Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 Ridiculous Claims About Home Study Courses - Part 2

Part 1 of this two-part post can be found here.

Continuing on with debunking Michael Hodge's "10 Ridiculous Myths About Home Study Courses"...


A 3 year martial arts training experience at a local martial arts academy costs on average $4,500. That takes into account: $100 a month for tuition, $50 per rank exam, and $300 for equipment. With a home study course, you simply pay a small upfront cost for the program enrollment + training DVDs/manual (only $99 for one of my individual programs); and then a small rank exam fee. This still comes out to less than 1/6 of the total cost of a local training experience. The home study course is actually one of the ‘cheapest’ ways per dollar to earn real rank.

He's right - this is pretty cheap.

You get what you pay for.

A martial arts instructor's time is worth as much as any other highly skilled professional of similar education in their areas of specialty.

LET ME REPEAT THAT:  If a person works his or her butt off for five years to be an assistant instructor (which is common) or ten or more years to reach higher than 1st Degree Black (also common) he's worth as much to you as an accountant, a certified mechanic, or any other skilled professional with a similar amount of education!

$100/month is cheap in many areas, but let's go with that. If you train 50 weeks a year (two weeks off for holiday), three hours a week, that highly skilled professional is getting about $8.00/hour for his services from you, personally.

Eight bucks an hour.

You are paying this highly skilled professional for his/her time and advice, usually tailored to your individual strengths and weaknesses, in every session with him/her.  Heck, assistant instructors might not even get paid, but are teaching as part of their own certification to teach at a later time, and they're giving you all they have too, tailored to YOU.

You are also paying for the room to train (ever train in the park, in the rain or snow or cold or in Texas in July in the early evening?), the mats, the bags and other tools of training (hand targets and what not), plus the marketing the school did to find other students for you to train with.  Some schools even throw in your first uniform, which for a cheap version from Century would cost maybe $25-30 with tax.  Combined, these expenses can run into the thousands (especially for quality bags and mats).

As for the other fees, it's highly dependent upon the art.  BJJ schools don't have a lot of overhead due to the nature of what they do (they don't even use mirrors more often than not), whereas a school with lots of weapons training might.

Heck, our school does not have "testing fees"  - we have a belt fee to cover the cost of the belt, but that's it.  Many schools don't even charge that!  Our weapons cost $20 or so a pair and we use them until they break (my current pair has lasted me two years - we keep them going with electrical tape we keep in our school for everyone to use).  My new Bo cost $80 and it's a true 6 foot Okinawan-style Japanese White Oak, not a fiberglass or aluminium toothpick Bo. My Jo was a similar cost and quality.  Both were ordered via our association so as to keep the costs down.

Finally, one thing that comes with your expenses in a live school is the connections you make there that make you part of a community, where you belong.  With home study you can't have any of that.

So, Mr. Hodge's online courses cost a minimum of $79 per course, and at most, for the whole shebang, $199.

For that cost, you get a DVD made for the masses that they created years ago.  You get criticism at testing time.

That's it, as he himself notes in point #9 below.

He skims over the fact here that you would also need to buy the weapons his courses (Ultimate Bo and Ultimate Chucks) require plus shipping - and I bet you can't get them through him at the instructor's discount Century offers, either, nor are you going to get the discount organizations typically get for ordering in bulk.

(I will address the "three years to Black Belt" thing below.)

This is cheap, and will keep your butt off the floor, right?  Image found here


Yep, his courses are cheap.  Too cheap.  You aren't getting the value for your time and money that you do in a real life martial arts training environment - you are learning things that could hurt you or others. Why are you cheaping out on that instruction?


Okay, so this one is specific to two of my home study programs (Ultimate Bo and Ultimate Chuks). Ultimate Bo is a full curriculum program, in which I combined several types of bo training (such as Okinawan Bo) with more eclectic, modern freestyle bo. This created a full white to black curriculum, and a way to feel real progress for your leveling. Rather than belts, you are awarded ‘chevrons’, which are special patches to signify your rank. Therefore, since these are weapons styles, you earn a ‘black chevron’ (which is the equivalent of a black belt), to display your mastery. Ultimate Chuks is similar, but is based on the recognize style of American Style Nunchaku.

Yep, he can do that.  Anybody can offer a black belt in anything they want.

I think I'll start offering online training through black belt level for "Sinawali".  Any takers?

Ultimate Baton Black Belt, anybody?




Well, I can’t speak for other organizations, but our home study courses require the same amount of time as most local training courses. To earn a black belt rank in our Shotokan Karate program takes 3 years (or could take 2.5-4 depending some certain speed and intensity of training). To earn a black chevron in our weapons program take around 2 years. There is no ‘skipping over levels’, content, or training. In order to earn real rank, real work and training must happen.

This is a huge debate in the martial arts world - length of time to train to black belt.

Three years or less is not uncommon for 1) High intensity training programs (where you train more than a few hours a week), 2) Narrow subject studies (like Kobudo weapons) or 3) McDojos.

A cursory search of Google suggests that anywhere from 3-5 years is typical for Shotokan (and seems the same for a lot of other martial arts, like American Karate TKD, which my daughter holds a black belt rank in).   Many arts take a lot longer - mine tends to be on the longer side as people don't always study it full-time.

But... I see no reason why studying full-time (40+ hours/week) wouldn't get you a black in a year or less in many, if not most, martial arts.


True enough for many martial arts similar to what he is offering.


With our home study courses, there are no association fees, or forced membership of any sort. Also, you are not required to wear a uniform while training or testing (although it can be helpful at times). I do recommend wearing comfortable, exercise oriented clothes; feeling relaxed and ready to move is important. You do not have to buy specific equipment directly from us – although I will recommend equipment from time to time if I believe it will help your home training. For the Shotokan Karate and Total Krav Maga programs, a wavemaster/or hanging bag, gloves, and a mat would be nice. For Ultimate Bo and Chuks, you just need the weapon at hand and really nothing more to train.

Not all martial arts schools require the association fees or membership in an organization.  For example, our school's headmaster is affiliated to A-KATO but we don't, as students, have to join or pay any fees unless we choose to do so. So a live study environment may or may not have this issue.

I am completely unaware that the uniform thing is a big hurdle to training, but whatever.

He is claiming you can gain proficiency in the empty hand martial arts courses (Shotokan and Krav Maga) they offer without having any equipment to actually, you know, hit anything He's presenting these as "optional".  Much like training partners are "optional".

ESPECIALLY in Krav Maga, you cannot learn the art without HITTING THINGS. Preferably with people involved.

I dealt with the expense of his weapons already.  Of course, you can buy the cheapest, flimsiest weapons available. Just don't scrape the floor with those - I saw a toothpick bo's tip snap right off and become unusable by grazing a mat once.  Just like that, it was useless even for twirling and tricking.


True-ish. Yes, you can avoid all those things with home study, but you also avoid a lot of the things that makes training in the martial arts effective and worth studying in the first place!


Ah, this is not actually a myth. If you have the ability to train locally in the art that you wish to learn; I highly recommend doing so. You just can’t beat quality instruction, heart-pumping classes, and the social motivation of a martial arts studio. Many of my home study students are actually students at local academies; but chose to train with me to learn something new. (a large majority of these students are learning Ultimate Bo or Ultimate Chuks because it is not available at their academy). But, for some students, there are no academies nearby (or their schedules don’t mesh), and home study is the right option.

With this claim, Mr. Hodges is now contradicting what he said in his points #1, #2, #4, #5 and #6.  He's now trying to frame it as additional study for people already training live.

For people ALREADY TRAINED, home study can absolutely work in many applications. But he spent an awful lot of time arguing differently in his earlier points.  He's covering all his bases.


True.  I hope an untrained potential student makes it this far, reads this, and decides not to waste his time and money and goes to train with a real life martial arts school instead.


If Mr. Hodges were framing these courses as something aimed at already trained martial artists for additional training, I probably wouldn't give this a second thought.  But he's framed much of this to be attractive to the untrained martial arts novice.

Like all home study course advocates, he glosses over the very real issue of how martial arts newbies can train solo without equipment, without partners, and without correction during training, which I believe are insurmountable.

I believe that this will produce shoddy martial artists who are wasting their time and money.  While Mr. Hodge's courses are not expensive, any potential student would spent their money much more wisely in the long run training live, as Mr. Hodge himself says in his last point.

I know that lots of people out there will disagree with what I've said here.  What do you think?  I'd love to know!