Not everyone has the time (or the will) to practice some form of martial arts at the gym.
That often raises the question of can you learn martial arts online by yourself?
Martial arts can be learned at home, but to a significantly lesser extent than training in a gym. Learning some moves and techniques by watching online videos and practicing those skills on the punching bag is possible. What learning martial arts online lacks are the elements of sparring like defense and distance management.
Of course, martial arts training at home cannot be compared to training in a dojo, but that isn’t the part everyone cares about.
The important part is whether it is worth it to try at home or not, and this is what I will be dissecting in this article. If you are interested in the potential benefits and the drawbacks of training martial arts at home, read on!
Benefits of Learning Martial Arts Online
First, let’s talk about the positive aspects of training martial arts online since surprisingly, there are quite a couple of them.
Train from a Comfort of Your Home
Many people do like to go to the gym and train, but in times like these, it is an incredible benefit that you are able to do something as productive and enjoyable from home as training in some martial art.
The social pressure that some people might feel when in a gym or dojo, and which also sometimes holds people back from actually training, is completely gone in a home-setting too.
Nobody is watching you, judging you, and you have all the room and time in the world to be clumsy or to fail, as many times as you need to.
Rewatch Moves and Techniques
You can watch certain specific techniques and training videos again, countless times.
If you are unsure about the idea behind a technique, you often wouldn’t ask the instructor, since you wouldn’t want to bother them.
However, at home, if you are learning a punch but don’t quite remember how to start throwing it, simply rewind to that point and watch it over and over again.
It is very likely though, that in order to substitute a training partner or the environment in a gym, you would need to invest in a punching bag since it can provide the resistance you need to develop your punches and not just shadow box all the time.
The bottom line when it comes to the positive aspects of training online is that, though it does have some drawbacks I will discuss later in the article, it is still much, much better than not doing anything at all.
If all you do is practice two basic techniques over and over at home, you will still be ahead compared to the person who does nothing, and you will have probably enjoyed it.
Downsides of Learning Martial Arts Online
As it has its benefits, training at home also has some major drawbacks. In this section of the article, I will outline some of the most important ones.
Lack of a Training Partner and an Instructor
One of the most important downsides of training online is the lack of a training partner and an instructor. This webs out into a series of drawbacks, which I will elaborate on.
The first, arguably most noticeable difference between training online and training with a partner is the lack of sparring in a home-environment.
Martial arts were invented for combat, for people to fight other people using the techniques, and the pressure-testing that sparring provides is crucial to develop a practical skillset that can be used in an actual self-defense scenario.
Lack of Social Aspect
Another drawback of not having these people around you is the social aspect.
Although many people, if not most, would probably have a mild fear or excitement when stepping into the gym for the first time, over weeks and months and possibly years of training, it becomes a second home, and training partners often become incredible friends.
This cannot be achieved online.
Some other issues are more technical, nevertheless really crucial. They still do, however, stem from the lack of a training partner.
You Won’t Develop Distance Management
One of these issues is that the sense of range and distance doesn’t develop.
When fighting an opponent on the street or in the ring, one of the main things to focus on is the distance between the two of you, which you can’t practice alone.
Absence of Defense Training
Another crucial effect would be the absence of defense training.
Without an opponent, one would never have to defend strikes, and even if the techniques in their “kata” form or “shadow boxing” form were perfectly learned by an individual, there is no guarantee whatsoever that the technique could be used in a real combat scenario, or even in a sparring match.
The resistance, strikes, the dynamics that come with training in teams are irreplaceable by online videos, may they be from the best instructors and masters on the planet.
This, however, doesn’t mean training online is not a worthwhile hobby.
Best Martial Arts to Learn Online
So, say you have decided to start training on your own, you even perhaps have a punching bag or some sort of dummy as your “opponent”, and you are now looking for the specific art you would want to start training.
In short, the best martial arts to train online are the ones that don’t require a partner.
Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, Krav Maga, and other similar martial arts which don’t have techniques that one can practice alone are off the table.
Karate is a great option, for example.
Countless videos and tutorials allow you to go really deep into the philosophy or a specific technique or stance, and you can practice them without necessarily needing a partner (like kata training, for example).
If you would like to learn Karate, or just improve your existing skills, the course I highly recommend is the one by Lyoto Machida, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion:
Boxing and Kickboxing
Another Western alternative is boxing and/or kickboxing.
They can also be practiced alone, but just as with karate, a heavy bag or some punching dummy would be great, since it can substitute a sparring partner in some minor yet important ways.
Of course, these martial arts are a lot better if trained with a sparring partner, but they can be trained alone as well, which is the important part and unfortunately cannot be said about many other martial arts.
If you want to train boxing, you can even get reasonably good at it on your own with enough dedication and a bag, except that you won’t learn much about range and blocking.
Strikes, endurance, power, and other elements of your martial arts prowess can be greatly improved alone, and this is nearly the same in kickboxing and karate as well.
Muay Thai could also be a great idea, but there are quite a lot of clinches and even throws in it, and if you take those out, you are left with something really similar to kickboxing.
If you would like to learn the basics of striking, or just improve your existing striking skills, the course I highly recommend is the one by Anderson Silva, one of the greatest strikers in MMA history:
The Bottom Line
In the end, it is up to everyone to determine for themselves after weighing the pros and cons, whether given action or activity suits them or not.
However, I do believe that a final verdict can be made when it comes to this topic, and it can help you decide what suits you best when it comes to training.
The bottom line is that martial arts can be trained and learned at home, but to a significantly lesser extent, in a different way, and with some extra equipment.
Heavy bags, speed bags, or dummy bags might be necessary if you want to bring out whatever is possible from your online training experience.
Martial arts like boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, perhaps Taekwondo, and some more striking-based martial arts can indeed be learned at home since they are the ones that don’t explicitly require a training partner and can be trained alone to some extent.
This makes these martial arts some of the best options for training at home, but it still doesn’t mean your expectations should be as high as with training in the gym, since a month in the gym is worth at least six months online, if not more.
Since you are missing out on some of the most crucial elements of martial arts training (sparring, blocking, distance, pressure-testing), your art will not be as useful, and it will also require you to invest in a bag of some sort as a form of compensation.
If you believe you have the discipline, self-control, and the will to practice and learn martial art online in the comfort of your home, by all means, do so!