In my day, we didn’t have them fancy shmancy interwebs.

by Ryan Gregory, February 16th, 2012

I may not have walked 5 miles to school and back each day (in the snow, uphill both ways), but it is true that when I first started training I did not have access to the wonderful resource that is the internet.

Now, I am not saying that one can learn karate online. A good Sensei and help from skilled senior students is the only way to learn properly. But, in terms of remembering the steps in a new (or, in my case, old) kata, or in reading up on history, or finding where to buy or how to make training equipment, the internet is extremely useful.

Case in point, I managed to recall/re-learn the basic sequence of Ten U No Kon bo kata in a few hours once I found some examples on YouTube and wrote down the sequence step by step. I practiced each component, and worked my way through from the beginning by adding the next step once I was comfortable with the previous steps to that point. Eventually, I could do the entire sequence along with the video, and then without the video or any notes. At that stage, it was sloppy but I had the sequence in memory again. I practiced it some more after both classes this week, and it is definitely getting much better now that I am focusing on each technique rather than remembering the basic sequence.  The same thing works for learning new pre-arranged kumite sequences: video plus notes plus practice.

I am currently using the same approach for getting back to more complex kata like Seiyunchin and Bassai Dai. I have also found diagrams of the sequences, which are useful but difficult to follow if you aren’t already somewhat familiar with the kata. I have started a notebook with these diagrams as well as written sequences for all of the kata I am working on.

Again, this is not a way to learn a kata that you have not been taught by a Sensei, but it does help a lot when trying to recall certain details or when you get stuck partway through the sequence. Learning to perform the kata properly, understanding the bunkai, and anything other than going over the basic sequence is best done in the dojo.

Now, if you want to learn some fancier moves for show, like how to spin your ‘chuks, that’s something you can find tutorials for on YouTube. I know a bit of the flashy stuff with nunchaku, but it was based on what a senior belt taught me on the side here and there back when I was a junior belt. With the tutorials available online, you can learn quite a lot if you are willing to practice.

I have also found some useful resources for some do-it-yourself projects to construct training equipment. I have made a makiwara and a breaking board holder based on a combination of various designs that I found online.  I’ll blog about these later, but it’s another example of the kind of additional resources one can find online that we didn’t have back in the day.

There is no substitute for hard training under a knowledgeable Sensei, but there are plenty of supplemental resources online to help you practice on your own.

NOTE: Be careful when looking for online resources to help you work on kata. There are good examples and bad examples, and even among good ones there are variations among styles and individuals that may not align with what you are being taught by your Sensei. Remember to use these resources only for basic practice.

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