Can you teach yourself martial arts?

Last modified date

The current pandemic has kept us all locked away in our homes, unable to go to the gym, the cinema or even our work places. So it comes as no surprise that no martial arts gyms have been open for months now, some unfortunate places wont open again, with many martial arts gyms having a very narrow turnover just simply couldn’t survive the months of no income. This has led many martial artists to train at home. Now if you had some previous experience, you’d know how to train and you would also have an idea of how to correct yourself during your training. If you are new to martial arts and would like to begin training, you can attempt to train yourself, just remember that you wont learn as well at home as you would if you had an experienced teacher helping you, that being said, here are a few ideas on what to expect and some pointers on what to focus on.

1. Manage your expectations.

The first thing to think about is that, training solo, your going to be completely clueless about what to train, this is fine, remember, your going to suck real bad. Everyone does when they first start, don’t be discouraged by this, no ones a master overnight! Don’t set yourself super high goals to start with, maybe choose a fitness based goal first rather than a technique based goal, especially if your brand new to your chosen art and have had no coaching before. Good starting fitness goals to reach would be something like being able to do 50 press ups in one set, being able to run a 3 miles non stop or being able to shadow box for 5 rounds are all good beginner goals. If you were to set yourself a technique based goal, you’d almost definitely learn it wrong and will for sure learn bad habits, which means that when you finally get to a martial arts gym, your coach is not only dealing with a newbie, but they have to get those bad habits out of you before you can actually start progressing, which holds you back and can be quite frustrating. Another good goal to focus on would be flexibility, try to get your body in fighting condition, if you were to join a martial arts gym, thats probably going to be the focus for the first few months anyway, get that fitness up.If you cant tell, I’m trying real hard to push you away from training technique on your own, it can really hold you back when you do start to learn from a trained professional if you’ve taught yourself all wrong.

2. Look Into Online Classes.

Now, online classes are very hit and miss, you can either strike gold and have a really good learning experience OR, you can have an awful McDojo cash grab experience, where you’re taught awful technique from some racketeering, snake oil selling rapscallion. So the fix for this is similar to the one you’d use when picking a gym in real life, shop around, talk to the people that go there, get the reviews. If the online class has a real stars name attached to it, id have a little more hope for its quality, for instance Henri Hooft has a kickboxing fundamentals series with Dynamic Striking. The Gracie University is also a thing, I’m not sure how effective it is and I think its supposed to be used in tandem with actual classes, but I’m sure it would be better than nothing.  There is the wealth of knowledge out there, the internet is a wonderful tool, there are even some free youtube videos and channels that I could recommend as way of learning a martial art, precision striking being one of them. It still wouldn’t be as good as an actual teacher, but you could at least learn the basics from them. I personally have been very lucky with my Muay Thai Coach doing actual real time online classes, so no pre recorded videos, actual classes where we could interact with him and ask him questions, and where he could even give us a small level of guidance on where we were going wrong, very useful indeed.

3. Find A Training Partner

Finding someone who also wants to learn, or maybe someone who is just wiling to help you, will work wonders for you. Just having another set of eyes watching you and helping correct you, do be warned though, if the person watching is just as clueless as you, it can really be a situation of the blind leading the blind, you could learn techniques completely wrong, so proceed with caution. Honestly though having someone hold some form of pads for boxing training is really invaluable, as its one of the key ways to learn striking.  I would genuinely say steer clear of sparring, because if you are both inexperienced, it can lead to injuries and maybe even knockouts. The inexperienced martial artist can really do some damage due to the fact that they can panic and start chimping out, and then where a relatively experienced fighter or martial artist would be able to deal with the chimp spazzing and gently nudge them to calm down, via very light, very accurate punches to the face. If your both clueless and are both sparring, your adrenaline gets going and you start to think weird, next thing you know you’re both ape spazzing out and someone starts bleeding. Not worth the hassle. It’s a different story if you want to learn grappling, as you can go relatively hard in grappling sparring and not  be hurt at all due to the fact your rolling around on the floor and strangling each other and not THROWING BONES AT EACH OTHERS BODYS. Honestly, one of the best things about training grappling is that you can train at 100 percent intensity for every session, which means, you’ll learn much much faster.

4.Practice the Basics only

When you eventually start practicing technique, you should definitely walk instead of run so to speak. This goes double for if your training at home, due to the risk of training things wrong. I’ve spoken about this in another post about training at home, but ill repeat it here, there is no point in trying to learn some sort of amazing, Dempsey roll, trump card technique if you still cant throw a jab.  Focus on the basics, develop those few basic techniques and hone them to a fine edge. Again there are some very good youtube series for learning the basics of certain  martial arts, plenty of boxing, kickboxing, muay thai and BJJ videos. There’s even some videos for karate, wing chun and kung fu, if that’s more of what you’re after.  If you were interested in learning boxing for instance, practicing a crisp jab cross combination or your footwork, are good fundamental skills that can be learnt at home. Practice the basics, as the famous saying goes, a good right will take you around the block, a good jab will take you around the world.

4. Keep it simple, keep it focused

Keep your training simple and un complicated, don’t try and build a super complex training routine, especially if you’re new, because you will burn out. Don’t try and have professional level 4 hour training sessions, there’s no point, a hard hour long workout will be more than enough. After an hour, without a trainer there to keep you focused and to keep you going, you’ll soon peter out and start to falter when you run out of steam, a nice intense hour is a good amount of training time for an amateur. Remember to keep a focus within your training too, don’t just decide what your gonna train WHEN you train, have a plan written down, with goals and everything. That way, theres no thinking of what you should do next, you have the plan and you stick to it, if you stay focused, you will see results. For instance, my current training plan looks like this. 10 minutes of skipping, 15 minutes of shadow boxing, 15 minutes on the heavy bag, 15 minutes on the double end bag and then I do some circuits at the end of the workout, it takes me about an hour and 10 minutes. If ive had a weight session or a run sometimes ill skip out on the circuits at the end and instead ill do an extra few rounds on the heavy bag or the double end bag.  In case you were wondering where my focus is for the session, its developing accuracy on the double end bag and combinations on the heavy bag. Dead simple and easy to stick to. I recommend you do something similar.

5. Get some equipment.

If you are going to train at home I highly recommend that you get yourself some equipment, whether it’s a heavy bag, pads, a double end bag, a makiwara or a grappling dummy. The equipment really helps take home training to the next level, I have put countless hours on my heavy bag at home and it has genuinely improved my ability as a martial artist. If you don’t have the money for certain pieces of equipment, there are plenty of ways to build your own for cheap, for instance there are plenty of videos on making your own boxing bags out of trousers and double end bags out of foot balls. You really can get far with them, you could even use a pair of flip flops for a set of pads. If you are serious about training from home, I really do suggest buying yourself some equipment eventually, don’t buy it all at once, but one piece of equipment a month will soon see you right.


So to recap, be reasonable with your expectations, look for online resources, train with a living breathing person if you can find one, keep it basic, keep it simple, keep it focused and finally if you find yourself willing to invest more into training pick your lovely self up some training equipment. One final thing, it’s a hard task training martial arts at home, but if you stick with it, youll see yourself making good progress, but training at home will only get you so far. It behooves you to  seek a reputable trainer to help you reach your fullest potential as a martial artist. Training solo should only ever be a temporary solution. That being said, I hope you enjoy your training, I hope you push yourself and I hope you stay civilized 😊