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Distance learning


Distance learning is a term used to describe the different types of non-traditional learning methods. The traditional learning method is attending on-campus classes in a classroom, lab, etc. Many colleges have distance learning programs that have been successful. These include:
  • Satellite campuses
  • Off-site classes
  • Online classes
  • Instructional videos
  • Cable television
  • Correspondence courses

As applied to martial arts

Some martial arts programs try to achieve the same success. However, most college classes only deal with knowledge, not physical skills. You can’t learn to play soccer online; you can learn the rules but you must play to develop your soccer skills. You can learn about the martial arts online, on videos, or in books, but you cannot develop the skills needed without being in a class environment with a certified instructor or one-on-one with a certified instructor to tell you what you are doing wrong.

Anything is better than nothing, but something things are only slightly better than nothing. When it comes to distance martial arts learning, it is slightly better than nothing.

Even when you are a martial arts expert with many years of training, if you do not have another independent, impartial instructor watching you and pointing out your mistakes, you will develop bad habits and sometimes even get completely off track. I once practiced hours on a pattern for a tournament, went to the tournament, and performed it perfectly, just as I had practiced, only to find I had changed a move at some point in my practice and then had kept practicing it that way.

Many taekwondo organizations use the traditional ITF chang-hon pattern set, but some have minor differences in the movements in some patterns. One organization with which I was once affiliated has a step left out of the Won-hyo pattern. Maybe this is because the founders of the organization either learned it this way from someone who had forgotten the step or they themselves simply forgot the step. Either way, it appears they have practiced it this way for so long that they see no reason to change it.

Distance learning is an excellent way to increase your knowledge, double check movements in a pattern or learn about new techniques or combinations. However, it does not help you perfect techniques or increase your skills. There is no substitute for traditional learning. However, there are times when distance learning may be your only choice, such as:
  • You have been studying a style for a long time and then move to an area that does not have any schools that teach your style.
  • You live in or move to a remote area where there are little to no choices of styles or schools.
  • You want to try a different style but find limited choices in your area.
  • You do a lot of business travel and need a way to keep up with your learning and training while away.

Traveling to training

Sometimes a student trains on his or her own in a style in which he or she has had traditional training but which is not offered where the student currently lives. The student can use distance learning training material to train at home but periodically travel to a different area to train with a previous instructor or with another cooperative instructor. In one or more intense training sessions, the instructor observes and corrects problems, which allows the student keep training and testing for rank even when the style it is not offered in his or her area.

Depending on the distances involved, the cost of travel may be prohibitive. If the student is not able to visit frequently enough, the visits may not be productive. Also, current students of the instructor may consider the student an undeserving outsider.

Video instruction

Some styles teach exclusively via videos. You purchase a video and written material, practice the material, make a video of yourself performing the material, and then send the video to the organization office for review of your performance and feedback. You are promoted by sending a testing video of yourself. With the latest digital video technology and the internet, it is possible for an instructor to evaluate the progress of students in real time. The video method saves travel time but requires expensive video equipment and other technologies.

Unless the instructor knows the student personally, it is easy for a person to send videos of another person performing the material. In addition, training and performing self-defense and fighting techniques without experienced training partners are not only ineffective, they are counterproductive.

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