Digital Dojo: How the Internet has Changed the Martial Arts World
Are you ready to enter the martial arts matrix?
Last year, COVID-19 forced us all to find new ways of doing familiar things--including teaching and training. While many schools unfortunately died out due to the pandemic, some schools also found new life with unique solutions. One of the popular options that schools found was online training.
Let's kick the elephant out of the room first. Of course online training can never fully replace in-person training in the martial arts world. Thankfully, it also doesn't have to. What many schools found last year was that they could survive, at least temporarily, with video conference tools and virtual sessions. What some of the same schools are finding this year is that they can help their schools thrive as normalcy slowly ebbs back into view and they are now equipped to offer online services as an auxiliary tool.
Nowadays, there are so many different ways martial arts info is spread online. We can indulge in martial art blogs, podcasts, and even online classes hosted by schools many miles away. Even before the pandemic put us all in front of a computer screen, the internet has been dramatically changing the world and how communication is disseminated. Over the years, the internet has become one of the most powerful pieces of equipment in a martial artist's toolbox.
Mind you, powerful doesn't mean perfect. Let's delve into the good and the bad of the martial artist's modern day tool!
PRO: Convenience Is King
Convenience comes with digital information. Like it or loathe it, technology allows you to easily fill up your free time. With that being said, it is up to you whether you allow it to be filled with entertainment or education. Regardless of what your work/life time balance is, it is likely that you still find time to clean the house, travel to work, mow the lawn, or do other mundane daily tasks.
Waxing a car and painting a fence may not equate to advancement in martial art skill (much to Mr. Miyagi's chagrin), however listening to a podcast or historical lesson while doing the aforementioned tasks can lend perspective to what we train. When we aren't able to physically improve, we can still mentally improve. This is where technology can be especially helpful.
Whether you want to listen to an interview with a Xingyi teacher in China or a karate historian living in Japan, you can now do that. If your interest is more in line with analyzing Western boxing or MMA fights, you can now also delve into that with ease.
We now have the ability to improve during mundane moments like never before. The next time you are washing dishes, be sure to pop in Jackson Rudolph's podcast and get ready to put new knowledge in your head!
CON: Trolls, Frauds, and Misinformation (Oh My!)
Similar to the real world, bad information exists in the digital world. Sifting through what can be a digital wasteland of misinformation is similar in many ways to trying to find a good school when all you find are McDojo.
When combing the internet to expand your knowledge, already having some understanding on the subject is extremely beneficial. In a virtual landscape filled with trolls and frauds, even a bit of experience is massively helpful in recognizing what is realistic and what is truly impressive.
Again, the internet can be a powerful auxiliary tool instead of a primary method of learning.
PRO: The Spread of Knowledge
The internet doesn't only give a voice to the misinformed or ill intentioned however. It is also a powerful tool in spreading the words and work of the wise. With something that can connect you to experts many miles away, past or present, you would have to be blind to miss the massive benefit this offers.
Online studying has its own unique benefits. We can peer into the classrooms of each other and now learn what we can collectively do to improve as fighters, teachers, philosophers, and everything in between. A wider spread of knowledge promotes more open routes of communication. In many ways, this avenue of information allows us to break down the barriers between styles and instead build bridges between our knowledge and experiences.
CON: The Reality of Limitations
It is much tougher to grasp proper weight distribution, intention, structural alignment, muscle relaxation/tension, and other important nuances through a device. These can be discussed, however simple discussion about the topics will only take you so far.
From a pedagogical perspective, actually seeing and feeling these minute details is important. Though you aren't able to physically cross hands with a pre-recorded version of sensei, you can still vastly improve theory and understanding however.
Depending on your training, you can benefit from improving your understanding of culture, history, language, and many more "softer" aspects of your system.
Even if you study a system predominantly focused on self protection, studying videos and audio to improve your understanding of criminal psychology, victim mentality, adrenaline dump, the OODA loop, Cooper Color Codes, and other principles can radically improve your training.
PRO: Media Control Mastery
Though it may be difficult to glean certain nuances to a technique in a martial art video, the modern age offers something quite helpful in remedying that to a degree: the ability to pause and rewind.
Whether you missed a wise word from the podcast or couldn't quite perceive what happened when the video was showing how to deal with an oncoming haymaker punch, you haven't missed it forever.
With a recording of a martial arts lesson, you can pause and rewind as often as you need and at any moment.
How to Maximize Your Digital Training
The best advice I could give anybody interested in learning from online training is...open your mind. Go into virtual training sessions and podcasts with a beginner's mind, receptive to new ideas and capable of working through the problems that may come at the onset.
You may not be able to work with a live partner, however you can visualize the scenario you are training for. You may not be able to see every nuance the teacher is doing, however you can pause and rewind recordings to catch the details only briefly shown or said.
Just because you can't do everything with digital training doesn't mean you can't do anything. The small things we do to progress incrementally eventually results in excellence of the highest level. Train hard in the dojo, however don't neglect the digital lessons we can now also take advantage of.
Speaking of which, you can't go wrong with Sammy Smith and Jackson Rudolph's Sport Karate University if you are looking for an online program to help upgrade your training! You can view that program and many other courses here!
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