Can You Learn Martial Arts Self-Defense from Videos

Over the last few years, the UFC has seen a steady rise in popularity which has led to a spike in interest in martial arts and self-defense. One of the most popular ways to learn is through YouTube videos.

man practicing martial arts at sunset

Now, learning isn’t necessarily a problem, but can you really become good at martial arts and/or self-defense from watching a few YouTube videos? Can you learn martial arts without an instructor?

Yes, you can learn self-defense from videos and even practice it – but only up to a point. It’s better to have an instructor who can spot you, and correct your mistakes.

So it is possible – it’s just not the best way to go about learning this type of thing.

How to Learn Martial Arts from a Video

Video Learning isn’t New

Learning from videos isn’t anything new, heck I grew up with the You Can Read series, and various other educational programs. Of course, this was back when the internet was in its infancy.

Things have obviously changed since the 2000s, and kids today have YouTube and many other possible resources from which to educate themselves.

Additionally, there are many martial arts schools and organizations that have a distance learning program or DVD series to give students extra resources.

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The Pros of Video Learning

While there are many drawbacks to video learning, I want to start with the positives.

  1. You can train in the privacy of your own home.
  2. You can go at your own pace.
  3. Straight-to-the-point training.

The most obvious benefit is that you can do it in the comfort of your own home. Look, the fear of looking like a fool is very real, and if you’re at home you can train and make mistakes without that fear of being laughed at.

You can also go at your own pace. The fear of being a laughingstock is one thing, but some students are also scared of being left behind.

What do I mean by that? Well, you want to do well, and keep pace with the other students – this is true for newbies and veterans alike.

This means that you, as the student, may feel pressure to keep pace with the others even if you’ve never trained before.

The problem with that is that you’re ignoring a crucial fact: the men and women that you’re joining have been training for a while, and so they’ve got more experience with the curriculum and know what they’re doing.

With that in mind, being able to slow things down and work in segments until you’re comfortable moving on is a huge deal.

Video learning also tends to get straight to the point – most of the time. You turn the video on, and the instructor says: “Today we’re going to learn to do <insert technique here>” and that’s exactly what happens.

You get a tutorial video that’s about 5 – 10 minutes long that tells you exactly what you want to know.

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The Cons of Video Learning

The biggest issues with video learning are:

  1. It removes the practical side of learning.
  2. It tends to make things look easier than they are.

You’re not training with other students, so you don’t get practical sparring experience. Likewise, you don’t have people there who can spot you and correct any problems with your stances and execution.

This means that you could end up making mistakes, and potentially injuring yourself in the process.

The other problem with learning from videos is that they tend to make things look much easier than they actually are. Whenever you watch a video it’s easy to forget that the people giving these tutorials have been training for YEARS!

They’ve been beaten up in sparring regularly, they’ve lost their balance and fallen over frequently, and gotten up often enough to get to their current level.

Free Video Courses vs. Paid Courses: Videos as Training Aids

One reason you may want to learn martial arts or self-defense from videos is that you can get plenty of free content – thanks YouTube – that can help you.

The sad reality of martial arts training is that it is often very expensive, and not everyone can afford it. Still, in my experience, it’s better to have an instructor available to correct any mistakes and use videos as a training aid.

It’s better to invest at least some money to get some in-depth training rather than relying on piecemeal tutorials that only give you a little bit of information.

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So, the Final Answer Is…

The final answer is: “Yes, sort of.”

Learning from videos or without an instructor is possible – it’s just not the best way to go about learning. Nothing beats proper, in-person, hands-on training.

With that said, if you can’t get to a training center and videos are the only way you can train, then go for it, and remember that you must practice what you’re seeing to get it right and get the most out of that video.

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