QA: Can You Learn Martial Arts from Media?

I’m in the Military and as such I’m on the move alot and don’t really have the time to try and track down a local teacher of anything I’d like to learn (Mostly internals like Baguazhang). And I have seen, again and again, places and sites selling books and videos on how to learn styles. Now, I’ve always thought that in order to learn how to do the basics, such as stances and correct movements, one would HAVE to have a flesh-and-blood teacher.

My question: Am I wrong, or would books/videos be able to give the proper grounding without me ending up doing the entire thing incorrectly without knowing?

Thank you kindly for your time and I look forward to your reply,



Dear RB,
We learn concerts by Mozart and mathematics enough to build bridges, all by book. I definitely believe one can get a good grounding from “book learnin’ ” but there are a few approaches that might help:

1. At least get your hands on someone to talk to, ask a few questions. The more you practice, right or wrong, the more prepared you will be for those precious moments when someone has something real to tell you.

2. Don’t pay very much attention to youtube, bulletin boards and such founts of misinformation.

3. Don’t strain much. There’s a lot that can be learned just be trying to be natural, unhurried and persistent.

4. Use your military thinking brain, the internal styles are for strategists as well as tacticians. Chinese martial arts, even more than Japanese, addresses body management and decision making. Always practice like you could change things in an instant, because as you get better it will probably be to your advantage not having “locked into” any certain shape or movement.

5. Read a little, just a little, about the ideas and beliefs herein. Just a taste can help direct your practice greatly…

I hope this helps.
Thank you for your service for our protection and well wishes,
Ted Mancuso

2 Responses to “QA: Can You Learn Martial Arts from Media?”

  1. Jeff says:

    I certainly hope it’s possible, as I am currently training in kobudo via a video course. The advantage is that I also demonstrate by video and receive correction and direction from the instructor.

    A friend of mine began learning through videos and books. Eventually he made a connection, through a language teacher, with a teacher in China. He goes to China a couple of times a year for one- or two-week intensive training seminars.

  2. Gordon says:

    Some years ago I attempted to get my instructor to put some of the forms he considered basic onto video. After getting lukewarm responses for a few years, I asked him more directly, and he responded thus:

    Just think-once we get the form perfectly recorded on dvd, it can sit on the shelf, and the students and possibly instructors will not feel much of a need to go into their living rooms or back yards and practice it.

    I got the point. That said, looking at materials similar to the ones I have studied provide me with different perspectives on what I thought I knew. Others I sample to see how other styles address movement and express energy.

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