Can you really learn to defend yourself by training online?

Since many gyms and training facilities across the globe have closed during the past year, a lot of people have turned to online training. As a result, the effectiveness of training at home or by yourself has become a much debated subject in self defense and martial arts circles.

What does it take to become a good fighter?

In any competitive sport, even professional athletes don’t win 100% of the time. Fighters work hard to increase their chances of winning by training and practicing regularly.

The 3 core areas of training in both self defense and martial arts are:

  • Technique
  • Conditioning
  • Mindset

Training technique involve executing movement patterns in a specific way while developing reflexes and movement coordination.

Conditioning for fighters most commonly involves functional strength, mobility, explosiveness, speed, and lots of cardio training.

Mental training is about training focus, being present in the moment both physically and mentally, preparing the mind to understand and support the body as necessary under extreme pressure, learning to be resilient, and to swiftly adapt as needed.

Online training

All these three can be trained, practiced and improved while training at home with or without a partner.

You will get better by practicing and repeating the techniques. You will improve your movement coordination, especially if you train in front of a mirror where you can check and compare your movement with your training material. You develop muscle memory and the ability to effectively execute the trained movement patterns.

You will get stronger by training and conditioning at home. You will also improve your mobility, explosiveness, speed and cardio by following a training program at home.

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You will improve your mental resilience during the online training sessions by focusing on being present in your body, by training your mind to reduce distractions, by fighting through the discomfort and conquering your feelings of giving up and pushing on even when it is hard.

All these combined will benefit you and help you get closer to your goal of becoming better at self defense, fighting or martial arts as well as boosting your mental and physical health.

The History of Self-Training in Martial Arts

Before the mainstream use of the internet, before DVDs and VHS, when air travel didn’t exist and commuting between countries and even cities were not so simple like today, seeing a high level trainer or a martial arts master was not easily accessible. In fact it was often a scarce experience.

When a traveling master visited a town or a committed student decided to embark on a journey to meet a teacher they trained and practiced together without recording a video of it. Not everyone was skilled at sketching and even if they were it’s hard to capture the details of the technique in drawing. Instead they memorized the movement patterns by repeatedly practicing fight choreography.

As the master left or the student returned home, the trainee continued practicing the learnt patterns frequently, so that he or she would not forget them. They had passed it on to their household members and taught them to their peers to keep the knowledge alive.

This is how “forms”, also known as Kata in oriental martial arts, was born. It was the way to preserve successful combat techniques and it became an integral part of most martial art disciplines. It is not unique to the oriental fighting styles. Even in modern contact sports, such as boxing or kickboxing, “shadow fighting” is an integral part of the training program and I am sure you have also seen pictures or videos of soldiers training combat techniques in large numbers individually without a partner.

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Reality Check

Regardless of the historical origins or adhering to traditions, most martial arts and modern fighting systems leverage self training and consider it beneficial for the learners’ development, including modern military training programs.

You will most certainly not going to become a professional level fighter or an elite athlete just by training at home and practicing by yourself. BUT you will most certainly get better, increase your ability and your chance of success. Especially when other training options are not available, having a program that you can follow, creating good habits and maintaining a regular schedule to train is highly beneficial and it will serve you well in the long run.

The above is even more so true at a beginner level as you first need to learn to gain control over your body and master the fundamentals of your chosen discipline before you can progress on to more complex techniques at higher levels. At this stage of your development, training online is massively beneficial for your growth and I strongly encourage you to get started, if you haven’t already, and keep practicing.

Photo: Jeff Klugiewicz from Pixabay


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