Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Why I'm Against Online Dojos

Technology is an amazing thing, and in many ways, have made the life of a modern martial artist better than ever.

One development that bothers me, though, is the idea that one can learn a complete martial art from scratch via an "online dojo" - which is really just an easier and faster way of learning by book or video or DVD.


So when I say "online dojo" I mean those older methods too.

There's a lot of online dojos out there (and I've written about a specific one here and here).  There are also plenty of people with fraudulent martial arts claims trying to make a quick buck off of the unsuspecting naive (typically) young martial artist.

But there are good and respected martial artists getting on this bandwagon too, and that bothers me a lot more.

Let me state up front that I believe that video can absolutely be helpful to supplement an experienced martial artist's training.  Going to a seminar and then buying a DVD of some of the material covered in depth to watch after is perfectly fine.  Using your teacher's supplemental videos to help you study at home is great, too.

Both of those examples involve live training with other people, though, in something you've been shown live.

I'm talking about the claim that you can learn a martial art, by yourself, never training with another person or a teacher in person in what is being taught, via video.

We see this a lot with weapons, usually performance martial arts.  Usually these are not actually teaching how to use a weapon, it's teaching someone how to do a form holding a weapon, or tricking with it (like bo spinning - which isn't that hard).

Using any weapon without proper supervision of someone who has experience and is trained is incredibly dangerous, including the XMA-style performance martial arts dancing stuff.  All you gotta do is google a weapon and the word "fail" to see numerous examples that people were willing to put online.

So easy when you use the word "nunchucks".

It's no better in the empty hand arts.

My criticism fundamentally boils down to this:

How can a student be certain he or she is practicing the proper stance, the proper footwork, the proper angles, without someone experienced watching over him or her and being corrected?

How do you prevent students from developing very bad habits at home that could hurt themselves or other people?

And finally, if you offer an online dojo program...

Would you ever claim that your online dojo student is as good as the equivalent student who studies with you in person?

If you do (and you see this, and you think I'm full of it)... I'd like to see some proof that an online student IS as good as a student that studies in-person with you.  For example, let's see an example of an online student winning an official sanctioned tournament - but please, for something other than dancing with weapons (which most tournament weapons competitions are), because that's not that hard to do, even without your tutelage.

If you wouldn't make that claim, then  why offer inferior training under your name?  Because these online students believe you are making them as good as your in-person students at a fraction of the cost.  They are YOUR students, in YOUR lineage.

Why water down your legacy like this?

I'd like to know what you think about online dojos (and that includes learning by book, video, DVD...).  Did you learn this way?  What was your experience?  I'd love to know!