Learning martial arts online

Martial arts practices are by definition physical practices, that we expect to happen in the dojo and with physical contact and feedback. Examples of pioneers having started their learning with books, only to realise they were entirely missing the point are countless examples that one cannot learn martial arts by himself, in isolation, although books and videos have proven to be useful additional resources.

For the longest time, learning martial arts online has been disregarded for this reason, as the online channel was seen as necessarily incomplete and superficial. 

 YouTube is my sensei

Not all physical practices think this way however, and in recent years we’ve seen plethora of online videos and systems to approach Yoga, fitness or calisthenics, many of those having nothing to envy to systems you could find at your nearest gym.

Of course, videos have been around for a long time in martial arts as well: VHS first, then DVDs and now in a digital format on YouTube or specific learning platforms but until now they only remained in the background, as nice supporting tools but extremely rarely as a primary channel. Things changed though as Covid took all of us away from the dojo and to new digital platforms, hence democratising online as a primary channel to teach and learn martial arts.

Why should you train online?

First, let’s get this out of the way, because we don’t really have the choice.
Dojos across the world are closed, and so are borders. Vaccines are coming and we can already see how the situation is going to shift for the better, but vaccinating the entire planet is not something that can happen in just a matter of weeks, and this new normal will have to remain for some part of 2021.

However, not being able to meet in person and train together at the dojo doesn’t mean training has to stop. It is still possible to develop skills by training alone, and to be honest I do believe most of our training should be done alone anyway. When looking at the training regimen of the greatest martial arts adepts, I don’t remember seeing any of them who only trained at the dojo with partners. Repetition of kata, kihon, suburi, body conditioning through tanren, all of these form the base that these adepts developed to build up their skills. There is no such thing as secret techniques, only basics brought to mastery.

Training alone can be daunting. We need ideas, inputs, feedbacks to know we are on the right way. And many of these feedbacks are actually possible via an online channel, as thankfully this pandemic is happening at a time where technology has the potential to bring us closer together. Better yet, technology removes borders and nothing is stopping you now from training with an expert based on the other side of the world, from the comfort of your living room. 

In a way, it has never been easier to learn martial arts.

What do we do online

Technology is not perfect though. As we cannot touch each other, many elements that are essential to our practice are flying into the background and training has to be modified to fit what is actually feasible.

In the Aunkai online sessions I offer, to groups or in a private format, I obviously focus more specifically on solo exercises, but I’m also taking the time to break down some of the basic concepts to make it possible for the students to get a sense of the feeling without getting hands on feedback. Offline or online, our role as instructors remains the same: guiding people so they can figure it out, and giving them the tools so they can work out by themselves, and eventually improve.

If training with a partner is not feasible, alternative options do exist, using weapons, tools, or the walls and ground around us. Our environment brings us more than we need to actually train and improve, if we know how to look at it. That’s where also joining a class online can help you: it will give you new ideas.

Additionally, online sessions allow you to stay motivated by gathering regularly with people, exchanging, getting inputs and answers to questions you might have. Is there anything more we need, really?

And you, are you training online? What are you gaining from it?


The Seishin Tanren Dojo in Hong Kong offers online sessions in Aunkai every Saturday at 4pm Hong Kong time (9am Paris, 7pm Sydney) that are open to all levels, as well as private classes on demand. Don’t hesitate to contact us!


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