Can You Learn Martial Arts Online? Kids vs Adults

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Taylor

To truly learn a martial art no matter the age takes many years, a great instructor, and most definitely training partners. That being said, does this preclude beginning to intermediate adults and children from learning through a variety of distance and self learning methods?

Children can definitely learn martial arts online. Teens and adults can learn the basics online, but will eventually need training partners and periodic coaching from a qualified instructor. Older students are allowed to learn more advanced techniques, which require in-person guidance.

So, the answer as with many questions ends up being answered with, ‘it depends’. Yet, this one is not stuck in the grey areas. The uses of online instruction have come miles from when the internet first started affecting our culture and how we learn. The answer is more like, “Mostly yes, but for advanced students and adults, more is needed.”

How Can Kids Learn Most Of What They Need In Martial Arts Online?

Kids learning any martial art will have, or at least should have a somewhat truncated form of the curriculum standards as compared to teens and adults.

Good instructors take out dangerous techniques, more difficult execution standards, and implement lower physical achievement criteria.

Practical and live resistance applications for children in many systems is for good reason, downplayed.

The thinking goes something like this: Do we really want an 8 year old in a public school setting that knows how to tear someone’s ACL with a heel-hook technique? Yeah, no one wants that.

At young ages, the ability to become very proficient at live resistance training is limited at best. Once the child grows and becomes stronger, like in the teen years, this type of proficiency can come much easier and faster. They have plenty of time to ‘catch up’.

This is also a consideration for the moral and ethical decisions that children are able to handle. We cannot expect young minds to be able to handle the pressures of friends, school, and growing up while shouldering the responsibility that comes with dangerous or at least somewhat dangerous martial skill.

Here is a good example of this:

Have you ever seen the film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings? Whether you have or not, the scene is easy to picture.

The One Ring is a center of evil and corrupts everyone it touches to different degrees. Bilbo had the ring for years until he gave it to be held by his nephew Frodo.

After giving it over, he headed off to a far off city. Once Frodo eventually reached that city, he met Bilbo. Bilbo absently asked to see the ring again to which Frodo bauked, knowing the power it would have over his uncle.

Then it happened. We in our family call it the ‘Bilbo Face’. Old frail Bilbo’s face took on the countanence of a demon as he lunged for the evil One Ring. He regained control within seconds, but that face sticks with most that have seen the film.

I have seen this ‘Bilbo Face’. I have seen it many times. I have seen it on a little boy determined to get revenge on the little girl ‘sitting in his spot’. Violence soon follows.

I have seen it on the face of an 8 year old in the isle of a store as he realizes his grandmother is not going to buy that very important, overpriced toy he begged for 5 minutes to get. Bilbo materialized in that grocery store.

Children and especially younger children have unformed consciences that need many years and much direction to be properly developed. We must teach them through instruction and more importantly by example.

Giving them the power to cause grave harm to others is not only dangerous, but simply unethical. Instructors or entire systems of martial arts even that advocate teaching children techniques to cause serious or permanent damage to peers lack character and merit.

What is and should be emphasized at younger ages fits directly into the realm of what can be taught through live virtual classes. Instruction that is tailored is necessary, so modern live options are very effective.

Kids at these ages are taught fundamentals of technique execution, proper form, timing through drills, strength enhancement, and balance improvement. Self defense is done through drills that involve timing and speed as well as body and spacial awareness.

They are also taught character and proper behavior. They should be given a system of guidance that emphasises the importance of responsibly using the martial knowledge they are being entrusted with.

If a teacher simply endevors to make a child the next cage fighting champion, that instructor’s actions are highly immoral. One way to combat this tendancy is to have your child learn the techniques that can be delivered through an online system from the controled environment of your own home.

It is much easier to simply disconnect than to pack up and retrieve your child from the mats in a suspect martial arts on-site school setting.

Martial Arts Online Today Vs DVDs And Books From Years Ago

Live online delivery systems have brought distance learning to a whole new, unthinkable level as compared to only 10 years ago. Live interactive HD quality video conferencing with nearly limitless capacity has made even active instruction a reality.

Here is an example recording of one of my Live Little Ninja Martial Arts Online Classes For Kids.

We shouldn’t be surprised that technology has made training in the martial arts so accessible via streaming connections. It was inevitable really. If you simply look at the direction of corporate and university level education it is easy to see the huge percentage of instruction now solely online.

In a study conducted by researchers from Indiana University, South Bend, the transformation of the traditional university system into a digital information distribution model is explored.

Their findings are that with the rise and rapid expansion of virtual technologies, businesses like universities and others dealing in information and instruction are inevitably on the path to transforming from brick and mortar establishments to e-learning purveyors.

This evolution is invariably changing the way self defense and the martial arts are taught and their technical instruction is delivered. The rise of learning martial arts online has begun.

In years past, and rightly so, distance education in such a physical endeavor as the martial arts was routinely scoffed at and ridiculed. Many of these programs were delivered through pamphlets, VHS cassettes, and written exams.

The use of purely information based methods for action and sport based instruction in a mail order format was suspect at best. There was no real and meaningful interaction between the instructor and student. It was nearly impossible to determine if actual learning or even proper instruction was being accomplished.

In the same way, mere online recorded video presentations of the martial arts without interactive feedback and contact still falls short. Some instructors insist on using solely pre-recorded videos and written material as a delivery method.

Though some benefit can come from the immediacy of the techniques found on a platform like Youtube, actual instruction and learning in the martial arts necessitates live participatory environments. Streaming or virtual meeting style delivery is the dawning of a new age in the martial arts.

With all this said, there still needs to be great care taken when selecting any online martial arts program. The instructor not only has to know the art that they intend to teach, they must also be versed in the age group they are teaching, proper understanding of how different students learn, and especially the technical environment of online delivery.

There is also the aspect of how one can become proficient in the techniques being taught without others to practice with. If someone learning martial arts online doesn’t have partners to train with in their household, this can be very easily overcome.

Can’t Training Partners Be Found Without A Traditional Classroom Environment?

The short answer to this question is, absolutely. There are simply ready made and prepared partners in a location based class. To find them among friends, aquaintances, and neighbors, you just have to put forth a bit more effort.

Though, to be honest, this is probably a much better way to find lasting friendships and long term training partners. Though people could share other similarities and interests with other random students in a martial arts class, it is much less likely than if the student searched out their own groups of partners.

There is a big difference as well when talking about children vs adults training in the martial arts online environment. Adults may have a bit more trouble finding these training partners, but children will have ready made partners and training help in siblings, neighbors and ultimately parents.

Training Partners and Children in Online Martial Arts

For kids, partners in martial arts usually come right from their own families. Centuries ago, families would pass down self defense and fighting techniques to the point that many in the martial arts communities understand you when you talk of lineage and family trees of a style.

This comes from families getting their sons ready to serve in the military, trying to ensure they return home safely. Techniques were passed from father to son and stories of life saving strategies during battle and war were shared.

The family environment when training is not foreign to the martial environment. This can also be utilized today, especially when children train at home through online instruction.

Siblings can take the same classes and help one another with practice and resistance drills. As long as proper parental supervision happens, this can be a great way to elevate skill levels through competition and support.

Some of the greatest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors and instructors have come from large groups of brothers and cousins. The support and healthy competition in these families bred champions.

Many times the instructor taught the core of a system and the family members evolved and adapted the techniques. This developed into highly personalized self defense practices that propelled them to heights they may not have experienced without this family connection.

There can also be small groups of friends, especially as kids grow that come together to train under the same online instructions. This can be a fun and cost effective way to learn the martial arts online.

The Potential Problem of Training Partners for Adults Learning Martial Arts Online

This may be a much harder hurdle to overcome for adults. Not only are there usually not ready made partners living in an adults own home, finding those with the same goals and skill level could be a challenge.

This is not to say that it is impossible. It will just take more effort in the form of search and maybe even advertising. Social media, many forms of classified ad sites and publications, and civic groups all can be utilized to develop a network of training partners and sessions.

Many times, practitioners from many differing styles will come together for sparring, live training, and technique sharing. These types of groups can be a bit of work to maintain, but can pay off in students making great strides towards their goals.

For those looking for the social interaction that comes with martial arts training, online training with its virtual connections along with these types of training partners and groups can surpass what one gets from an onsite, ‘brick and mortar’ studio.

It cannot be denied that some of these dojo and gym locations offer great environments for training and making social connections. Yet, some do not. It can be a much more sure proposition when you craft your own network and environment.

Are There Styles of Martial Arts That Are Easier or Harder To Learn Online?

To be honest here, it is tempting to look at styles like Jiu Jitsu, Aikido, or Kali and make the statement that these styles are heavily dependent on partners, mated areas, and require special equipment. This would simply be my many years of instruction pointing to the ease these things bring to the job of an instructor.

For the student, throwing and grappling dummies, outdoor grassy areas or indoor matted basements, and a good heavy bag can be used nearly as effectively. Many of the trappings of an on location school are there for advertising, student retention, and faddish reasons.

Padded weapons can be made from materials from the local home improvement store.

This is also true of grappling and throwing dummies. Mats can be found cheaply even on Here are the ones I use in my Home Dojo for my kids martial arts class online.

With the ideas above utilized about finding training partners, and all the equipment you need cheaply bought or made, online classes are highly accessible for most any style with proper instruction.

As has been stated earlier in this article, for advanced teen and adult students, periodic in person coaching is important and adequately skilled training partners are a must. This can still be done with online classes, but it will take some definite effort and ingenuity to accomplish it consistently.

For this reason, the ready made environment of a martial arts studio location has been the option most choose. This is changing as technology advances and things like traffic and expenses of these classes rise.

For children, online training can take them even into the upper ranks and proficiency levels.

So let’s look at what style may be more CHALLENGING to learn online vs those that lend themselves to it. In general all can be trained in for children without much problem. For adults, there will have to be some extra work on the student’s part.

Learning Grappling Online

For grappling styles, in the beginning a grappling/throwing dummy will be a must. Can you get by with substitutes until you can afford one or make one? Absolutely you can.

Though, to progress past the beginner material, you will need to simulate the human body. This all speaks to the difficulty for adults to fully train past the basics learning online. There will eventually need to be an actual body to train on and not just a simulated one.

For this reason, grappling tends to be one of the harder styles to become proficient in for teens and adults using only online classes. Can it be done. Sure, just with a considerable effort on the part of the student.

As well, if competition is your main goal you will need to find a group of dedicated training partners that either progress with you as you learn or preferably are ahead of you in the process.

For kids, there is usually no problem. Training partners are much easier to find and their techniques can be practiced even with unskilled adults. Not to mention, their technique pool should be limited enough that much can simply be done on a throwing/grappling dummy.

Some styles that are included in the grappling category are…

  • Judo
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  • Japanese Jujitsu
  • Aikido
  • Submission Grappling
  • Catch Wrestling

Striking Styles and Learning Online

Here we can see a much more straight forward transition from in person to online learning. These types of styles are filled with drills simulating a striking opponent. The most purchased piece of training equipment of all variations of martial arts training aides is the heavy bag.

These styles develop speed, timing, balance, coordination, and technique utilizing a multitude of methods. One of the foundations of any competition training regiment is cardiovascular workouts, which require no one but the student with a detailed plan.

The accuracy and timing are admittedly increased with moving training partners and resisted practice. Yet, again these partners can be found with a bit of effort on the part of the student.

For children, there is little that cannot be accomplished in an online class. With parents, siblings, and equipment most of what they will learn in a striking style martial art online will be accessible.

Striking styles include…

  • Karate
  • Kung Fu
  • TaeKwonDo
  • Krav Maga
  • Boxing
  • Kickboxing

Learning a Weapons Type of Martial Art Online

Similar to striking systems, weapons based styles tend to lend themselves to online training much better than grappling. This may even apply to weapons more so than to striking.

In a striking style the student must condition the body to absorb the damage intend in a way that doesn’t cause significant injury. This means that the body itself does most of the work.

In a weapons based system, ‘absorbing’ damage is never the goal. Evasion and superior deflection, parrying, and blocking is essential. The weapon does much of the work and not the body.

Weapon systems require much of the same cardiovascular health, timing, and coordination as a striking style. Most of this training can be done with online live instruction with little to no modification.

Weapons training online looks surprisingly similar to an in person class. This goes for kids and adults. The only difference again comes at higher level ranking for teens and adults. The ever-present need for training partners will still remain.

Among weapons styles you will find…

  • Kali martial arts
  • Pikiti Tirsia
  • Escrima
  • Kendo
  • Iado
  • Many of the Karate oriented weapons training
    • Bo Staff
    • Tonfa
    • Nunjaku
    • Sai

Is There A Possibility To Get Certification For Martial Arts Rank Online?

Many don’t understand what is meant by certification of rank in the martial arts. This can cause some confusion when dealing with online martial arts classes.

The way this works in most every system is simple. All color belts or ranks below an instructor level are established in a way that the local instructor decides when a student is ready and if they attain the rank.

In some systems, the local instructor can even change the order of ranks or even the number. Lower or color rankings are much of the time highly dependent on the instructor and are ‘certified’ primarily by them.

This is why many times if a student changes instructor they are required to start over at a much lower belt level. Many times the instructor will monitor the student and either promote them faster if their skill can be demonstrated or they will not have to begin at a white belt.

Where a more national or international certification becomes necessary begins at 1st degree black belt. This is considered in most styles the master of the basics. There is more of a consensus usually that will be required or at least acceptance of the student receiving this rank by some form of leadership.

Many styles will have differing requirements to attain rank online. One that most agree have stretched out the time requirements for earning certified rank is again the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu group, Gracie Jiu Jitsu©.

They up until recently allowed several BJJ color belts to be earned online. Apparently due to complaints from on site instructors and students, this has been changed. Now, in Gracie Jiu Jitsu© students can progress to blue belt online.

Many systems have their own requirements, but many leave it up to instructors and audit their processes instead of regulating how students learn. If an instructor is willing and able to deliver classes in a live online method, certification is usually a given.

The Learning Martial Arts Online Takeaway…

In learning martial arts online we can see that there is a definite difference between children and adults. Children are able to learn most of what they will need to progress and become proficient through online delivery methods.

Their curriculum is modified for age and the techniques they need to learn lend themselves more to this environment.

Adults can definitely progress from beginner ranks to intermediate levels, but will need to find training partners and at least periodic in person assessments to move into more advanced material and proficiency.

Distance learning is light years ahead of where it once was. With most major universities and nearly all corporate education programs transitioning to online learning platforms, martial arts is sure to follow.

The capabilities of live online interactive classes now are better than they have ever been before. Students can even use smartphones and tablets to participate in the classes.

Though some styles lend themselves more or less to learning martial arts online, most of them can be learned online with a little effort from the students and innovation from the instructor.

Certification is not an issue if the instructor is willing to teach in a specific way. This certification will be more or less valuable depending on the student’s diligence in selecting an instructor with proper credentials, accomplishments, and experience.

Can martial arts be learned online. Absolutely. It will just take a bit of self motivation and determination. With many costs being cheaper and the commute cut out completely, it could be worth it for kids and adults.

Mathew Booe

Mathew Booe is a father of four, husband to Jackie since 1994, retired international competitor with over 50 wins, an international seminar instructor, a master instructor of hundreds of Little Ninjas each week, and the one bringing you the great content like you just read. Sign up for the newsletter to hear about his upcoming books before they are released to the public.

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