Are Martial Arts Instructionals Worth It?


Are Martial Arts Instructionals Worth It?

We’ve all been there. Surfing the internet looking to find a new technique for a martial art. Then, we run across a DVD advertisement or video that claims it will make us the best martial artist that ever lived. The instructor promises to show us all his or her secrets. Too good to be true? 

Maybe, but it depends…

Instructional videos offer a lot, but do they deliver? When should you try one? When should you stay clear? 

The last thing you want is to add a(nother) DVD to your shelf that will simply collect dust, or even worse, make you a bad martial artist. 

Let’s take a look at how martial arts instructionals can aid your development and make you a better martial artist.

Reasons to learn a martial art from instructional videos

There is no shame from learning from a video. In fact, there are some pretty good reasons you might want to learn this way.

You might learn from an instructional because access to your desired art is limited in your particular area. Likewise, your schedule might not permit regular training when classes are available locally. In these situations, video instruction might be the next best available option for you. 

For many people, a DVD instructional is simply a good way to learn a new technique or supplement their training when they are away from the dojo. While the COVID pandemic forced everyone to start training from home, sometimes injuries or life prevent us from training too. In these cases, a DVD can keep your mind in the game while you are unable to train.

How to evaluate a martial arts DVD.

When you are looking for a DVD to learn a martial art it can be hard to sort through the good from the bad. It is important that you evaluate an instructional to determine if it is appropriate for your needs. 

For instance, if you are looking to buy BJJ DVDs, you should first look at the instructor’s background and pedigree. Second, has the instructional been reviewed online or in magazines? The production date is also important as modern jiu jitsu instructionals tend to have much better production quality than older ones. As a general rule of thumb, any instructional produced before 2000 is probably not worth watching, unless there is some historical or other notable reason to watch it.

There are so many bad instructionals with good marketing. Do not get fooled. 

The final analysis requires you to use good judgement. Do not fall into the marketing hype. 

Free videos vs paying for a DVD

Why pay for a martial art DVD when there are so many free martial art videos online? Good question. For example, with brazilian jiujitsu, you can find lots of good bjj instructional videos on youtube. The quality may vary and you may have to dig around, but high level instructors do in fact give away lots of great content all the time.

If you are on a budget, or simply want to pick up a couple of new ideas, free videos are the way to go. Plus, they make for good mindless youtube binge watching.

On the other hand, a DVD usually is worth it if you want to take a deep dive into a topic. The production value of a DVD and the focus of the material is almost always higher compared to free videos. 

How to use DVD instructionals to improve your martial arts training

Frankly, martial arts instructional DVDs are best used to supplement your martial arts training, not replace them. They work best when you want to focus on a particular style, move or technique. 

Here are some tips on using instructionals to learn your martial art.

  1. Find a DVD that meets your skill level and needs
  2. Watch and study the DVD with a partner
  3. Have a good home gym-set up (especially with a good mat
  4. The DVD should be from a reputable instructor
  5. Take notes and ask your real life instructor questions.
  6. Know the limits of learning from DVD (see below)

A DVD will never replace real training on the mat in your gym with your partners or private lessons with your coach, but it can be a useful tool to tune-up your game or learn something new. 

Fundamentally, a DVD is most effective when you watch it a few times and actually practice the techniques repeatedly as part of your regular practice.

When you shouldn’t learn a martial art from just instructionals

Learning by DVD has its disadvantages too. 

First, it lacks interactive feedback from an instructor. Martial arts are all about making mistakes. Your instructor is there to show you what you did correct and what you did wrong. A DVD really cannot do that effectively. 

Absolute beginners might want to “try before you buy” to see if the art is for them. For instance, you might be tempted to learn a martial art by video to just test the waters before you visit the dojo. Afterall, (so the thinking goes) you may feel you do not want to look like you know nothing. 

Caution should be exercised with this approach. First, everyone starts at whitebelt and the expectation is that you know nothing. Second, as a beginner, you lack the proper context of the martial art to get a true understanding of what it is all about. 

Only real live sessions on the mat can give you the proper experience. When you start learning a martial art, your best bet is to spend time finding a good school and then once you do, ask the instructors what DVDs or video they recommended to supplement your training (if any at all). 

Lastly, do not collect DVDs just to collect them. Avoid the shiny object syndrome. If you are a three stripe white belt, you do not need to be learning advanced spider-guard techniques. 

In short, DVDs do not offer a not act as a substitute for real, live martial arts training, but they can become a means to improving aspects of your game. 

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