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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

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.

Almost always, the answer will be that you can't effectively train in the martial arts solo (when it isn't, usually it's someone trying to sell some DVD or an online training course themselves).  

To really understand the martial arts, you must work with other people. You cannot imagine how people can and do move, you must see it to understand.

Yours truly, literally 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 several times, so I had to search hard for people to train with several times n the last ten years.

I used Meetup to meet a few people to train several times in different cities, and I started my own Meetup (the Kansas City Presas Arnis Meetup) after I moved to Kansas City.

I know it can be done because I've actually done it.

Look, I know 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. You can't give up searching for a place or people to train.

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... nope, that's not gonna work, sorry.  Nope, you're not different than the rest of us.  You need at least one training partner to work with.

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.

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

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 weird little 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!

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