First, an update. I’ve received a few emails over the last couple of weeks asking if I’ve quit. No, I haven’t. I wrote several months ago about my mom’s death. It was accidental and completely unexpected, and it knocked me off the course I was on for several months. I quit working on the weapon use and defense book, and really didn’t get back to it until last week. I have continued to practice though, and I will get back to posting more, finishing the weapons book, adding new content to this website, and eventually I’d like to make a number of instructional videos.
Lots of people have asked about the book. I’ll be finished the text in about a week. It was nearly finished 6 months ago. But I’ve realized that I need another hundred or so pictures. This is more difficult, as I need two other people to help with them, but I’ll try to get them done as quickly as possible and finally get the second book done! Now, on to an important topic…
I’ve written about this before in various places, but I get questions about solo training at least a couple of times each week, so I’d like to specifically address it again. How can a person learn self defense without a training partner? What is the best material to train alone?
You cannot learn self defense without a training partner, and solo training is close to useless for self defense. It’s unfortunate, but true, despite what many other instructors will tell you.
Think about it like this: Your training partner in self defense/martial arts functions about the same as a piano does for a piano player, or as water does for a swimmer. You absolutely cannot learn to play the piano without a piano, and you absolutely cannot learn to swim without water. You can press your fingers down on a table, or in the air, but you’re not going to learn to play the piano. You can do swimming strokes in the air, but you’re not going to learn to swim.
What about hitting a heavy bag or doing striking techniques in the air? These things can be a little useful for a beginner. Hitting a heavy bag can be a great workout, and it’s something that professional boxers still do, of course. But imagine what would happen if someone had only trained on a heavy bag for three years, and then tried to fight a boxer who had fought other people for three years. (In my experience, focus mitt work with a partner who can strike back between combinations is more effective than heavy bag work, for self defense.) Imagine what would happen if someone who had only done solo forms got attacked by an attacker with a knife.
Self defense requires at least two people. Everything you do as a self defense or martial arts practitioner is in relation to another living human who will be moving, resisting, and fighting back. Practicing solo and fighting against another person is literally about as different as ballet dancing and Thai boxing. It would be awesome if we could train alone and develop real skill in self defense, but it’s just not the case.
Solo training can be great for strength and conditioning, and it can be used to increase qualities that will be useful in a self defense situation. But without spending the majority of your self defense training time with a resisting and uncooperative opponent, it hardly matters how strong and conditioned you are. Additionally, there are better ways to increase your strength and conditioning than doing martial arts specific movements only. So, your first task if you want to learn self defense and don’t have a training partner or partners is to find one!
One thing I will try to do soon is add a section to my website where people who are interested in training functional self defense can post their city and contact info, in case there are others in their location who would like to train together. I’ll send out an email once that’s done.
If you have any questions, comments, or thoughts about solo training, please post them in the comments below. 🙂
PS. I’ve gone ahead and added an FSD page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/functionalselfdefense/ Please like it and tell your friends about it!
Please include a section for residents in Puerto Rico. It’s US territory but often ignored by too many US businesses.
I’ll include sections for anyone who gives me a city/address. 🙂
Very much appreciated but… I live in another continent
Not a problem Frank, so do I. 😉 It can be anywhere in the world. But I’ll email when I have the section/list ready.
I’m sorry to hear about your loss. I’m also a guy from Louisiana but I live in a major city in Brazil. I’ve found your material ejoyable to read and very applicable. I find myself doing some of the things you wrote about naturally, as I do have to walk sometimes alone at night when I get off of work. I work with the church here too so sometimes we go into dangerous places with the purpose of ministering to people and so we are always welcomed.Some of your material could be very useful for people traveling to unifamiliar placas. I know you touched on it a little but that might be an interesting subject to write on that many people could benefit from. For example here a lot of touists get a rental car with a GPS and the GPS leads them into dangerous places. It ended very badly for one person. A do’s and dont’s for people traveling abroad could be helpful. Thanks for your work.
Thanks Shawn. I’m glad you’ve found the material useful. I think it applies equally no matter where you are in the world.
good stuff Dave. Condolences to you and family.
Hallo david , nice hearing from you again ,i’m traning solo now on the heavy bag ,shadow boxing etc ,i like it ,i also have a book on solo heavy bag traning by my former teacher mr de meere but like you said i’m looking for a good training partner or an jkd school ,thanks for the post greetings .
I didn’t realize De Meere was your former teacher Tom. That’s cool. I’ve never met him, but he seems like a great guy. 🙂
He still is the traning are always different but hard and disciplined ,i,m still traning but its changing into mma ,i dont like the groundstuff ,but the drills are cool ,yesterday we did some ground stuff with my teacher and ending with some sore mucles,sometimes you only train wiht 2 or 3 guys,its good traning greetings.Ps check out his drills on you tube ,greetings .
So sorry for your loss brother. Thanks for all the great info. Blessings to you and your family.
Glad you’re back. The only self defense strategy that can be effectively developed solo is awareness/avoidance. Striking power an also be improved in solo practice.
Happy Mardi Gras, wherever you are!
Thanks Michael. I didn’t celebrate Mardi Gras this year…but I may come back for it next year. There’s nothing like being in costume in the Quarter. We did that for many years! 🙂
Good to see you back, David. Still practicing solo, no luck with finding a dedicated training partner. This post of yours, pertaining to the drawbacks of solo training makes a lot of sense – being a pianist/keyboard player, and swimmer, myself, understand its shortcomings.
I reside in Asian continent.
Thanks Jon! I know it can be hard to find a good training partner, and even more so when you’re living abroad.
Dont worry,its hard to find a training partner ,i made some flylers with info, but no luck so far we will see,greetings
Yeah, I think solo training can help develop some basic reflexes and movement patterns so that the offensive tools are well functioning, but the heavy bag doesn’t hit back and neither does your shadow. Weight training is another bonus to boost sports performance in any activity, but it won’t teach you how to fight. Very realistic advice. To learn how to fight you have to do it, or at least get as close as you can.
Glad you’re getting back at the book David. Looking forward to it.
While I dont disagree with you I think you’re way too black and white with your dismissal of solo training. Sure if someone is starting from day 1 in a system they will need a partner to truely master their technique. However, theres plently of martail benefit to solo training. Especially when talking about artist that have put in many non solo years and have a good understanding.
Thanks for the comment Ben. You’re right that practitioners who have put in the time and have a good understanding will get more from solo training than a beginner. I agree with you. Solo training can help to maintain the pathways in your brain that you need for your techniques. The problem is that the most important thing about a technique isn’t really speed or power, but timing in relation to your opponent…when use it, in what context, how you respond to his response to your attack or defense, etc. So I do think there is *some* value in solo training. It’s better than nothing. But I honestly don’t think it’s THAT much better than nothing.
I have a great interest in fighting so I thought of learning Martial arts but I can’t afford a trainer. So, can I learn self defense and fighting without a trainer? Online?
You can learn some things without a trainer, but you definitely need at least a training partner, and without a good trainer/teacher you’ll likely be learning more bad habits than good ones, unfortunately.