Can I Polish Up My Martial Arts When I Can't Afford a Dojo?
June 6, 2009 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to practice and brush up on martial arts? I can't afford a dojo and only have my wife to practice on (!!). I know...rather sad. But she is willing to learn so I teach her. Can I polish up my previous learning? I have 3 years in karate 2 years in small-circle jujitsu (wrist lock flowing techniques, and not the Brazilian stuff...which would be great, though)...and a smattering of Aikido. I am not looking to be Bruce Lee or the best cage fighter. I am wanting to perfect what I do know. Is it silly to watch youtube videos and books that I have (excellent reference by Marc Tedeschi etc) to refresh myself as well as practice teaching my wife? What are your thoughts on training in a vacuum if you will? If you have any training ideas or opinions I am open for your knowledge or criticism. I don't want to waste my time.
posted by snap_dragon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total)
Maybe you could check, start a meetup or check for a martial arts club wherever you are.
posted by Theloupgarou at 9:07 AM on June 6, 2009

This is pretty likely to go badly. If your wife was already experienced at the martial arts you intend to practice, she could point out when you're practicing something incorrectly, but without someone that knows their stuff, you're both going to develop a lot of bad habits.

If the martial arts you're practicing are sparring-centric (the Japanese jujutsu, perhaps?), sparring can at least point out to you and your wife what you're doing blatantly wrong, but I think you're still going to end up picking up habits that you'll regret later. I mean, I have plenty of bad habits even though I've trained under good instructors, but I'd have a lot more if I hadn't. has this to say about training from videos:
The most important point to understand before you build up a big library of BJJ instruction material is this; the books, videos and DVDs you buy will not solve the practical problems you are having on the mat. Your practical problems can only be solved with practice. And you cannot practice in books or in DVDs. Practice happens on the mat.

So what are instruction materials good for?

Instruction materials can give you a big picture general idea of the kinds of things you need to master and understand over your long BJJ learning process.
I think your time is better spent on improving your physical conditioning so that you'll be more effective when you do get the opportunity to get back to the dojo. Or doing something else you enjoy.
posted by ignignokt at 10:03 AM on June 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

This isn't exactly what you're asking about, but you might want to check local dojo in your area to see if any offer scholarship assistance. Mine does, and there's a chance that one in your area might as well.

The problem with using videos as your main training/teaching tool is that you're likely to think you're doing the techniques correctly when you really aren't. It's better to get classroom instruction from trained teachers and get corrected on your technique.
posted by smich at 11:17 AM on June 6, 2009

The first thing that came to my mind is that this is a great way to ingrain bad forms and habits. My background is pretty similar to yours, and I'm pretty sure that, if I tried to teach myself or a novice, I'd be teaching myself in exactly the wrong way and possibly hurting myself in the process.

This may or may not apply to you, but it's something to consider.
posted by lekvar at 11:26 AM on June 6, 2009

If you had three years of karate experience, you might be able to keep some of your fundamentals in that art polished by practicing your kata and by hitting the heavy bag. You're unlikely to actually progress much, but you might keep your skills from atrophying.

For the jujutsu, you need at the minimum a skilled training partner. (Sorry, your wife does not count.) Having a competent instructor to supervise you and your training partner is much better.

If your finances are all that's holding you back from the dojo, you might want to look around for a non-commercial club of some sort. Depending on where you live, you can often find instructors teaching out of a community center or their garage just for the love of the art. These folks will typically just charge enough to cover their expenses.
posted by tdismukes at 12:10 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the wisdom! Now hearing from you folks, I see how silly the question was. It was like asking 'Should I buy that Charles Atlas program?'
posted by snap_dragon at 1:29 PM on June 6, 2009

It looks like you have your answer(s) already but I'll add my to the mix.

I'm not sure why the idea of having a training partner is an absolute necessity that has gained so much traction lately. It probably has come about from the dominance of grappling arts in the last 15 years*. Or the idea that your training needs to be "alive" which is a Bruce Lee idea that has been misappropiated like most of his qoutes.
If you were to look back on martial arts they were created and practiced as an independent pursuit.
In a lot of instances having a partner will increase your learning curve greatly, but for most martial arts if you learn the basics you can continue on and learn by yourself. I'm going to make a couple of points to clarify though. My perspective on this is that I've known people who have gone on to practice martial arts by themselves and went on to become really good. If you are the type who does a hundred punches and calls it good, then training by yourself isn't going to hold enough of your attention to really be helpful. Grappling/Wrestling, okay, you're just not going to get around the fact you need a partner. Also, if your art included energy drills, like sticky hands or push hands, then you need a partner. You can still train drills that will strengthen the gross motor movements included in them. People do this in sports all the time, including wrestling and boxing. Most striking arts you can not only get by without anybodys help, but excel at them.

There is nothing wrong with teaching your wife, but she would have to be totally into it and you would have to take it slow. Taking it slow would mean it could become quite tedious though and both of you may give up because of that alone.

*Then again we had the Karate/Judo 60's because of the war with Japan, Kung Fu 70's because of the rise in Hong Kong/Bruce Lee importation, Ninjitsu 80's because of the...TMNT? American Ninja Movies? Cold War?, BJJ 90's because of the UFC and now the rage is MMA.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:35 PM on June 7, 2009

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