Let’s say you haven’t studied karate. Could you perform one of my forms? Right now? Without any instruction or teaching, could you protect yourself or others with a martial arts technique? If you answered no, that would be the typical (and wise) answer. The reality is that learning the martial arts is difficult enough on its own; let alone without the guidance of a proper instructor or Sensei.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a teacher. I know a number of fighters and martial artists that have committed themselves to learning through books, videos and simply by watching others. Although this CAN be accomplished, it’s an extremely difficult road to walk and most are unable to maintain their momentum. It’s a bit comparable to the guitar. When I was in high school, everyone was obsessed with grunge bands, and playing the acoustic guitar.
Tons of people went out and bought guitars with the intention of learning. Some bought primers to learn basic chords, some watched others playing… A few were even motivated enough to learn how to transition through four basic chords in order to play a simple rendition of “Time Of Your Life” by GreenDay (an awesome song, you should YouTube it, if you’ve never heard it). But within a year, most of those people would set down their guitars and forget about them by graduation and likely never pick them up again.
The same can be said of martial arts. It’s all well and good to read as many books on martial arts, philosophy and Bushido’s Code as possible; I encourage it, in fact. But if you want to learn any fighting art, you need at least some rudimentary instruction. You need someone to correct you, someone to guide you and someone to teach you the things you don’t know. Otherwise, how can you ever have a hope in hell of getting better?
I think it’s safe to say that modern society is a mixed bag of people who prefer their independence and people who expect to have everything handed to them. But as the old saying goes (and I forget who said it), “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” If you are looking to learn, seek out a teacher. Find someone who has been where you are and has studied what you’re looking to learn. Not everyone is able to be a student; very few are able to go it alone. ☯