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7 ways Martial Art has changed in the past 30 years – part 2

Videos and YouTube

In my second review of how Martial Art has changed over past decades I’ve chosen to consider how videos and YouTube changed my view, nowadays it seems YouTube is the de facto “go to’ resource if you want something quick visual and available in an instant… not so back in the day!

When I first started training footage of any type of training was unheard of apart from the stuff that was on TV or at the movies (pictures – if you live where I live) in fact the quest for knowledge was fraught with danger.

If you could find someone, and how did you do that? Paper ads, word of mouth, and posters in a local shop possibly, it felt more like a needle in a haystack. If you did find someone you couldn’t just pop on your computer and check out their website and associated links etc. Let alone do it on a mobile device right there from a QR code! You had to take them pretty much at face value, that meant paying and training and trying to make some sense of it, hoping that the reason you weren’t getting it because it was your ineptness, not the stuff you were being taught as deadly Kung Fu being Ecky Thump ( if you don’t know what that is google it!).

Also general awareness of martial art was very scarce, that meant that whilst it sounded like you might learn something very few people knew and that you might become an amazing invisible Ninja you might also be training with some nutter who was making it up as he went along! I’m bypassing 8mm here because I never came across that except for my Dad’s Laurel and Hardy films at home, way, way before my time and a messy way of entertaining yourself.

The Mighty Video Cassette lands – VHS of course!

Then it began to change led by our American cousins and videos, the old VHS ones started to appear, but you better make sure it was VHS and NTSC (I Think that’s it!) or it wouldn’t play ‘cos it was out of the region! I don’t remember when I first saw a video that had martial art training content on it, I think it was probably through something like Martial Art Illustrated or Combat or something – to be fair, for the most part I was busy training and not to bothered about researching more, partly because I was learning what I was physically doing and that was enough and partly because I didn’t know they were out there anyway – that reminds me of the saying about the three types of knowledge;

The three types of knowledge

What you know – I was learning that and training in it every class

What you know you don’t know – how to beat that bloody big, quick, strong, fast, hard, better opponent!! arrghh

What you don’t know that you don’t know – Well, I don’t know what that is, hence the term! Actually it illustrates my point perfectly, it was out there but not on my radar at all.

Anyway, I digress, it was probably the early 90’s when I first saw the from the US and probably off Amazon, I think one of the first ones I bought was by Burton Richardson, a series on JKD, He’s an instructor under Guro Inosanto so it was of immediate interest to me. But even then to was still hard searching to ring other material.

In later years it became a medium for instructors to share private training with their students, those where not polished commercial copies but stuff recorded and passed on to students. I am fortunate to have video’s like these from my instructors and I treasure them to this day, they are for my private viewing and reference and very precious to me.

I then began to collect other material and there seemed to be a point in time when nearly everyone was releasing videos. This meant that while there where some great informative ones out there was a load of cheap made to make money ones that meant you got ripped off.

As time progressed video cassette gave way to DVD and better quality filming and I appeared in some alongside my instructor, Rick Young, this was a huge personal honour for me, but if you look at them you can see why I never took up acting!!

As digital media grew and it became easier to film edit and distribute stuff the world became full of people throwing stuff out there for consumption, even to the point of people being awarded their black belt by video review. I found this weird to say the least… I met a guy in Edinburgh at a Guro Inosanto Seminar hosted by Rick Young, as is normal between most martial artists we embrace our own and share. this individual had no-one to train with and I invited him to join our group – myself and about 12 of my students – as is normal the conversation turned to what he did and he told me he as a black belt in Jiu Jitsu and Karate.

Great, I took this at face value, but later on after the training we were eating and socialising and he told me he gained his black belt by sending the video to an address somewhere and paying for it to be reviewed and was awarded a black belt by complete strangers. He then told me his other black belt was awarded to him after a weekends training and that he was to continue his training via video classes sent to him each week.

I genuinely felt for this guy, it took a lot admit this as it blew his reputation amongst some of us immediately. He asked my advice, I responded that while I couldn’t personally do that, it took me 8 years to get my instructorship from Sifu Rick Young and nearly 10 years to get my BJJ black belt from Braulio and Victor Estima, I appreciated his honestly and hoped he would develop his training from there. There is a continuation to this story but I’ll update you on that another time…

So Video/DVD flooded the martial arts world with material – not all good, not all for education and some definitely for cash, was it good? I have mixed thoughts on it, what do you think?

YouTube – Instant information or gratification regardless of content?

YouTube is a fantastic website, with 159,000,000 unique viewers as of August 2014 and revenue of $3.7 billion dollars forecast to grow to $18billion dollars by 2018 by Forbes, this is not a company to be played with. All of this from hosting/playing and sharing videos on pretty much anything. We can film it now, edit now (if we feel so inclined) and post it straight to our YouTube channel, announce it on Facebook, Twitter etc. and boom! instant fame and celebrity, we love it – well I don’t, it’s all moving too fast for me – but its moving and we need to ”ride the wave” if we are going to stay afloat, sorry about the water/sea/surf metaphors…  Anyway, this means information is instantly to hand and some great and brilliant stuff too.

However, freedom to post what you want has its drawbacks – where the checks and balances to make sure the information is good and proper? Suffice to say I have had several students over the years tell me they learned it off a YouTube video only to find that I didn’t agree with their interpretation. Oh dear me, what a problem. What to do?

I did ask one of my instructors what he thought of the surge in Video/YouTube etc. and how it would affect the martial arts in both quality and interpretation. I found his thought very interesting;

That the information was good if you could verify the source then as a revision tool it could be a great help.

That part of training with an instructor was the osmosis of his energy and technique with yours and a video clip could never do that.

Personally, I like to have video to look at and analyse and sometimes reference or just to watch it for fun (know sad of me but I love it…) and if it becomes an element of your training and used to enhance/support/accelerate your growth and learning then great, do it.

But if you think watching it without practise makes you a martial artist then think again – training in classes with partners under quality instructors has worked for thousands of years and right now, in my opinion, technology can’t take the place of that!

What do you think? Friend or foe, help or hinder, let me know… 

The next time I write about Modern Facilities – I still remember the sign over the sink that read “please do not p**s in the sink it offends” and that sink was in the training area! – Good times or maybe not…