at it with each other, fully resisting for years. Then there were all the "challenge matches," official and not so official. I don't know what their official story is on this, but I am sure that a few people took them apart in the early years. This is not a knock on them at all. But to point out that they tested what they were developing, they took their lumps and learned from it, making their art better.

So, for a minimum, I would say that you need to have a special talent for fighting, at least 2 years of good instruction, a bunch of like minded people who are willing and able to beat the crap out of each other and the fortitude to go out and test your stuff for real outside your group, knowing you might lose badly for a while... and you would need years to do so, continually. 8 lessons and a book or youtube, won't cut it.
 

skribs

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I've thought of an experiment. Take 3 guys:
  1. Never fights, never learns martial arts, just does physical conditioning and weight training.
  2. Never fights against an opponent and never does any physical conditioning (other than the repetitions of technique), but is trained techniques, forms, and drills.
  3. Never is taught anything, just thrown into a fight every day and told to learn from the experience.
Who would do best in a fight with those experiences?
 

skribs

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If you look around you will find many questions similar to yours here at MT. Almost universally, answers will be that you cannot learn MA from books alone. The same for DVDs or movies alone. There are nuances to many moves in MA that you simply cannot get that way, You will make mistakes in your learning without even knowing it. There are a couple of schools known here that claim to effectively teach a style of Hapkido by DVD and online learning. I don't know how that works out. But I would think any grappling art would be very hard to learn that way. I think both of those offer a chance to go to the school periodically. That would be better, but it might only be a chance to unlearn mistakes.

I take your point about no good teaching being available in your area. My question would be are you sure you can beat that from books or DVDs?

There are two big things that movies/books/etc. cannot give you:
  1. Criticism from an instructor
  2. Sparring with your peers
I might think I'm doing something right, even if it's perfectly explained in the book or video, but have no idea that I'm making a mistake. Similarly, I won't get a feel for timing, won't be used to taking a hit, won't be used to feeling the pressure points and leverage points if I don't practice with a partner.

I do find videos useful as a supplement, especially if they're well laid out. They can go more in-depth than you have time to in class. In class I usually take 5-10 seconds to explain a front kick, but if I was going to explain everything I know about the front kick I'd take several minutes. That would bog the class down, but might be useful to someone who wants to learn more about the front kick.

But that type of video would be potentially worse for someone who doesn't have a primary source of instruction, because now they have several minutes of information to work on, but no feedback on if it's done right or not.
 

drop bear

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My coach basically did that. Did some training with some really good guys then when his coach's Visa ran out continued with whatever he could get. A bit of you tube instruction, a lot of sparring and finding guys where he could.

Airlie beach is a small town without a heap of resources.
 

jobo

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Im wondering how much and to what extent a person can learn martial arts if their sources are very limited. Take for instance the fictional Daniel Larusso. Before Mr. Miyagi started teaching him, Daniel was trying to learn martial arts but his sources were very limited. He was learning from a book and also from some lessons he had taken at a YMCA, in the movie you see him practicing techniques from a book and its brought up twice about the lessons he had at at the YMCA. In the novelization it mentions the eight classes he had at a YMCA in Newark NJ before moving to Reseda CA.

Anyway, I was wondering just how much and how well a person can learn martial arts if they had very limited sources like Daniel did before Miyagi started teaching him. Ideally you would want to have more, you would want to be able to get good lessons at a good school but not everybody has that option and you've got to use wh
Im wondering how much and to what extent a person can learn martial arts if their sources are very limited. Take for instance the fictional Daniel Larusso. Before Mr. Miyagi started teaching him, Daniel was trying to learn martial arts but his sources were very limited. He was learning from a book and also from some lessons he had taken at a YMCA, in the movie you see him practicing techniques from a book and its brought up twice about the lessons he had at at the YMCA. In the novelization it mentions the eight classes he had at a YMCA in Newark NJ before moving to Reseda CA.

Anyway, I was wondering just how much and how well a person can learn martial arts if they had very limited sources like Daniel did before Miyagi started teaching him. Ideally you would want to have more, you would want to be able to get good lessons at a good school but not everybody has that option and you've got to use what you've got and make the best of it.

at you've got and make the best of it.

you just need to watch the film plus a couple of Jackie Chan's and enter the dragon and you will be an expert
 
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PhotonGuy

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If you look around you will find many questions similar to yours here at MT. Almost universally, answers will be that you cannot learn MA from books alone. The same for DVDs or movies alone. There are nuances to many moves in MA that you simply cannot get that way, You will make mistakes in your learning without even knowing it. There are a couple of schools known here that claim to effectively teach a style of Hapkido by DVD and online learning. I don't know how that works out. But I would think any grappling art would be very hard to learn that way. I think both of those offer a chance to go to the school periodically. That would be better, but it might only be a chance to unlearn mistakes.

I take your point about no good teaching being available in your area. My question would be are you sure you can beat that from books or DVDs?
Not having good teaching and/or not being able to afford good teaching is not an issue for me. Also, Im not talking about somebody learning only from books and DVDs but somebody who might be able to take lessons here and there but not be able to commit to a steady program. You can't learn from books and DVDs alone but it can help supplement face to face instruction, especially if your face to face instruction is very limited.
 
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PhotonGuy

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However, the best example I could give would be the Gracies. I think (someone correct me here...) they had like 2 years of Judo instruction to start with. Then, they had enough siblings and friends that were willing to go at it with each other, fully resisting for years. Then there were all the "challenge matches," official and not so official. I don't know what their official story is on this, but I am sure that a few people took them apart in the early years. This is not a knock on them at all. But to point out that they tested what they were developing, they took their lumps and learned from it, making their art better.
From what I know the Gracies did regularly attend a Jiu Jitsu school in Brazil which was ran by a Japanese instructor and they took what they learned and modified it, so they did get good long term instruction.
 
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PhotonGuy

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I've thought of an experiment. Take 3 guys:
  1. Never fights, never learns martial arts, just does physical conditioning and weight training.
  2. Never fights against an opponent and never does any physical conditioning (other than the repetitions of technique), but is trained techniques, forms, and drills.
  3. Never is taught anything, just thrown into a fight every day and told to learn from the experience.
Who would do best in a fight with those experiences?
The third guy would be reinventing the wheel so the way he is learning is very inefficient and would take much longer and that's if he survives, getting into fights every day is very dangerous.

The first guy is not learning how to fight, he is just making himself stronger which can definitely help in a fight but being good in a fight is more about being able to effectively use your strength for fighting, not just to be stronger and/or more fit than the other guy.

The second guy I would say would have the best chance out of the three although his training would be lacking.
 

wab25

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From what I know the Gracies did regularly attend a Jiu Jitsu school in Brazil which was ran by a Japanese instructor and they took what they learned and modified it, so they did get good long term instruction.
It was "Kano-ryu Jiu-Jitsu" (or Judo) and their instructor was Mitsuyo Maeda. They were only together for a couple of years, like 2 or 3. (I was hoping that one of the BJJ guys would give the correct amount of time) Carlos and Helio were still in their teens when they were seperated from Maeda and began teaching and modifying what they had learned... creating BJJ.

My point was that they did not take 8 lessons, and practice some forms and techniques they saw in a book. They put in a tremendous amount of work and a lot of very realistic testing... after a few years of training with a very good martial artist. And it took time.

The third guy would be reinventing the wheel so the way he is learning is very inefficient and would take much longer and that's if he survives, getting into fights every day is very dangerous.
This would be the street fighter, or gangster or dude at the bar. There are lots of guys who learn to fight, by fighting. They might not have katas or forms, or names for their moves, or organizations or even students. But they make up for that with real fighting experience. Many "trained martial artists" have gone down to these guys. If I were rating Skribs guys in fighting ability, 3 would be the best followed by 1. 2 would get crushed by either 1 or 2, as he has never fought against resistance and never built up his cardio. Fighting shape is very different than form / kata shape.
 

MetalBoar

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I know I'm in the minority here, but I absolutely believe you can learn a martial art from the Internet, books and videos. You can also learn to fight effectively without any resources at all. The biggest question is should you, not can you. Some of the big factors are, how dedicated you are, how risk tolerant you are, how lucky you are, and how physically talented you are. Those same factors apply to a lesser degree with good instruction too. Now, whether you will be doing some sort of fully authentic traditional art? That's a question for those who judge such things.

Some examples of what I'm talking about:

Let's take a sport art, say boxing, and a group of young people who want to learn to box in someplace without any resources but a garage and what they can get online. Well, they can buy gloves, mouthguards, heavy bags, jump ropes, etc. pretty much anything a boxing gym would have online if they've got the money. If there are a handful of them and they use the roughly $100/month each that they're saving by not paying for instruction it won't take long to have a really nice setup. Then they get a copy of the rules and some videos and books on boxing and they can start boxing. If they stick with it and work hard and are willing to work through or are lucky enough to avoid serious injuries caused by their ignorance they'll eventually achieve some skill at punching and avoiding being punched. Will it be boxing? If they follow the rules of boxing I'd call it boxing.

Will they be as good as someone who got really top notch instruction? Probably not, but they didn't have that available anyway. Will it look like boxing? More or less, probably more. Will it make them better at fighting in a general sense? Almost certainly. Would they have been better off studying TKD or BJJ if there had been a good school for that locally? Probably, but not if they only really wanted to learn to box and wouldn't have stuck with something else.

Another example; Tai Chi. If you live someplace that doesn't have any Tai Chi classes but you really want to learn it can you do it from videos/books? I'd say it depends on your goals and whether or not you've got the patience to do it that way. If your goals are to get the health benefits of Tai Chi, I expect that you can get a lot of them. Things like improved balance and flexibility are likely results of slow controlled movements even if they aren't perfect Tai Chi forms. Improved mental focus and relaxation? Again, I suspect that you don't need to do Tai Chi perfectly to get some of these benefits from doing something Tai Chi like. Will you get the same benefits as if you'd trained with a good instructor? Again, probably not, but unless you really screw things up it's probably a lot better than sitting on the couch.

If you have a training partner you can learn at least some of the lessons of push hands. Much like boxing, if you wanted to learn the competitive form of push hands you could read the rules and practice with other people who had read the rules and eventually you'd be doing push hands, though you might or might not be very good at it. I have no idea how forms competitions work, but I suspect this is an area where learning from video might be harder, but I really don't know. Would some people say that you weren't doing Tai Chi, or that you weren't doing the particular style that you had been studying? I'm sure that some people would say that because I hear people say that when talking about people who have theoretically learned Tai Chi from supposedly qualified instructors.

If you just want to learn to fight and you have a very high tolerance for risk or perhaps enjoy it, there's no need for any martial arts classes, videos or books. Lift some weights, and then start a fight club if you can, or just go get in bar brawls or talk smack to obvious street criminals. You may end up dead or incarcerated, but hey, I expect that prison will give you a lot of opportunities to practice. Being a bit more serious, I grew up in a pretty violent time and place and one of the best fighters I've seen anywhere was a friend's older brother. He'd wrestled in high school but no martial training outside of that and I never saw nor heard of him grappling in any of his street fights. He just liked to hit people and he practiced it a lot. I'm sure that it helped that he was about 6'3", worked in construction and lifted weights, but he was amazingly fast and could hit really hard. He started fighting with anybody he felt was asking for it in junior high when the stakes were lower and just kept doing it and getting better and better.

Now, are any of these examples going to provide you with the same level of safety, efficiency or overall quality of a really good instructor? Probably not, and almost certainly not all three of those things. Will you be able to say you're certified by someone to teach a particular style or have a black belt in something? Not unless your online training program provides that and then it's only worth what people think that's worth, just like any other ranking. But I think you can absolutely develop some real skills without a live instructor if you work hard at it. And let's be honest, with all the talk I hear about McDojo's and fake instructors out there, taking a class is no guarantee of good instruction either.

I've learned a lot of things just from books. Besides the things that people normally associate with book learning, like how to write BASH scripts, I learned a great deal about performance driving from reading a book on how to tune your suspension and then applying what it said about the physics of how suspensions work to how I drove. I'm sure a performance driving course would have been faster but I got pretty good results pretty quickly as a side effect of something else I was trying to learn. I doubt that there's something special about martial arts that make them a unique physical skill that can't be learned from independent study followed by practice.
 
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Monkey Turned Wolf

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I've thought of an experiment. Take 3 guys:
  1. Never fights, never learns martial arts, just does physical conditioning and weight training.
  2. Never fights against an opponent and never does any physical conditioning (other than the repetitions of technique), but is trained techniques, forms, and drills.
  3. Never is taught anything, just thrown into a fight every day and told to learn from the experience.
Who would do best in a fight with those experiences?
In just one fight? Guy 3, barring any serious physical issues (if he got two arms chopped off in a previous fight or he's got a cast on probably not). Then guy one, then guy three. But if you spent a month giving each the basics in the stuff they missed then who knows.
 

skribs

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The third guy would be reinventing the wheel so the way he is learning is very inefficient and would take much longer and that's if he survives, getting into fights every day is very dangerous.

The first guy is not learning how to fight, he is just making himself stronger which can definitely help in a fight but being good in a fight is more about being able to effectively use your strength for fighting, not just to be stronger and/or more fit than the other guy.

The second guy I would say would have the best chance out of the three although his training would be lacking.

The second guy has done no sparring and has never had his moves countered.
 

skribs

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In just one fight? Guy 3, barring any serious physical issues (if he got two arms chopped off in a previous fight or he's got a cast on probably not). Then guy one, then guy three. But if you spent a month giving each the basics in the stuff they missed then who knows.

Does Guy 2 end up anywhere on your list?
 

Martial D

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I've thought of an experiment. Take 3 guys:
  1. Never fights, never learns martial arts, just does physical conditioning and weight training.
  2. Never fights against an opponent and never does any physical conditioning (other than the repetitions of technique), but is trained techniques, forms, and drills.
  3. Never is taught anything, just thrown into a fight every day and told to learn from the experience.
Who would do best in a fight with those experiences?
3 would have easy work all day, 10 times out of ten.

Let's use another example.

1: knows the name of a bunch of tools and what they are used for, but has never used them, and can barely lift them.

2: strong back, no idea how to use tools

3: has been building houses for years.

Who do you want renovating your basement?
 

gpseymour

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Im wondering how much and to what extent a person can learn martial arts if their sources are very limited. Take for instance the fictional Daniel Larusso. Before Mr. Miyagi started teaching him, Daniel was trying to learn martial arts but his sources were very limited. He was learning from a book and also from some lessons he had taken at a YMCA, in the movie you see him practicing techniques from a book and its brought up twice about the lessons he had at at the YMCA. In the novelization it mentions the eight classes he had at a YMCA in Newark NJ before moving to Reseda CA.

Anyway, I was wondering just how much and how well a person can learn martial arts if they had very limited sources like Daniel did before Miyagi started teaching him. Ideally you would want to have more, you would want to be able to get good lessons at a good school but not everybody has that option and you've got to use what you've got and make the best of it.
For someone with lots of natural talent and athleticism (in the right areas), a little training and/or information can go a long way. Ditto for someone with a solid base of some sort.

For the average person, a limited exposure to training will have little positive effect. More so if the training (as is likely in Larusso's case) is intended to be the start of longer-term training. Give me 8 lessons with someone I know will only be there for 8 lessons, and I can give them a very small number of basics, with some drills to work on them. That would still likely have limited effect, but significantly more than if they stayed for the first 8 classes of my standard curriculum.
 

gpseymour

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Not having good teaching and/or not being able to afford good teaching is not an issue for me. Also, Im not talking about somebody learning only from books and DVDs but somebody who might be able to take lessons here and there but not be able to commit to a steady program. You can't learn from books and DVDs alone but it can help supplement face to face instruction, especially if your face to face instruction is very limited.
For a situation like that - having to work with intermittent training from various sources - I think (assuming the person isn't especially gifted) it would be best to choose a style that has plenty of useful solo drills and common principles easy to find and get bits of instruction on along the way. In the US, that could be boxing. If the person has a partner who can attend the same training, maybe BJJ. In both cases, there's plenty of support material that could be used along the way to try to learn a thing or two. The hard part is sticking to the same absolute basics long enough to get a foundation before getting into more complex stuff. In a lot of cases, that's one of the biggest values an instructor/coach provides: they keep you from going ahead into the next thing while you still have errors that will make it harder to learn.
 
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