When I mention my experience in Martial Arts, I speak of the years I was involved in training under a Sifu.

But besides the physical training part, there is also a mental training part. During university I spent two years NOT attending any Martial Arts classes. However, I constantly thought about katas, or different exercises, or even meditated. I also started reading books about Kung-Fu and watched different videos on it. Some days I also did a short self-training session.

My question is: do these two years count as experience?

To give my specific example: I was actively training from 2012 - 2014 and again during 2016. So should I say that I have 3 years of experience, or 5?

5 Answers 5


It doesnt count as experience. This is mostly due to the fact that the extra knowledge you have gained hasn't been tested and played with, which in it self could be dangerous should you rely on it. Be honest and state the number of years actively training.

The improved knowledge is a good thing but without having a chance to apply it it would be like claiming "I read a book on quantum physics and now have experience". (Apologies if that sounds harsh).

  • I agree, I have about 11 years spread over 20ish and I don't claim the other 9 as I wasn't actively utilizing it. It fades when not active even though I was understanding "how it gets used" better during some of the gap, my body memory of it faded and had to be re-sharpened.
    – mutt
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 20:39

From the definition of experience:

The knowledge or skill acquired by a period of practical experience of something, especially that gained in a particular profession.

By that definition, your two years hiatus from martial arts should not count as experience regardless of the amount of time you fantasied about martial arts.

In addition, years of experience are utterly meaningless with martial arts because one could train two hours per week or eight hours per days during a year. In addition, this take no account of the practitioner physical (and mental) base line. If one has dyspraxia, training will be harder to achieve the same skill level. Finally, this is why martial arts have ranks that are (in general) representative of skill sets not years of practice.

  • 1
    Damn should have thought of using a definition. Good highlight of the time practised though. Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 10:59
  • @NinjaArekku Just a pedantic mathematician here… ☺ Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 11:09

They don't count. In short, you don't learn martial arts by reading books or watching video's. All the college students watching Bruce Lee movies while in a half-drunk haze would be kungfu masters if it worked that way.

The only way to learn, is by practicing, preferably with partners. You can't get the right reflexes or body conditioning without actual practice. Those are essential in gaining experience.

To give an example, you can watch a thousand pictures and video's about how to throw a punch. Your first punch will always have a high chance of being with bent wrist. Your fingers will always hurt. It's only through actual punches that you'll automatically align your wrist properly, and that your fingers strengthen and get used to impact.


If a professional basketball player plays for 5 years, retires, and for the next 10 years is a sports commentator on basketball, do they get to say they have 15 years of experience? (in the industry, sure, as a player, no.)

You don't necessarily have to train under a teacher or study at a formal school to count time as experience, but you do need to train consistently.

However, the base reality is that the amount of time spent is less useful than the quality gained from it, which may be in part of your general athleticism, ability to pick up on movements, apply them, and whatever tactics or strategies are used in your art - which is why you'll find classes where new students can quickly outpace long time students (outside of, you know, age or size related physical differences).

Anyone who is looking to really judge your ability is going to have to see you use it in some fashion, rather than count days.


Too much emphasis can be placed on 'qualifications' - but to answer your question - when I trained in the zen martial art of Shim Gum Do, we did the usual physical training of forms and ended with a short meditation. The master and creator of this art considered visualizing the movements of these forms while not actually performing them as a valid and important way of integrating them and remembering them, even 'practicing' them this way when you're unable to physically perform them. I've found this to be true, though of course physical practice is necessary to teach the body. In representing yourself to someone - ie - experience in terms of years spent training, this might be a bit deceptive, but as a method of training YOU and your mind and body in your art, I think it's valid and useful.

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