Monday, January 30, 2017

One is the Loneliest Martial Arts Number

It's very common, in online martial arts communities, for there to be someone asking for advice about training solo and seeking online resources for assistance.

Invariably, the answer will be that you can't effectively train in the martial arts solo.  That to really understand what we do, you must work with other people (you cannot imagine how people can and do move, you must see it to understand).

Yours truly (left) getting schooled.

The excuse for solo training is usually that the individual in question can't find anybody to train him or her nearby, or, that they don't have enough money to train.  We experienced martial artists - especially those of us who have moved around (like I have) know that there's plenty of ways to train legitimately with people in real life that don't cost an arm and a leg, and it's the rare place (even small towns) that doesn't have someone offering training or that you can find to work with informally.

I know what you're thinking, Mr. Solo Training Guy.  I don't know how hard it is to find people to train with.  I would point out that I did start in a commercial school initially but I moved cross-country a couple of times to places my training partners in Mississippi did not have connections to, so I had to search hard for people to train with. Heck, I trained in tai chi in Las Vegas for free, in the park near my house at the time via Meetup,com at one point.  So I know it can be done because I've actually done it.

It sucks that a lot of good and great martial artists and training groups suck at the internet, so they can be hard to find.  I do feel your pain.

My advice is to KEEP TRYING.

By the way, the other solo training excuse I see a lot is that they "don't have the time" to get with other people to train.

Yeeeeeaaahhh... no.

And that's all I have to say about that one.

I know I've said it before, and I'll say it again now, and I know I'll be saying it in the future.

Solo training is NOT the way to train as the primary way to learn martial arts.

Solo training - practice, of course - and video instruction as a supplement to live training is absolutely useful. I totally agree there.   But to train solo, all the time... I don't think you can ever be as good as someone training with other people.

The big tragedy, though, to solo training, is not the fact that you can't be as good as live trained people, all things being equal.

A very real, but usually underappreciated, consequence is the loneliness and the lack of community that solo training brings.

Generally speaking, outside of "Oh, that person is a martial artist" and all of the attendant misconceptions people have about our weird little hobby (hands as registered weapons with the cops, chop-socky hands, "I bet you could kick my ass", etc.) - nobody really cares about what we do.

I know, it's hard to believe, but nope, the normals really don't care about the interpretations of that kata you're working on, or a deep analysis of that last UFC fight, or that latest insight on how you might use a weapon in a specific situation.

Dr. Cox is a normal.

So it's a relief when you get together with like minded people and can share in the community that a common interest brings.

You are part of a community, a tribe!  Just because you like to nerd out on Bassai or you really want to understand how swords work or you want to try to stab your friends with sticks.

That's all that's generally required to belong.  I think that's pretty neat.

A few other benefits of training with other people is that you get to explore ideas you can't figure out by yourself, you get to get exposed to viewpoints that are different than yours, and you get your assumptions challenged.  It not only makes you grow as an individual martial artist, you also get that warm sense of community that such interactions bring.

I can tell you that the very best training experiences I've ever had were ones where I felt accepted as part of a community.  Nothing - and I mean nothing - beats that feeling.  I'm a relatively extroverted person who doesn't have much trouble in social situations, mind you, but I've seen introverted people who struggle with social awkwardness come alive in these training situations.

It's a kind of happiness you can't get training by yourself.

If you're training solo, I advise you to work hard on seeking out live, in-person training partners.  If you're reading this, you're probably not in the Alaskan Bush or Antarctica or something, so I bet if you put yourself out there, you'll find other members of this hobby looking for people just like you.

Martial arts training should not be a lonely endeavor.

How do you connect with your martial arts tribe?  How do you think working with other people helps you?  Or do you think that solo training is not only okay, but preferable?  I want to know what YOU think!