Martial Reviews

Can martial arts be self taught?

People often wonder whether martial arts can be self taught. After all, people teach themselves skills all the time by using books, the internet, etc. But can people really engage in self taught martial arts? In my opinion, the answer is no. We begin by looking at why someone might want to teach themselves martial arts.

1. Affordability. Regular training may be too expensive, especially during times of financial difficulty. Perhaps every martial arts school nearby have set their prices too high.

2. Nowhere to train. There may simply not be anywhere to train. You may live in a country which has very few martial arts schools or live in some remote location where travelling may not be an option. Some martial arts schools don't advertise very well so there may be one nearby that you've never heard of.

3. Inconvenient training times. Every martial arts school nearby may run classes at times you cannot do. Perhaps you regularly work late or do something else at that time.

The word 'martial' is defined as "relating to fighting or war". More specifically it is about fighting against an opponent. Therefore it makes sense to train with a partner. Learning without a partner is inadequate preparation for a real fight. How would you put on locks and perform various techniques in a real fight if you've never applied those techniques before? Any decent instructor would recognise that sparring is essential.

That's not to say that you can't learn anything from self teaching martial arts. If you're willing to take classes at some point in the future then you can familiarise yourself with the basics from books and YouTube videos. Bare in mind that it's hard to evaluate yourself so if you do various techniques without professional instruction then you could pick up some bad habits.

Can I self teach in addition to training?


Of course. In fact any half decent instructor would encourage this. It's always a good idea to remind yourself of various techniques outside of class as it will help these techniques become second nature.

Can I invent my own style of martial arts?


You can try, but if you've never done martial arts before then it's pretty much a waste of time. Note that the techniques taught in popular styles of martial arts have been refined over centuries. You'd essentially be starting from scratch. If you're completely inexperienced then you'd be better off taking lessons.

Even if you're proficient in several styles of martial arts I would still be wary of a style someone had just created. It would most likely end up as a dodgy hybrid of your favourite styles. Notice that many popular styles of martial arts are already combinations of other styles as evidenced by Wado Ryu which is a combination of karate and jujitsu.

Is Bruce Lee self taught?


No. This is a common misconception. Bruce Lee began his martial arts training by studying the Chinese art of Wing Chun (a type of kung fu) at age 16 for 5-6 years whilst under the instruction of Yip Man.