• Jackie Bradbury

On Learning By Video

During the Coronavirus pandemic, we're experimenting with video-delivery of martial arts lessons. We're doing live "classes" and we're doing snippets of video where we're leading students through basic solo drills.

Some folks out there might think that this changes my mind on my belief that you can't learn martial arts by video.


Nope, my mind is NOT changed. This is what I still think:


Primary martial arts instruction by video is far, far, FAR inferior to actually training in person with an instructor and/or other students.


I also believe that it's impossible to learn effective techniques to deal with violence - either in a combat sports or in self defense - by video only.


Can you learn and practice individual skill drills? Sure. Can you learn forms? Probably, at least you can learn the basic motions. Can very experienced people learn additional material? Yup.


Hell, I have many teachers that I learn from via what they publish in video, including my primary teacher down in Texas. So it's not like I haven't used the medium to help me out personally.


But as soon as you have to cope with the timing and movements of an actual live person, video instruction fails. It can't deliver that understanding, no matter how good the teacher is.


If you spar or engage in live training of any kind, you quickly learn that people don't move the way you imagine they do. There's no way for video to communicate what that's like.

Training with a teacher and other students also teaches you that everybody doesn't move or think the same way. They'll come up with stuff that you never thought people would or could do. It never even occurs to you until it happens, and then you're all, "OH! That's a thing!"


The reality of martial arts training requires in-person training with other people.


And yet, here I am, doing video lessons for our students here in Kansas City (and soon, folks might be able to see snippets of stuff from our free Meetup too - still working on that one).


Does that make me a hypocrite?


Y'all, this is a temporary measure while we can't get together in person (at least, we shouldn't). We're trying to keep our community engaged and doing what we can during the emergency.


I am not claiming I can or will train up someone to be a "black belt" or expert with the same skill level via video as someone who trains with a teacher in person. Because I can't, and I don't think anyone can.


As soon as the all clear sounds, we'll be back in class, catching up on the parts we can't do by video. There's TONS we can't do by video, especially in a drill-heavy style like mine.


The world is not a binary, all-or-nothing, black-or-white place, and video training CAN have a place in martial arts training, as we're learning now, as a supplement and as reference.


NOT primary instruction.


Look, if you have a video-only student, and a student who trains in class with an instructor and other people, and they fight each other, which one would you bet your house on to win the fight, all things being equal (same size, weight, physical condition, attitude)?

If you said "Video Guy" you're either just being a contrarian or you've been hit in the head one too many times.


OF COURSE you'll bet on Live Training Guy. Because he's going to be a better martial artist overall than Video Guy. Live Training Guy has felt and learned to deal with resistance and Video Guy hasn't, and that gives Live Training Guy the advantage.


We all know this to be true.


But I have a feeling this experience will help us figure out more about what is, and is not, appropriate to deliver via video. We'll start doing more "live" lessons using tools like Facebook and YouTube and Zoom and other tools like that to fill in gaps until we can get together and train.


Video can expand what we do as instructors, but I do not believe it can replace live instruction.


Do you offer or take martial arts instruction via video? What are the pros and cons? Do you think I'm wrong about video instruction as a primary tool? Let us know in the comments!

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