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The only martial art I have ever practised is taijiquan, when I lived in Newcastle. The standard of the classes was exceptional and now that I live in a completely different area of the country, I am looking for something of a similar calibre but have limited options nearby. Some teachers an hour or two from me run online classes, no doubt as a necessary alternative to keep things running during the pandemic.

What would the advantages and disadvantages of learning a solo martial arts practice online be at different levels?

If online classes are a poor substitute at any level, what would be an effective way to use online classes to supplement in-person classes?

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    By different levels, I assume you mean different stages of learning? Beginner vs intermediate vs advanced?
    – JohnP
    Oct 12 at 21:14
  • @JohnP Yes, that's what I meant.
    – Jenny
    Oct 13 at 6:35
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I've had experience on both sides, instructing and taking lessons via remote/zoom/teams/etc.

What I've found is that it is more useful the higher up in ranking you go, mainly because the refinements that are needed are fewer, and it is easier for the student to hear what the instructor is saying and turn that into application. The understanding of the basic principles is already built in, and doesn't have to be reinforced. For the instruction side, it's less useful as it is hard to enforce discipline in the class, provide more individual instruction, you can't have senior students work a drill with juniors, etc. It's more a "here is an example, do your best".

I would not recommend remote/video learning for beginners. There are just too many refinements that can't be seen and corrected without in person examples. One example, we have a form that basically makes a double square in shape, and any time the student is going "away" from the camera, they are trying to look over their shoulder to see the next move, and then wander all over. We experimented with teaching the form in a straight line and no turns, and that was sort of a disaster. Also, you have students that are so far away you can't make out anything, or some that are so close you can't see anything below the waist. It's just not a great avenue for learning a physical capacity.

Another n=1 for seeing the nuances and small differences - Our organization was finally able to hold an in person high rank (4th degree and up) testing this summer. The pass rate for this was right at 80.6%. There was a virtual high rank testing available for those that couldn't travel still, and the pass rate for that was above 97%.

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  • Very helpful, thank you, but could you please clarify some points in your last paragraph? Not sure what you mean by "Another n=1." Also, I'm not sure what to infer from the higher pass rate from virtual testing.
    – Jenny
    Oct 14 at 9:31
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The primary downside of online training in my experience is much the same as the issue of trying to train by correspondence course, a lack of feedback a good bit of the time. Theoretically, they can view your technique over videoconferencing software, but in general, it's an inferior method because they can only really see from one angle, and only if your movements keep you close to the screen, plus if they have more than one student, they can usually only view one feed at a time.

It is, in my opinion, better than nothing, particularly if you have difficulty self-motivating (I know I do), and it is much more accessible if you don't have classes in your area, can't leave the house for classes (I'm sometimes in that situation myself due to a new child requiring a lot of my time, with me sometimes only being able to carve out enough time for the class itself), or you can't afford the in-person classes (a lot of teachers are offering discounted Zoom classes since they don't have to foot the bill for studio space or insurance).

For use in supplementation, I'd say to use them on those days you can't attend in person, for so long as they're offering a benefit to you. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing, and having an actual teacher can push you outside of your comfort zone by suggesting novel movements or combinations. Plus, well, it can be handy if your own personal practice might tend towards "do 10-15 minutes, get bored, do something else" if not in a class that's being run.

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