Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How Does Online Video Change Martial Arts?

Have you considered the effect of online video on the martial arts?

The publication of the newest Krav Maga Global technique Review of the Week and a recent thread on the /taekwondo Reddit reminded me of how interesting this topic can be.

Consider the training environment 400 years ago, when martial arts in China, Okinawa, Japan, and the Philippines were developing into forms we might recognize today. If that is too distant for you to imagine, going back even 100 years is sufficient.

In those days, one could not capture motion, or even sound, using anything like a movie camera as easily as we do now. Perhaps 100 years ago one could use an imaging camera to take still pictures, but they would have been largely staged scenes.

In such an environment, how could one make a record of the movements, tactics, and philosophies that comprise a martial art?

One method was the creation of forms, or patterns. These sets of movements might capture the essence of a martial arts style. Iain Abernethy argues that individual karate kata, in fact, represent complete fighting systems, or at least the kata creator's presentation of his or her fighting system.

Another school of thought regarding patterns, especially with respect to Chinese forms, is that they were developed to represent a fighting style for demonstration purposes. Peter Lorge's excellent book Chinese Martial Arts offers many historical examples. Sometimes martial artists used forms to demonstrate fighting excellence before the emperor or visiting officials. Chinese schools also performed in public squares to attract business (such as protecting trade caravans or towns) and students.

In either case, a powerful tool to transmit knowledge from one generation to the next was required. Fighting styles were physically embodied in martial arts forms. Books were another option, and many survive to this day. They show foot patterns, hand gestures, and the like. These methods made the best use of available resources and technology.

Now return to the modern environment. If you wanted to transmit martial arts knowledge to others, how could you do it?

Forms and books are still options. Both are still in use. However, modern technology offers two powerful supplements.

First, consider the jet airplane. In 2014, Bloomberg magazine wrote that "No Invention of the Past 85 Years Had a Greater Impact on the World." The head instructor of Krav Maga Global, Eyal Yanilov, spends hundreds of days per year (I believe over 250?) outside Israel, training students worldwide.

Alternatively, students from anywhere in the world can visit him in his own school. My instructor, Nick Masi, just returned from another trip to Israel, joining the KMG Global Instructors Team to work on curriculum issues for the new year. (The group, from all over the world, is shown at right.)

Thanks to the jet airplane, you can even visit other schools for seminars, camps, or grading opportunities. Without the airplane, my visit to Las Vegas for the annual KMG camp would have required a 36 hour car drive -- and that is only one-way!

What amazing opportunities the jet airplane provides us, delays and all.

As incredible as international flight may be, it doesn't scale as well as the second invention: the Internet and online video. One example is the latest Technique Review of the Week, published at This is one in a series of videos that Eyal has been publishing this year. Each video is over 10 minutes long, and it focuses on various aspects of a specific Krav Maga technique.

Beyond the Technique Reviews of the Week, offers videos for the entire KMG curriculum from P1 to G5. There are also videos of seminars and other topics, like Combat Mindset, Fitness and Stretching, Anti-Car Jacking, and so on. This is not meant to be an advertisement for the site, but I have found it indispensable. I am constantly reviewing the videos, and I pay even closer attention as my next grading approaches!

The bottom line is that online video gives students and instructors anywhere in the world access to the teaching resources of a system's head instructor. The learning mechanism is one-way, which is why it is necessary to have in-person training as a primary instructional method. Without guidance from the instructor, one cannot close the educational loop. However, online video creates an opportunity for the transmission of martial arts knowledge more or less exactly as intended by the leader of a system. This is revolutionary, and in my opinion a welcome development.

One final note: the advent of online video does not mean that a martial arts style must become frozen, locked into the technique and approaches depicted in video form.

The proper use of date/time sequencing can differentiate between older and newer videos. Instructors can incorporate changes into new videos and tell students that they have adapted techniques to meet evolved understanding or new environmental conditions. Krav Maga Global is constantly evolving, and Eyal's videos sometimes mention changes from older versions of techniques.

How does your martial arts practice use online video to transmit knowledge?

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