I would really like to practice a martial art. However, because of financial problems, where I live (far from anywhere big), and work commitments, I cannot afford the time and expense of going to a city to train.

What are some exercises (with pictures, or video guides, etc..) I can do by myself?

I am currently doing some parkour. I've done some months of Judo, because a friend of mine offered me this occasion. I am particularly interested in Ninjutsu and Kung-fu.

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    possible duplicate of How should a novice train if unable to join a dojo yet? Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 15:22
  • IN addition to the answers: focus on the art part of "martial arts." If you have having to do things on your own, you really have to bring your own art to them, rather than just doing the form sloppily. You can't get away with sloppy with a teacher, but the teacher will respond and try to help you when they see it. You are going to have to be your own teacher.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 1:32

5 Answers 5


It will be pretty difficult to do Judo alone. You can practice kung fu or any other martial art with forms (pre-arranged patterns) by yourself though. If you don't already know the martial art, though, you're setting yourself up for failure. Save yourself and any future teacher a few headaches and don't try to learn from DVDs or Youtube.

Don't get me wrong, DVDs and Youtube are great, IF you already have a firm foundation in the martial art they represent. But without an instructor to guide you, you'll be unknowingly incorporating thousands of little mistakes into your movements that will be a pain in the @$$ to correct later.

Remember: Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes permanent.

So what can you do?

  • As much as you are able, cross-train with qualified teachers who don't charge much or who teach for free. This isn't a financial site, but most (not all) people who think they can't afford martial arts instruction actually could if they would give up Starbucks, cigarettes, or eating out.
  • Focus on fitness. You might not know how to ninja chop, but you probably know how to do a push-up. Fitness is valuable in any martial art, so you can't go wrong here.
  • Do your homework. Read up on the inter-webs about the various martial arts or go to your local library. Martial arts history is fascinating, and reading about it will give you an idea what martial arts you'd like to study in future.
  • Find out what schools are in your area. Talk to the instructors. You can explain that you're having hard times, but might be interested in their programs when you're back on your feet. Some of them might be willing to work with you.
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    Judo can be practice alone, if you have a good base. movements and getting your oponent offbalance is repetitive. when I got lazy and complain about doing the same move more than 10 or 15 time, my coach keep on telling me how he practice O-soto-gari on trees in japan. For a long time, thousands of time per days. After, he went to town competitions and won easily doing only this move. ( should I turn this into a judo-kid movie ? ) Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 13:42
  • as Wudang Kid said, go to schools your interested in. They might get you to train kids and clean up the place free and in exchange they'll late you take classes free too. My coach was doing this to alot of poeple. He "rent" them the appartment above the dojo for free, they trained for free, but they were teaching all the basic classes. Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 13:43
  • What makes watching a DVD worse than watching an instructor? The instructor might have his hands full with a hall full of students, might not correct what you are doing wrongly. Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 23:29
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    You can't ask a DVD a question. You can't feel a DVD's technique. A DVD won't hound you that you're doing it wrong. An instructor might miss something now and again, but if he/she is a good instructor, they will eventually catch your screw-ups. I can't imagine a martial arts class so large that a student wouldn't get at least one comment per class. Each and every single class I've had has been worth more than a DVD. Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 12:17
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    @user1095108 - if you have a sentient DVD that watches you back, then sure, it's the same. Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 18:51

Your option to learn new things is pretty limited.

Forms have some, limited value

Since you've mentioned kung fu as one of the directions you might go, there's plenty of video online of various forms and lots of books to back it up that you can do. This might help you develop leg strength and coordination, but your options for learning how it flows/feels in action is going to be limited. If you can find a few friends, there are often two-person drills you can do together which will be helpful as well.

Conditioning Exercises

There's tons of books and advice on conditioning exercises, which are things you can do all the time solo - low stances, line-drills, squats, varieties of push ups, exercises with "Stone locks" (AKA the original Kettlebells), a variety of weights (or bricks, even) and such. The physical conditioning is definitely something you can get into earlier and easier.

Expanding on what you already have

Depending on how good of a feel you got from Judo, you may be able to transfer some of that knowledge into what you study next - for example some Chin Na grappling training might feel a little similar and you can play with those drills to learn new movements.

Weapons Training

One of the benefits to weapons is that you do get some good feel for momentum and movement work even training alone. "The weapon teaches you how to use it" is a pretty common experience. What you usually don't get as part of solo training is issues of shifting range, reading the opponent, defensive needs, etc. which are big deals.

"Distance Training"

There has sprung up a LOT of online sites from various teachers, lineages, or combative styles claiming to be able to give you tools and training from a distance. For me, I was fortunate enough to have several years of training in foundation in my style, so if I see video, I can figure out how to use new techniques or drills because I already have the core idea of how things should feel or move - I cannot say how well you'll be able to develop based on DVDs or online courses set up this way if you don't already have some good base.

On the other hand, all of those cost money and often a sizable sum at that. Certainly cheaper than actual classes, but still decently expensive.

  • Some of your suggestions are terrible in my opinion - learning "Forms" from video is akin to learning how to swim by mail - you think you're doing it right until you jump into the deep end and drown. As for limited usefulness - that's open for debate. Any form of exercise is of limited usefulness, so in that sense it's true.
    – Dani_l
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 23:43
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    Please downvote my answer, it's how the site works. Also, if you see an answer you think works better, you can upvote it, or, if you have better options for the questioner, please submit your own answer.
    – Bankuei
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 0:22
  • I can't downvote, not enough rep. I don't have a better option for the OP - I don't think MA can be taught effectively without direct access to an instructor, at least until there is a solid foundation. I think any answer which encourages self learning in this regard is a disservice.
    – Dani_l
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 13:17
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    That's an answer you can provide, then. Sometimes the answer to questions are: "There's no way this is going to work, here's what you should do instead." It will be seen more and be more productive than commenting on individual answers.
    – Bankuei
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 23:05

I've faced a similar problem. It is similar in the fact that I've spent some time during the years doing solo training. The difference being is that I've spent a couple of years drilling the basics of my art in a club before live took me to an extended cross country trip.

I train every day every day at least once. I've learned a couple of things regarding to solo training:

  • Training sessions have to be planned (time and place, lenght, exercises, structure)
  • Training sessions have to have a goal (I divide them into hard and soft, e.g. strength or skill sessions)
  • Training sessions should have a length of at least 30 - 45 minuts and no more than 2 hours (that is what works for me, averaging on 1:20 per session)
  • Each training session must start with a 10 - 20 minutes warmup ( http://neilarey.com/workouts/warm-up.html for example, or light running and active stretching)
  • Each training session must end with 10 mins of stretching
  • Exercises/drills are best planned for a better workload.
  • Skill/Easy days (cardio or skill drills) have the following structure : Warmup 20min, Drill #1 3 min (45 sec rest), Drill #2 4x3min (45s rest), Drill #3 4x3min (45s rest), Drill #4 3min (45s rest), Shadows boxing/Heavy bag 3x5min (1min rest), 10 min stretching ; Note: If I'm with a partner Drills #1 and #3 are flow drills
  • Strength/Hard days have the following structure : Warmup 20min, Bodyweight (Level 2 Neila Ray) or Weight gym 45 min, Shadow boxing 3x5 min (1min rest), 10 min stretching
  • I have 3 hard days in a week (Mon, Wed, Friday) and 4 easy days (Tue,Thu, Sat and Sun)
  • Alternative easy days : 25 min HIIT (1min shadow boxing at full speed without break in hitting, 30s of rockshuffles or other exercie 10 - 15 rounds, no break in round); 4 - 8 shadow boxing rounds of 5min
  • Alternative hard days : 4-8 heavy bag rounds of 5min

A great solo art to learn is Boxing or Kick boxing:

Good luck

  • Warm-up link appears broken Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 20:25

Since you are interested in ninjutsu, you can learn techniques from Bujinkan which culminates 9 schools of martial arts (including 3 schools that teach ninjustsu). While it is important to guide your training through classes, the grand master and other practitioners have released many instructional videos for purchase and many free online videos.

Along with this there are great books that detail how to perform certain techniques. However, these skills and teachings may seem abstract so it is important to try to find someone who practices them and can explain them to you. This may help in perfecting the training you do on your own and prevent you from developing bad habits.

You can look up books on the Tenchijin Ryaku no Maki which involve various techniques from Bujinkan or go here to learn some of the basics: youtube or an illustrated guide.


You face a tough challenge. I have been very fortunate to be trained by a very good instructor. There is a lot on-line, but what I would do is save your money and make an effort to connect with a school (even if you have to drive). I have been training for 15 years and students need correction in all their training. So, save a few bucks, find a competent teacher in another location, and once or twice a month travel and get the instruction you will need. The problem in the industry itself is finding a competent teacher who was taught by another great instructor. I have seen black belts who do not have the level of competency, due to the fact they were trained by someone who didn't know what they were doing. I know this is not the answer you may want, but I think it is the best answer.

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