One of the primary reasons you might want to train yourself in martial arts is money. After all, why would you want to pay someone for information you can find on your own? There are other reasons, too; not a social person, too many bad teachers out there, etc. The excuses are endless.
Prepare Yourself for a Fight
Martial arts is a skill that takes years of practice, research and honing. There is no fast way to gain the level of skill that will gain you any kind of reasonable effectiveness. But… let’s suppose you are prepared for that and are determined to train yourself anyway.
It’s time to ask yourself some pretty serious and insightful
- Why do you want to train? There are any number of answers to this question and they are all valid. The key here is to be honest with yourself. It serves you no positive purpose to lie to yourself; saying, “I want to learn how to defend myself.” Honestly… that’s that the WRONG reason to train. It’s wrong because the image that comes to the minds of most people when the concept of “defending yourself” comes up is an inaccurate picture of what martial arts is all about.
- Where are you going to get the knowledge from? Are you going to copy what you see on TV? Are you going to read a book or follow a DVD? Are you going to join an online training course? Do you really think that by getting knowledge from an outside source is training yourself?
- What are you going to use your newly developed martial skills for? This might seem like the first question, but it’s not. People use martial arts for only four (4) purposes:
- Personal protection – This is actually the hardest to train for because street-level protection is dynamic and the world is your opponent; with multiple levels of skill and no rules.
- Combat sports – There are clearly defined rules for every type of martial sport. Learning them all would be a waste of time so you will need to do your research and figure out if you want to get involved in MMA, boxing, wrestling or Olympic martial events.
- Health/Self improvement – Always a good use of martial arts and by far the easiest to learn and practice because you are not required to learn the practical application of the movements you are performing. Yes, the traditional martial arts are practical, but a LOT of the instructors only teach you the movements; not the meaning behind them.
- Battlefield survival – Military, law enforcement, security and other professional jobs that are potentially dangerous require the knowledge of some form of martial skills.
- Are you wanting to learn weapons as well? That brings the question, “Are you prepared for the cuts, bruises and possible broken bones that come with that type of training?” If you are not training under the careful guidance of an instructor, you will experience more of these than if you were. The instructor is not only there to teach you how to do something, but also to make sure you are doing it safely.
- Do you have a good lawyer? Eventually, you will need a training partner. There are simply some aspects of martial arts you cannot do by yourself. If you are not training under a qualified instructor’s guidance, you are bound to make some mistakes that might wind up in a different kind of battlefield; the courthouse. If you don’t have the control that comes from formal training, breaking someone else’s bones during a practice session has a real chance of winding up as a law suit. On top of that, you just lost your training partner because they won’t want to work with you any more.
- Do you have a realistic time frame to become proficient? If the answer to that question is anywhere near, “Yes, I expect to be proficient in six (6) months” then that is NOT realistic. You would have to put in fifty (50) to sixty (60) hours a week of constant training alone in order to achieve that goal. That does not include pressure testing, sparring and coming up with new things to train. Trust me, no one is going to pay you to teach yourself, so how are you going to make a living while you do this? Plan on spending at LEAST five (5) years just learning the techniques and a lifetime perfecting them.
Equip Yourself for Success
Ok, you have some to grips with the fact that the knowledge is going to have to come from somewhere outside yourself; but where? What books, DVD’s or other source material are you going to use? Finding the right materials for your intended use will require research and a lot of thought. Do you have training equipment? At the very least, you are going to need a training area and tools you can use to train with. Depending on what you are training for, the tools will vary but the many systems advise to use mats or at least a cushioned surface to train on. Martial artists fall…. a LOT. They get thrown, roll out
of traps, etc. It’s always easier to train to fall and roll if you have the surface to do it on.
If you are doing this by yourself, you are going to need something to practice on. The Mook Jong (Wooden Dummy) or something similar is the most useful for this purpose because it gives you a surface to contact with as you practice your blocks and strikes.
If you are going to practice grappling or ground work (they are different things), you will want a grappling dummy of some sort. Even if you have a training partner, they will not always be available for you when you want/need to practice.
Do you want to learn weapons? You have two options for this. It just requires you to decide if you want to learn with the real thing or should you have a practice tool for the purpose of training? Either way, you are going to need to purchase the weapon you want to train with. If you want a training weapon, padded or blunted weapons are available for almost every kind of martial weapon in existence or you can make your own if you have that skill. Either way, you will want the real thing too because what is he purpose of training with a weapon if you don’t intend to carry/use it?
Blind Leading the Blind
Ok, you are ready to train. You have your source material, you know how you want to use your skills, you have the training tools and you are ready to train. You get some solo time in and you want to test your new skills against a living opponent. It’s time for a training partner.
If that partner has even a little experience in martial arts, they are less a partner and more of an instructor because they have knowledge you don’t and you are no longer training yourself. They are training you. That means partnering up with someone who knows nothing about martial arts.
How long do think it is going to take to get them to do what you need or control themselves to the level you need so neither of you get hurt? How long do you think you are going to keep this person’s attention and keep training with you? They haven’t chosen to train previously. What makes you think they are going to keep up with it as you make your mistakes and accidentally wind up striking, throwing, torquing their limbs or squeezing them too hard?
Fear is Not an Option
There is one and only one reason to practice martial arts if you reduce it to its simplest parts; to defeat fear. This could be the fear of social encounters, the fear of walking in your neighborhood, the fear or hitting/getting hit. Whatever that fear is, you want to learn how to manage or remove it.
To do this, you are going to have to put yourself in worse positions than the what the source of your fear provides, but still related to that fear. If you are afraid of getting hit, you will need to desensitize yourself by getting hit repeatedly. If you are afraid of social encounters, you will need to put yourself in large crowds
where you have to interact with the public.
Training in anything is the process of convincing yourself that you can accomplish whatever task you set your mind to. A master carpenter builds thousands of things out of wood. A master plumber knows has assembled every type of pipe fitting there is. They got started by defeating the fear of doing the job. Martial arts is no different.
Are you afraid you will look silly in public? Go practice in a busy park. Are you uncomfortable following orders? Go find an instructor. What ever it is that you’re afraid of, force yourself to face it. That doesn’t mean that if you are afraid of getting robbed or raped that you need to go get attacked. It means you have
to simulate those events so you can learn that you have the ability to remain in control if the real-life event occurs.
You Did It For Yourself, Not By Yourself
Congratulations! You have the knowledge of martial arts and you are effective and efficient. How did you get there? Where did you get the knowledge from; a book, DVD, movie or instructor? Let’s face it. If you could have come up with the knowledge on your own before, you would have already done it and you probably would not be reading this article.
The truth of the matter is, a martial arts instructor gives you training material and then it is up to you to practice on your own. A few hours per week is not enough to get proficient in any respectable amount of time. The instructor gives you the information and allows you to perform the movement so they know you are doing it correctly and safely. If you do not go home and practice what you have learned repeatedly, the next training session is just going to be a repeat of the same material until you show proficiency in that technique. That type of mentality is a practice in monotony and a waste of time for you and the instructor.
Having an instructor of any form – book, movie, DVD, online classes or martial school – is a source of training material; nothing more. When people want to learn martial arts and train themselves, they don’t realize that the training has to come from somewhere other than yourself.
On that note, I’m open for comments and questions. There is a messenger button on the right and a comment box below. Feel free to use them as long as your questions are sincere and your comments are non-abrasive. Be prepared for the truth when I give a reply.