In-Person vs. Online Karate Training

A little over a year ago, I started creating training videos to assist my students during the pandemic when live training was impossible.  Over the last several months I have been working on a more formal online karate training program using these videos as a starting point.  During this process, I have been testing the waters so to speak to gauge interest and solicit feedback.  The online vs. in-person karate training viewpoints could not be more polarized.

For the most part, I have received positive feedback but there are always those out there who are not shy about calling online karate training a joke or challenging my skill and credibility.  All these people made baseless claims without ever even trying my program, meeting any students who’ve taken it, or even met me.  It’s one of those things that people just automatically make assumptions about.  Hopefully that will change at some point.

Online Karate Training is Not A Replacement

Let me first be clear that I in no way believe that online karate training is a substitute for live, in-person training from a quality, professional, experienced instructor.  However, for those who cannot access live, in-person training, an online training program will provide students with most of the benefits of live training.  Many will argue this point and I will always counter with the following:  show me an example of an online student who looks like what you’re claiming.  They can’t because they are making these statements without any knowledge or experience on the subject.

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In the past, I have written about how I am firm believer in not doing an online black belt test.  Well, that has not changed.  I still don’t feel like a student can be tested at the black belt level online.  As we get better at delivering lessons and knowledge this may change but at this moment, I am still a no go for black belt testing.

Beginner students are a different story.  I feel almost all the beginner level curriculum can be taught in an online format currently.  This starts to lessen at the intermediate level and further lessens at the advanced level.  I wrote an article not too long ago about the distinction between these three levels in an online format.

Let me state again, online training is not a replacement for in-person training.  There are however some benefits to online training that in-person training does not have.  In the rest of this post, I will list the pros and cons between online karate training and in-person training.

Online Karate Training

Pros: very systematic approach with clear objectives; ability to repeat the same lesson over and over until comfortable; can train anytime, anywhere; choose your own training partner; don’t have to do anything you feel uncomfortable doing; ability to ensure training partners and facility are clean and healthy; pause, rewind, and slow down lesson to get all the details at your own pace; you control how fast you learn material; you can get feedback from an instructor and go back and see yourself doing it to make the correction; generally more affordable.

Cons: can’t get questions answered immediately; no one to push you, must rely on self-motivation; can’t feel how technique is supposed to be done from instructor; lacking personal connection and community; harder to learn from senior student’s example; more difficult to understand feedback from instructor; lack “toughness” aspect of training.

If you combine video lessons with live virtual training sessions, you can get a lot of instruction as well as real time answers to your questions online.  Live virtual sessions and social media forums can also help build the sense of community and connection often created in an in-person studio.

Online karate training is much more common these days

In-Person Karate Training

Pros: reliable, set training schedule; opportunity to train with many people; learn from experienced students in addition to the instructor; access to training equipment; be a part of community of like-minded individuals; overall energy of a group class is motivating; inspiration/motivation from experienced instructor; can feel techniques being done to you properly the first time; much easier to understand feedback from instructor; can ask questions in real time.

Cons: training schedule may be inflexible; facility may be a long distance from home/work; generally more expensive; cleanliness of facility and students may be an issue; may not fit in with community; some training partners may not have control which leads to injury; path to making progress or advancement may not be clear; class may move too fast or too slow for you; may have different instructor each class; may get lost in the crowd if the studio is large.

Just like with online training, it is difficult to lump all in-person studios together, so the above pros and cons are just generalizations.  There are good studios and bad ones.  Hands down, a high-quality in-person studio is the way to go if you can make it work.  But what if you can’t make it work…

Who should consider online karate training?

I may sound like a broken record, but I will state once again that I feel in-person training is the preferred method for learning and training for majority of people.  How do you know if you are in the small group of people that online karate is actual a better fit?  If you can relate to one or more of the following items, then you may want to consider training online vs. in-person.

Nearest Studio is Too Far Away

Depending on where you live, the nearest studio may be 50 or more miles away.  If you have a job, a family, and other commitments, it is probably going to be a struggle to carve out 3 or more hours 2-3 times a week for training and commuting.  Not to mention rising gas prices.

Your Work Schedule Prevents You from Attending Group Classes

Most studios have group classes in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends.  Why?  Because most people work or go to school during the day.  Some studios offer morning or mid-day classes but not all.  What do you do if you are one of those people who work 2nd or 3rd shift or travel 2-3 weeks out of the month?  What if you have a young child at home and are the primary care giver during the day and work at night or vice versa?  Going to a group class regardless of how far it is away will be a challenge.

In-Person Classes Tend to be More Expensive

Most in-person studios will charge a monthly membership rate which can be anywhere from $100-$200+ a month.  Many will also require you to make a commitment of 6+ months.  For some, this may be too costly. A typical online training program can cost around $35-$75 per month in contrast.

You Have Health Concerns Being in a Large Group Setting

During the COVID19 pandemic, online training became more mainstream due to people needing to socially distance themselves to remain healthy.  While we are working to get back to “normal”, some people will remain concerned for a long time due to underlying health conditions.  Also, what happens when the next health crisis hits?

Your Personality Type is More Suited for Online Karate Training

The pandemic taught us many things.  One thing it taught us is that some people are just more suited to learn from an online format.  Students who tend to be introverted or have social anxiety disorders can thrive in an online setting.  I would argue that in-person training would be very beneficial to these students but perhaps the ease of the online format gets them started and allows them to join a more traditional in-person studio later.

You Tend to Pick Things Up Slower/Faster Than Average

Live, in-person group classes tend to be geared toward the average student.  If you tend to pick things up more slowly, you may feel as if you are being left behind.  If you tend to pick things up more quickly, you are likely to get bored and feel like you’re being held back from your full potential.  Online learning allows students to go at their own pace, whether it’s slower or faster than the norm.

Studio(s) In Your Area Are Not a Good Fit

Even if you live in an area where there are in-person training studios, those studios may not be a good fit.  The unfortunate truth is that there are many very bad martial arts studios out there.  Our industry does not have uniform regulations or certifications to teach or open a studio and there are some who take advantage of this.  

What do I do with this information?

My goal was to provide information regarding online training programs and who they may be good for since there is a lot of conflicting information and opinions on the topic.  If you are interested in the martial arts, I recommend doing the following:

  • Research studios in your area 
  • Talk to people who you know who training there
  • Read reviews online
  • Contact the studio via phone or email
  • Visit the studio, meet the instructor, and watch a class
  • Try a class
  • Repeat the process with other studios
  • If you cannot do these steps, repeat the process with online learning programs

If you are interested in seeing what an online program looks like, feel free to try out my Karate Essentials Online Karate Program.  Click here for the trial class.

Karate Essentials online training program by Master Elmore
Karate Essentials online training program by Master Elmore

Good luck and keep training!

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