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Ever wonderer whether you could learn martial arts at home, without going to the gym? If you have, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s article, we are going to tell you whether that’s possible and if it is – how you can do it and which martial arts your best pick to learn at home. So, keep reading for more information on learning martial arts at home, since we are going go bring you a complete guide – from the initial steps to the final elements – so that you can compare it with actual training sessions and decide on your own.
What Are Martial Arts?
The term “martial art”, according to Wikipedia, encompasses a large number of codified systems and traditions practised for different reasons. The term itself is a reference to the Ancient Roman god of war Mars, with the Latin phrase (artes martiales) literally meaning “arts of Mars”. Today, the term is mostly associated with Oriental arts, but interestingly enough, it was first used to describe European fighting styles as early as the 1550s.
As the name suggests, martial arts are a form of art. They are a very specific set of skills that can be applied to a lot of aspects of our lives, not just combat. These aspects include, but are not limited to self- defence, military and law enforcement, spiritual, as well as physical and mental development, life philosophies and the preservation of one’s cultural and historical heritage.
Martial arts are usually very old and have long-lasting traditions. The system of a martial art is built throughout centuries, with newer practitioners upgrading and enriching the firmly founded traditions and philosophies. A martial art can have several different schools of thought; each school teaches the same art, the fundamentals, but has a different approach to some aspects.
Such an approach to martial arts and the fact that most modern martial arts come from East Asia, enabled these styles to be intertwined with philosophy, which is why most martial arts have a transcendental part of the teaching, along with the practical one. Martial arts can be divided based on several criteria.
The simplest distinction is between traditional (or historical) martial arts (such as folk wrestling) and modern martial arts (such as hybrid martial arts). This distinction follows the historical development and shows when a particular martial art was established. It is overly simplistic and doesn’t reveal much about the essential aspects of each art.
The second – and more precise – distinction is based on the technical focus of the martial art. Here, we can divide them into unarmed and armed martial arts; this distinction isn’t firm, as some unarmed martial arts have armed techniques and vice versa, but it is made based on the focus of each martial art’s teachings. Unarmed arts are further divided by the predominating type of combat into striking- (p.e. karate, taekwondo, Muay Thai) and grappling-based arts (p.e. judo, wrestling).
They can also be distinguished as stand-up and ground fighting arts. Armed martial arts are, of course, further divided based on the type of weapon used. Most of them use a wide variety of melee weapons and can thus be considered as mixed, but some one-weapon martial arts are also included in this category, such as the Japanese art of kendo.
A third distinction is based on the intent or application of the martial arts. Here, we can distinguish combat-oriented martial arts (whose main focus is contact fighting), health-oriented martial arts (whose main focus is based on combining Asian medicine and martial arts techniques) and spirituality-oriented martial arts (whose main focus lies on developing the practitioner’s spiritual qualities). There is also a fourth distinction, but it is not as widespread; in the Chinese tradition of martial arts, they can be divided into external and internal, which is something we’ve already discussed in a [previous article].
So, to conclude, martial arts are defined by their complexity. They have a much wider scope of possible applications and are not primarily combat-oriented (some do not have combat elements at all!) and it is exactly that, the profoundness and the philosophical foundations, that makes them so special and unique.
Can You Teach Yourself Martial Arts at Home?
The simple answer to this question is – yes, you can! But, as it often is, the simplest answer is not always the most precise one. Namely, on a general level, you can certainly learn some martials from home and usually up to some degree.
Since martial arts usually involve combat, you will have a hard time mastering that aspect without a sparring partner who – like you – knows the elements of that martial art (you might find an amateur, but it’s debateable how useful that would be for you). So, yeah, you can teach yourself some of the moves and techniques, but it is debateable whether such training is really efficient.
There are a lot of online courses you can follow and learn from, but you will have several issues while working like that. For starters, you will have no one to correct you. Although online courses are good, martial arts often have very small, precise and very significant elements which you might miss while following an online course and you have no one to correct you. While working with a master directly, he can easily monitor you, follow you and correct you where needed.
The second issue you might have is that there is no direct motivation and psychological “pressure” that usually comes when working in a group. If you work at home, you can take your own tempo, you can slack off and rest as much as you want and you don’t have to uphold a tight schedule.
Plus, there’s no one there to see you and there’s no one there to motivate you to be better. Group sessions have a fixed schedule, you have the instructor who motivates you and you want to be better than the rest of the group. Although this is merely a psychological thing, it can be very important when considering training at home.
The third issue relates to sparring and combat. In order to master a martial art, you need to know how to apply what you have learned in a real-life situation or organised combat. Since you train at home, you don’t have a partner to spar with and you can never fully master this aspect. Certainly, you might be able to find a sparring partner, but he should be on – at least – the same level as you, if not better, because it doesn’t make any sense to do it otherwise.
So, to conclude – you can teach yourself martial arts at home, but it is never as effective as doing it in a gym. You might learn the moves and the techniques, but you will never fully master them and it is questionable how effectively you’ll be able to apply them in a real-life situation.
So, if you just want to work out and learn something new in the process, you can do it at home, but if you want to be a professional or a master, then you will have to visit a gym and start proper training.
Training at Home as Supplementary Exercise
There is one aspect where training at home is pretty efficient – as an addition to regular training. Unless you’re a licenced professional, you will probably not have training sessions on a daily basis, but rather several times a week. So, while you practice regularly in the gym, practicing at home could be very useful to increase your fitness, your endurance and to potentially perfect some things you practiced in the gym.
So, as a supplementary method of training and exercise, home sessions are good, but they should never be your primary source of martial arts knowledge.
The Best Martial Arts to Learn at Home
Some martial are better suited for practicing at home than others. It would be very hard to imagine practicing MMA, wrestling or judo at home, wouldn’t it? But there are some martial arts and some styles that are better suited for home training sessions and we are going to present them to you:
Tai Chi (Chinese: 太極) is, along with Shaolin, the best known and most popular style of kung fu around the world. It is an inherently internal style with Taoist influences dating as far back as the 12th century, although the style was virtually unknown in China until the last 100 years or so. The concept of the Yin and the Yang is essential to Tai Chi, as is pacifism. It is a very slow style that focuses on awareness, which is why, today, it is mostly studied for its health benefits. It also increases one’s softness and flexibility.
Tai Chi is a good pick because it is strongly focused on self-practice, even if you actually go to a gym. There is no sparring in Tai Chi, which means that you will be able to learn a lot more than with some other martial arts, simply because Tai Chi is designed for the lone practitioner.
Although it’s technically nor a martial art per se, but rather an exercise based on movements taken from a martial art, cardio kickboxing is also good for practicing at home. Cardio kickboxing is actually a combination of aerobic exercise and kickboxing. More specifically, it is a group work-out class that combines the basic elements of aerobics and aerobic exercise with the martial art of kickboxing.
It is a fairly new phenomenon that developed in recent years and is, so far, the only martial art adapted to the rules and concepts of aerobics. It is a very high-energy type of exercise and is quite challenging to both beginners and experienced athletes. It is mostly done by combining the essential elements of kickboxing – punches, kicks, etc. – with high-paced, rhythmic music that has a very strong psychological effect.
An instructor leads the group and instructs them to practice different punches and kicks to the music in the background, thereby combining the necessary elements. Both upper and lower body movements are utilised. A training session includes a warm-up and cool-down phase, as well as the very important stretching exercises.
Because of the high pace and the complexity of movements, stretching is essential in avoiding injuries, but also if you want to advance, since better flexibility allows for the realisation of more complex moves.
Cardio kickboxing is primarily a group fitness type of training, but just as you can watch Jane Fonda on your television and work out from the comfort of your home, you can also watch cardio kickboxing videos and work out at the same time.
How effective it is, depends on how much effort you put in, since there are no exact moves or techniques to master – you simply work out and do your best to follow the video instructions. If you make a mistake, there is no problem because cardio kickboxing is not focused on the technique, but rather the workout itself.
Be sure to check out our full review of cardio kickboxing article.
This is a very tricky thing to do. Ona general level, you can learn some basic self-defence from your home, even without a sparring partner. With a partner, you can do a bit more, but never quite as much as in a gym, where an instructor will lead you properly and simulate good situations for you. An effective martial art to choose here is the Israeli technique of Krav Maga.
This defensive technique is the best thing you can do to improve your self-defence, but you have to be careful. Krav Maga will teach you how to finish it as quickly and as aggressively as possible. Krav Maga’s offensive techniques are focused on your opponent’s most vulnerable body parts (e.g. the groin era and genitals) and are seldom restrictive, i.e. they don’t teach you how to go easy on your opponent.
On the contrary, they teach you to be strong and efficient, and there are a lot of moves that can seriously injure or even kill your opponent.
This is why you can learn some basics at home, but have to be very careful when applying them.
If you are interested in what are the best martial arts for self-defense in general, be sure to check the given article.
Doing boxing at home might be a very good, if not the best option for martial art training at home. To be more precise, you won’t have a sparring partner nor a trainer, but a punching bag alone could help you a lot.
All you need is a punching bag and a place to put it. And boxing gloves on top of that. There are many good online videos, especially on Youtube where you can learn some boxing fundamentals and do a pretty good boxing workout at home.
You will sharp your boxing skills to some degree, but only the punching aspect. Defense, controlling the distance, and similar things will be very hard, next to impossible to do at home. You should be aware that punching the bag at home alone is nowhere the same when you are at the gym with other people. It will help you a bit skill-wise and especially fitness-wise, but don’t think that doing boxing at home alone is the same as with other people.
To sum it up, it can serve as a good workout for your body, and you will develop some boxing skills along the way, but it hardly resembles that what you get from the gym, coaches, and sparring partners.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Unlike professionals and gym goers, home practitioners don’t need any complex and or fancy equipment for their training sessions. You don’t have to buy any formal clothing (e.g. kimonos) or fighting equipment (e.g. helmets, body armours, gloves) and you don’t have to have any sophisticated training materials a gym usually has. A small, simple punching bag, perhaps some support for your ankles and wrists, maybe a good pair of shoes to reduce the risk of injury and maybe some simple weights to elevate your strength and that’s it. It is a very simple set and you will not have to spend much money on it.
Best Online Places to Learn Martial Arts at Home
Although YouTube is always a good place to start, there are a lot of specialised sites and gyms that offer online courses and instructions. The important thing is that you stick to a plan and a schedule you’ve devised for yourself; training just a couple of times per week at home could do wonders for you, but it will take more time. Eventually, if you want to become a master, you’ll have to visit a gym, but you will have at least some basic knowledge, which is good for your future careers.
Some of the best places for learning martial arts online are:
If you are still deciding on which martial art to choose, and whether you should learn it from home or gym, we highly recommend reading this article (“Which Martial Art Should I Learn First“) to help you choose which martial art is right for you.
That’s it for today. Until next time!