Dear LH, I'd like to try out some sort of martial art, just for fun. I don't really want to commit to fully-fledged lessons. Is it possible to learn basics using online resources? Thanks, Typical Uni Student
My immediate reaction is to say "no". I'm sure you could get some idea of the moves involved through a video, but I suspect the specifics of mastering them would be better taught face-to-face. And that's without considering the philosophies involved, which are just as important in martial arts as the nifty-looking moves.
Since, however, I have never tried to learn a martial art (and have no interest in doing so), I thought I should ask around. So I put the question to Lifehacker's Facebook and Twitter readers, and got, well, pretty much the same response.
Not everyone dismissed the idea ("You can learn the basics of anything using online resources"). Peter Sibilant argued on Facebook that being online wouldn't be a problem, but that a casual attitude doesn't really work with learning anything:
You can learn anything with online resources and the desire and determination to learn. Like everything it's just a matter of doing — not wishing.
But most people were opposed. Bill Chipman summed up the argument nicely:
As a brown belt in two different martial arts, I can tell you that you can learn some basics online watching videos but you will never be able to truly perform as a martial artist without learning from a master. If you are really interested in learning, find a local school and check it out. Most schools have free trials. You can try it out and decide if the cost of real lessons are worth what you want out of learning martial arts.
Benzies argued that even with experience, it's just not possible to master martial arts without another body to work with:
It's easy to talk about, but in practice it's 100x different. Needs to be 2nd nature, need someone to train with.
Jainesh was blunter:
It's totally like learning how to drive whilst seating in the rear passenger seat.
So I think the message is clear: video is not enough. Signing up for a single or trial lesson shouldn't cost you a fortune, so use video to identify something you like the look of, then head out into the real world. (As ever, if readers disagree, the comment box awaits.)
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