Saturday, January 30, 2016

Taking Advantage of Free Martial Arts Videos

When I started studying martial arts in 1991, the Internet did not exist as we know it today. I'm beginning to realize the value of the immense repository of online knowledge, especially in the form of free videos. However, these videos are not universally beneficial. I will share a few brief examples to make my point.

Next month I will probably try sparring at my new Krav Maga school. I have not sparred anyone in 15 years. It occurred to me that there might be videos online with tips for better sparring. I visited YouTube, searched for "sparring tips," and found 10 Sparring Tips for Beginners | GoPro POV Fight. At this point, I had never heard of "fightTIPS," so I did not have a sense of his reputation, abilities, point of view, or other characteristics which could play a role in the quality of the video. However, after watching the video, I noticed that what he said made sense, and that it aligned well with what I had learned when training a long time ago. Furthermore, the comments section tended to reinforce my perceptions. A related video by the same person, 10 Advanced Sparring Tips for MMA, Boxing, & Muay Thai, was also helpful. Even doing a mental exercise, where I imagined that the fighter seen in the GoPro camera as my actual opponent, was helpful. So far, so good!

On a different occasion I was trying some of the Filipino martial arts movements I once practiced. I remembered a double stick pattern that I believed was called a "sinawali." I searched YouTube for "double sinawali" and found many results. I watched the first one and got the sense that the instructor knew his material, but the way he presented it seemed different than what I remembered. Looking through the comments, I found that one of the viewers had noted an aspect of the demonstration that had caught my attention, as shown below:

Comment on Double Sinawali video
Here the comment was respectful, the instructor explained his reasoning, and the person asking the comment responded respectfully again. This was the sort of interaction I was hoping to see, and it helped me better understand the material.

The final example is a "bad news, good news" story. For Krav Maga class this week, I decided to wear boxing wraps. With the cold weather and dry air, my instructor recommended to the class that we wear wraps or MMA gloves. I found my 20-year-old wraps and realized I did not remember how to tie them! YouTube to the rescue? Possibly.

First, the bad news: I searched online and watched one of the videos with the top results. The example didn't look quite right to me. Scanning the comments, I saw they were universally critical, eg., "Totally WRONG wrap technique!" I rejected that video and moved on.

Now, the good news: I returned to the search results and picked another video. This one made more sense to me, and the comments implied that they liked the technique demonstrated. I used this wrapping technique once I got to class and had a good workout.

The bottom line is that there is indeed a ton of very helpful information for martial artists in the form of free online videos. However, viewers should watch with a critical eye where possible, and, better yet, consult with your instructors for guidance. Video comments can sometimes appear as a morass of hate speech and vulgarity, but sometimes they can help differentiate between quality content and content that does more harm than good.


  1. I noticed you mentioned 'reality-based' martial arts in a previous post. What do you mean by this? Do you consider filipino stick fighting reality-based?

  2. Hello, I believe you referred to my first post, where I mentioned "reality-based defense." When I used that term, I was thinking of training that puts the student in a present-day situation that might require them to defend themselves. Furthermore, the training simulates that experience, perhaps using props as needed.

    Filipino stick fighting can be reality-based depending on how the teachers approach the subject. However, I would not expect to be carrying my sticks in everyday situations, so I would have to either use the hand-to-hand equivalent techniques, or perhaps use an improvised weapon from the environment.

    I hope I answered your question!

    1. Hello! Thank you for the response.

      I was hoping that by reality-based you meant "has been tested to work against real, resisting opponents". For example martial arts which have masters throw students around with mental powers would not count as reality-based (see. e.g

      I am under the impression that Filipino stick fighting, (like many other martial arts), would be quite useless against real, resisting opponents who don't go along with the Filipino stick fighting "choreography". For example in this video Peter Boghossian explains why he became disillusioned with eskrima: To cut a long story short, he considers the martial art to be fantasy-based, because all its practitioners train in a bubble in which none of the techniques are really put to the test. What is your perspective on this?

      What do you think about MMA? Does it teach us anything about what fighting techniques generally work and which generally don't?

  3. Hi Daniel, thanks for the explanation and the link. I thought it was very interesting. I believe part of my "Why Martial Arts" post contains my thoughts:

    "I propose that the reasons to study martial arts occupy a spectrum of possibilities. At one end, practitioners emphasize spiritual and personal growth. Near the middle, many promote fitness and health benefits, plus general self defense. At the far end of the spectrum, some appeal to the extremely combative and life-preserving elements. For this group, the martial arts may be a lifestyle or a means of survival, whether as a police or corrections officer, an member of the armed forces or other protective details, a resident of a dangerous community, or a professional fighter."

    In other words, you must match your expectations to your art. If you work on cultivating Chi and expect to blast an opponent with your invisible energy in a fight, you will lose. I agree with you there! If you practice Tai Chi for health benefits, and recognize that the combative aspect is minimal, then your expectations match the art, in my opinion.

    I think MMA gets closer to the "real world" situation, but not close enough to be considered "street reality." No one bites, claws, eye gouges, etc. in MMA, for the safety of the fighters and the prospects of the industry. That is good in my opinion. Does that mean MMA is the same is TKD point sparring? Absolutely not.

    Thanks again, and please remember this is one man's thoughts on a complex subject.

    1. Thank you for your thoughful reply, it satisfied my curiosty nicely! I will be following your blog with interest :)