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Deciding to Self Train
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Authored by Budd Black, posted on June 7, 2010


Sometimes, due to circumstances you can’t control (money, location, schedules) it is impossible to attend an organized martial arts class. In cases such as these, self training can be used to keep and sometimes even improve your skill level.
If you ask people who the greatest guitar player in the world was, you would get varied results, but someone would inevitably say that it was Jimi Hendrix. Even if you disagree about Jimmy Hendrix being the best, you have to admit that he was very good. Jimi Hendrix taught himself how to play guitar. He picked it up from watching others, picking up occasional tips, and listening to the radio and trying to recreate the sound. Did he learn everything properly? No, in fact because of his use of right handed guitar reverse strung his sound was very unique. So, self training, although not the preferred method, can still be very practical.

Jimi Hendrix-Purple Haze
People learn in different ways. Some people can pick up a book and read about a technique or the concept behind the technique, get up, and then do the technique. Others learn visually. They will need to see the technique performed, but can learn very quickly from watching. Some people can only learn by trial and error or by doing. Of course no one falls completely in one category or the other, but if you are primarily a trial and error type person, self training will be harder for you. 
Thankfully there is an abundance of books and videos available online, in stores, and even on you tube. Finding materials to help you train isn’t the problem so much as discriminating between the good and bad. For every good source there are an equal number of bad ones. As some see martial arts as a quick buck, there are plenty of scam sites out there.

Sounds like Chuck really believes in this one.
You will also need some equipment. You can start out with just your source material and some comfortable workout clothes, but you will eventually need some extra equipment or some help. But I will get to help later. Some additional things you may need are heavy bags, bag gloves, training weapons, mats to train on, and exercise equipment. You can pick up all this stuff over time (if you don’t have it already), and it is still useful when/if you return to an organized class. 
It helps if you have an accountability partner(s). When you attend a class, you likely have friends in that class that you like seeing, the teacher is expecting you in the class, and you paid for the class. These things motivate you to get up and actually go to the class when you maybe don’t feel like it. An accountability partner does the same thing. They are also someone to train with. Someone to hold pads for you, spar with you, or someone that may understand how a certain arm bar is implemented in the book when you can’t figure it out. If you don’t know someone already, you can always post an ad on craigslist. 
There are also distance learning programs where you can get videos/books and you film yourself testing and you can actually promote through self training. These programs are hit or miss, so results may vary. Look for reviews on the company doing these and check the Better Business Bureau before signing up. It usually costs quite a bit to get the first round of tapes and finding out at that point is a costly lesson.

Possible Costly Lesson

Maybe a safer bet
In closing, self training is not the optimal way to learn martial arts. A good teacher is worth their weight in gold. If taking a class with a good teacher is an option, go that route. If not, there is no shame from learning from a DVD or text. Who knows, you may become the Jimi Hendrix of martial arts. 
Next week, find out how to self train

Budd Black's column, Punching Myself in the Face, runs every Monday.


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This article was published on by Budd Black.



  6/7/2010 3:58:11 AM

More is better 
The more partners you have to train with the better. I would recommend having a minimum of two partners, but preferably three (not including yourself). Anything over five starts to become a real class which means someone will have to step up and take charge of lesson plans.

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