In the last issue of Wing Chun Life News #030 I brought up the question: Can you learn Wing Chun online, with videos? (Part 1)
It's a question I get asked often and one that you've probably asked yourself at one time.
In Part 1, I kept the focus simple. I gave a broad overview of all the current methods of learning Wing Chun without a live sifu or grandmaster. i.e. virtually, streaming, online, ebooks, and through downloadable videos.
Here in Part 2, I want to touch on some of the drawbacks to learning without a live instructor, and how you can get around some of them...
Bottom line: you're going to learn best by training with a live sifu or advanced practitioner.
And the number one reason is -- feedback.
When you make a mistake, don't do a particular move correctly, don't have the proper energy or the proper structure, or the proper reaction...
... your trainer (sifu, advanced practitioner) can tell you immediately and help you make corrective adjustments.
Feedback and corrective action is a sure way to success when you're learning Wing Chun... or how to speak a foreign language, algebra, or even how to execute a proper Clean and Jerk weightlifting move.
However, what I've discovered on my personal journey is that the above statement is accurate, but may diminish as your skill improves (and depending on what your ultimate goals are, as I explain later).
This is what I mean. Once you start picking up the basics and develop strong fundamentals, the less dependent you become on any one “expert” for the feedback.
You'll either notice your mistakes and shortcomings on your own (i.e. because you have better body sense), which means you'll provide your own feedback and corrective action...
Or it's simply not efficient or productive to have a live person next to you for extended amounts of time as you train and practice. You'll be able to pick up new things quickly on your own.
In this case, having access to a number of "experts" or specialists with the specific knowledge you seek is more to your advantage. And they could be sitting with you live, "teaching" you through a book, or streaming video, etc.
You need to determine what your level is right now.
Let me use swimming as a very loose metaphor.
I do not think it's a good idea to learn how to swim by reading a book or watching a video. This is especially true for someone who has never jumped into deep water.
But, if you can already swim safely, I believe you can learn how to swim better by watching videos of Olympic swimmers.
This happened to me not too long ago.
I am not a competitive swimmer but I've always wanted to learn how to do a flip turn and how to do the butterfly stroke. I learned how to do both by watching training videos of Olympic swimmers and Olympic swim coaches.
I am not going to win any races soon, but it feels good knowing that I can do a flip turn and the butterfly stroke without drowning :-)
Like the swimming metaphor above, if you have zero background in martial arts or combat sports, picking up any Wing Chun video, probably even a beginner's video, is going to be very difficult to learn from.
You're not going to know how to hold a fist, how to stand, how to throw basic punch or basic kick without losing your balance and falling down.
But, if you have some experience with martial arts or combat sports, a Wing Chun video can prove effective. And it will almost always open your eyes to other possibilities in combat.
People who have only studied tae kwon do, or karate, or boxing may find Wing Chun strange at first. But with some work and by replaying videos they can pick it up quickly.
Plus, learning Wing Chun concepts will make them better martial artists.
Next, how much background do you have with kung fu? Wing Chun is part of kung fu. So, people who have trained in other kung fu styles may find many similarities. Learning a few different Wing Chun strategies can definitely benefit them.
Finally, If you train or have trained Wing Chun, then learning online, with a video, or even reading a book can quickly expand your knowledge and effectiveness.
For a long time I didn't feel one could learn real and effective strategies by reading a book or watching video.
Much of the reason had to do with the quality of the product or how the information was presented.
But things have been changing quickly.
Thanks to the free market, video production costs have come down a lot!
It's realistic for a small local sifu or publisher to use two or three cameras and film a video. The more angles the better, in my opinion.
Also, since costs have come down, it allows publishers to experiment with new ways to present information, perhaps better ways of demonstrating a concept, tactic, or strategy.
This can be as simple as including a downloadable pdf/ebook along with a video, transcribing a video, using live video with animation and even special effects, or including live Skype chat with the purchase.
At this point, the limitation are one's own imagination.
In the past you couldn't even think of doing things like this unless you were a big time video/film production company, or had a substantial budget to start with.
But today, people can do these things from home (or their kwoon), and let their creativity and innovation create products that are more useful than ever.
For instance, on our Video MASTERY library, the publisher Wing Chun University currently has three sifus who teach their entire lineage's system (including forms, weapons, footwork, attacks, defense, etc.) all online with downloadable videos.
Both sifu Belonoha and sifu Fernandez produced their series from scratch to accommodate online video viewing and even offer special certificates of completion, video critique, and direct communication via email or Skype or similar communication method.
Since it's more affordable to produce martial arts videos (and buy them) it creates more competition.
Competition is good for the martial arts consumer because it pushes sifus, publishers, and other specialists to produce a better product. Better than their competitors.
In our case, it means creating distance learning material (videos, apps, ebooks, online resources, etc.) that produce a better result -- Wing Chun'ners who can learn faster, deeper, and become more deadly.
That's a big goal to strive for. And not all products reach it, come close, or exceed it.
But luckily competition pushes publishers in this direction.
Either they offer something better, or their stuff won't sell. Simple free market economics.
Where to go next?