You can't learn martial arts from books

Deaf Smith

Master of Arts
Joined
Apr 25, 2008
Messages
1,722
Reaction score
85
From another thread the above was posted. It got me to thinking.

Now I can say if you are new to the martial arts the above statement is very valid.

But, if you are very experienced, I think you can gleam quite a bit and pickup techniques that fit you.

How do you guys feel about that?

Deaf
 

Xue Sheng

All weight is underside
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
34,346
Reaction score
9,499
Location
North American Tectonic Plate
It is, at best a supplement.

But I agree if you are experienced you can sometimes get quite a bit from a book. Especially the small details after you already have a strong base in the art in general.
 

grydth

Senior Master
Joined
Jan 13, 2007
Messages
2,464
Reaction score
150
Location
Upstate New York.
I agree with both of you. Books can offer a wealth of knowledge, to include background, history, tips, a guide to variations and locating other sources.

But books do not replace a teacher. Books cannot tell you when you are getting it all wrong.
 

MJS

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
Messages
30,187
Reaction score
430
Location
Cromwell,CT
From another thread the above was posted. It got me to thinking.

Now I can say if you are new to the martial arts the above statement is very valid.

But, if you are very experienced, I think you can gleam quite a bit and pickup techniques that fit you.

How do you guys feel about that?

Deaf

Books, dvd, etc., are a great resource tool. Can an experienced martial artist pick up some things? Of course, but the fine points/technical aspect is still going to be missing, especially moreso if its an art that you're not familiar with.

I have many books, tapes, dvds, that I view. I've picked up various things, and have worked them with my teachers.

Like I said, its always better to work with someone familiar with what you're doing. :)
 

geezer

Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
Oct 20, 2007
Messages
7,373
Reaction score
3,589
Location
Phoenix, AZ
From another thread the above was posted. It got me to thinking. Now I can say if you are new to the martial arts the above statement is very valid. But, if you are very experienced, I think you can gleam quite a bit and pickup techniques that fit you.
How do you guys feel about that? Deaf

Books, video, DVDs are all useful supplements to training. But what do you guys think about correspondence and online (snort!) courses!!! I've even seen one where, if you dump enough dough, you could qualify to be the next "Grandmaster".
 

Sukerkin

Have the courage to speak softly
MT Mentor
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 15, 2006
Messages
15,325
Reaction score
493
Location
Staffordshire, England
Books and other forms of non-present instruction are at best a reminder and an adjunct to what you already know.

Learning anything physical from such sources is nigh impossible. Academic and mental skills, certainly these can be learned from books etc as it is based upon cognition. Physical skills, not so much.
 

Daniel Sullivan

Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
May 27, 2008
Messages
6,472
Reaction score
271
Location
Olney, Maryland
From another thread the above was posted. It got me to thinking.

Now I can say if you are new to the martial arts the above statement is very valid.

But, if you are very experienced, I think you can gleam quite a bit and pickup techniques that fit you.

How do you guys feel about that?

Deaf
Interesting topic. I would agree with your last statement:

But, if you are very experienced, I think you can gleam quite a bit and pickup techniques that fit you.

I do believe that in order for this to be true, however, the reader need be not only experienced, but able to visualize what the author is stating. The better the photographs and pictures in the book, if any, the better in bridging the gap between differences in vocabulary and terminology between the author and the reader.

I have picked up a lot from books, but I am also experienced and am very, very visual. I also am conversant enough with different terminology to parse through what is being said, with or without a picture. Having said that, pictures help a lot.

Application of what you've read in the dojo to see how well it works, if at all, is the best indicator.

Daniel
 

JadecloudAlchemist

Master of Arts
Joined
Feb 12, 2007
Messages
1,877
Reaction score
82
Location
Miami,Florida
I have looked at books within my art and thought I was doing it correctly
but in fact I was not.

I have looked into books within my art that have actually helped me understand things within my art better.

The problem with learning from a book is YOU.

You are your own teacher. And because you don't know what is right and can not ask the author(in most cases) You assume or try to make the best of it usually from some crude black and white pictures and vague text.

As a supplement you can at least have a working understanding that can be corrected with a teacher.

At least a dvd is a little more practical however the difference between a few inches can make the difference between a solid technique or a faulty one.
 

exile

To him unconquered.
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 7, 2006
Messages
10,665
Reaction score
251
Location
Columbus, Ohio
You can't 'learn calculus' from a book. You can get a great idea about what calculus does, and why, what its uses are, and the kinds of problems it can solve, but to 'learn' it—to own it as an accessible tool for problem solving—you need to do it, under the guidance of someone who can show you how to think about things in a way that calculus can shed light on, and what kinds of pitfalls there are in trying to 'do' it, and—most of all—who can force you to solve lots and lots of real problems so that you internalize the method, turning it into a ready-to-hand tool of analysis.

You can't 'learn calligraphy' from a book. You can get a great idea about how the broad-edged pens creates letter shapes, and how to analyze letter forms so that you can see the way a tool like the broad-edged pen is used to create them, and the general theory of how letters are to be spaced, how page layouts are to be created, and so on. But to 'learn' it—to fully master it so that you can pick up such a pen and create beautifully writing in satisfying arrangement on a page—you need an instructor, someone who can see what you're dong in a way you can't, because you're still trying to understand the relationship between pen movement and letter form, and they already know it and can help you make corrections that you would take much longer to work out on your own. And—most of all—they can make you do dozens of pages of practice exercises and study the differences in what you've done, so you can connect your best work to certain ways of using the pen, and gradually learn to make that your standard practice.

You can't 'learn skiing' from a book. You can get terrific insight about how the carving edge of the ski can be used to create turns, and the role of the hips and knees in putting the skis on edge to achieve those effects. But to 'learn' it, you need an instructor....

See the pattern? It's the same everywhere. No one ever 'learned X from a book', no matter what X is. But a book can be a terrific resource, and more than that, give you a radically new vision of what you're doing—if, that is, it offers a fundamentally new insight into what's going on.

In every skill or branch of knowledge I've ever 'learned', books were essential tools to provided depth and understanding, and ways of thinking about what you were doing. But the learning itself came from applying those methods under the scrutiny of instructors who had their own base of knowledge that supplemented, complemented and occasionally challenged the material in the books they'd had me read. The claim itself that 'you can't learn X from a book', without further context, is itself a mile-high straw man. No one says you can, for the reasons I've given. What's also true is that books are crucial components of learning X, which is why most of the time when you study something seriously, your teacher will have you read certain of them.
 
Last edited:

Daniel Sullivan

Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
May 27, 2008
Messages
6,472
Reaction score
271
Location
Olney, Maryland
Books, video, DVDs are all useful supplements to training. But what do you guys think about correspondence and online (snort!) courses!!! I've even seen one where, if you dump enough dough, you could qualify to be the next "Grandmaster".
Chuck Sullivan, with whom I share a last name, and who was one of Ed Parker's students, along with another of Ed's students who's name I don't recall, do offer such courses in Kenpo.

They send you a vid, you learn the material, you video yourself performing the moves required by their test, send back said vid, it is evaluated (by what sort of standards I have no idea), and you either pass or fail.

If I had absolutely no dojo to train at for over a hundred miles, I might consider such a correspondence course. That would be an absolute last resort. I would also seek the closest place outside of that distance which teaches the style to travel to, perhaps two to four times a year, to train in person and to receive first hand feedback.

Otherwise, I am not a big fan of correspondence courses in the martial arts. I suppose that if the student is already an experienced martial artist and the vids are simply putting together techniques that he or she is already familiar with into a specific style, then it would be alright. But for a rank beginner with no idea what he or she is looking at, I'd say that such a course would be the absolute last resort.

Daniel
 

hogstooth

Green Belt
Joined
Aug 5, 2008
Messages
131
Reaction score
7
Location
Cincinnati
I agree that if an advanced student has the foundation in their own art then a book could help them. But this is not a replacement for learning one on one with a qualified instructor. Books can only show so much. If you have a good foundation in the arts then you use it to supplement your training. But I still don't think you could pick up a book and learn from it to the point that you could walk into a school of that art and test for BB based on nothing more than the information you find in a book. Just my opinion.
 

Kacey

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jan 3, 2006
Messages
16,462
Reaction score
227
Location
Denver, CO
Books are great for reference material; they allow motivated students to train independently while still checking their performance - when I first started training outside the dojang, I would practice the wrong moves in patterns... then I discovered a patterns book that listed each pattern move by move - but I also discovered, as I got curious about patterns I hadn't learned yet, that I couldn't learn the patterns solely from the book; there were movements whose names I didn't recognize because I hadn't learned the techniques yet; there were movements in stances that were unfamiliar; there were combination movements I couldn't decipher. Once I knew what the pattern was supposed to look like - sure, I could use the book. Learning them from just the book? No - I was missing the immediate feedback of learning from someone who knew what the moves were meant to look like, how they were performed, how they were applied - it would be as if I learned the alphabet of a foreign language, and believed I could read, write, and speak the language - I would have some idea, but the deeper meanings would be lost, and some things (perhaps most things) would be totally meaningless and inaccessible.

I have the same opinion about videos - both of performance, and as the sole means of evaluating students, as in the correspondence courses mentioned previously. The immediate feedback is too important, as are the explanations; it's too easy to fall into a bad habit, and too hard to get out of it.

For experienced martial artists who want to expand their knowledge or learn something new, and who know how to learn - certainly, books and videos are an invaluable resource. For others - perhaps there are some people out there who can learn solely from books or videos with no prior experience - but I'm not one of them, and the several persons I've met who have tried all signed up for formal classes because it just didn't work for them.
 

clfsean

Senior Master
MT Mentor
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jun 15, 2004
Messages
3,687
Reaction score
400
Location
Metropolitan Tokyo
Pretty much what everybody else said.

1- It's possible if you're familiar with the material from being taught in person to learn from printed or video material. Possible... no guarantee & will need correcting at some point in person.

2- If you're a newbie... absolutely positively no way in hell not.

The foundation for whatever it is, has to be laid by hands on, time in training hall, face to face for correction. Then after 10 or 12 years or so, yeah a person can learn a new set (kata, hyung, kuen, etc..) by the published material. Mind you, this is pertaining to the same style.

If it's new & not related to the existing skill set or dissimilar (Judo vs Tai Chi) ... nah, see #2.
 

still learning

Senior Master
Joined
Nov 8, 2004
Messages
3,749
Reaction score
48
Hello, You can learn alot from books.....just that actual learning is alot better most times!

If books were worthless in training? ....than there would be very few books around.

N0 one can give you all the information...many times reading about it is one of the better ways to get more detail information.

About muscles, breathing, physcial body, meridiam points,etc.. books and pictures? ....are worth alot in any field of training!

DO NOT under estimate the power of books and pictures!

Books will give you one form of learning.....reading about runnning is NOT the same as actual running? ....know the difference!

Any one saw my running book? ....um ran away!

Everyone should form there own martial arts library!

Aloha.....can you read this? ...ah? you are learning!
 

kidswarrior

Senior Master
Joined
Jan 27, 2007
Messages
2,697
Reaction score
152
Location
California
Best way to reply I can think of is an analogy. Resolved: You can't learn football (tennis, baseball, _________) from books and video/DVD.

Young boys, probably can learn enough from watching games on TV to play sandlot ball. We did. (Not really into books yet :uhyeah:)

Roughly middle school age, or playing in first organized teams/games: about the only book is the coach's homemade playbook. And more pro games on TV. Learning football from books/media? Not really.

High school: Players now probably watch some film of other teams. Coaches undoubtedly do so, along with scouting reports, stats, etc., which could be called 'books' in some sense. Now the coaches, at least, are 'learning' football from books and media.

College: Increased film study, scouting, injury reports, who on the opposition you're likely to face (strategy), how to make the right adjustments during the game (change tactics)... In other words, much of the game is played based on what was learned from what others discovered previously. Yet the coach has no *teacher* to try all this out with. Maybe some trusted mentors, but they're all probably busy too. But he has his students, the players, to test the strategy with, to try his tactics out.

Pros: College coaching raised a notch. Much more money involved, so much more at stake, and being professionals and not students, the players have all day to prepare, simulate, practice (be in the dojo), as well as allot as much time as they wish to film study.

Can you learn football from a book/film/watching games? It all depends on what we mean by *learn football*. Sand lot football can be learned by watching TV and playing with friends afterward. Pro football can be further learned by watching others, studying film and playbooks and old games, and trying it out with people of reasonably equal skill. And rumor has it, some college and pro coaches even read books by other, maybe more accomplished coaches. ;)
 
Last edited:
OP
Deaf Smith

Deaf Smith

Master of Arts
Joined
Apr 25, 2008
Messages
1,722
Reaction score
85
and who know how to learn

And that, my folks, is the real secret. Knowing how to learn. There are captians of industry that never entered a class room past the 8th grade. There are ultra-light pilots that simply got the manual and read it (dangerous business doing that), but they knew how to learn and self-taught themselves. How to break it down to simple steps.

We must do more than just learn what is offered. We must learn how to learn. Do that, and anything can be learned. And all those marital arts books can really benefit you!

Deaf
 

tko4u

2nd Black Belt
Joined
Sep 2, 2008
Messages
713
Reaction score
3
Location
Missouri
And that, my folks, is the real secret. Knowing how to learn. There are captians of industry that never entered a class room past the 8th grade. There are ultra-light pilots that simply got the manual and read it (dangerous business doing that), but they knew how to learn and self-taught themselves. How to break it down to simple steps.

We must do more than just learn what is offered. We must learn how to learn. Do that, and anything can be learned. And all those marital arts books can really benefit you!

Deaf


I actually agree with deaf. If you know HOW to learn, dvds and books can be useful.

HOWEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would NEVER proclaim to hold any sort of belt in any martial art that I learned from a dvd or book. I would just use it as a training tool.
 

exile

To him unconquered.
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 7, 2006
Messages
10,665
Reaction score
251
Location
Columbus, Ohio
That's the crucial point. You can get great ideas from what you read... but you still have to work out the consequences in your own practice. Books are sources of ideas. They aren't the same thing as a whole training program; they can contribute to how you think about what you're doing, though, and that can transform the way you approach your art. Rick Clark's 75 Down Blocks and Iain Abernethy's Bunkai Jutsu did that much for me. But in the end, you have to implement a good idea through sweat equity.
 
OP
Deaf Smith

Deaf Smith

Master of Arts
Joined
Apr 25, 2008
Messages
1,722
Reaction score
85
I did not learn computer programming from just books (graduated from college for that one.) But, I'm an ASP.NET progerammer now (among other things) at were I work. How did I learn it? Books! I've never had a class in it. I use Microsoft Visual Web Developer and I got a 'how to learn ASP.NET in 24 hours (more like days guys, not hours!!) And simply did a large project for my company once I played around with it for a while.

Oh, and my liittle sister is the manager of the DP at where she works. She manages servers. She uses SQL. She learned it from just books to!

Learning how to learn (and use common sense) works!

Deaf
 

Latest Discussions

Top