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Beginners Training Guide, Part 1:
Learning Combat Skills from Video
Pete Kautz 2003 / First printed in KnifeForums Magazine

At seminars and by e-mail, two of the most common questions people ask me are first "How can I learn to use the knife (or whatever combat skill) on my own?" and second, "How can I continue to develop my skills without having regular access to an instructor?"

These are both excellent questions that address the reality of learning to use the knife in a defensive mode for most people today!

The vast majority of us simply do not have the luxury of having a number of highly skilled combat instructors in our town. It is not easy to have consistent access to high quality, hands-on instruction in knife / counter-knife skills or any kind of modern close quarters combat art! I am no different in this regard than anyone else; the guys I want to work with live all over the globe, so it's not like I can just pop by for a cup of coffee and some training.

Because of this, and the time demands of modern life, most people will end up learning these skills through a mix of:

· Attending seminars

· Watching videotapes

· Reading books

· Training solo, or with a few friends

If you are lucky enough to have a reputable source for local instruction, by all means you should go and learn. You should still supplement what you are learning by looking into these other kinds of resources, though. It has been proven that if a person learns the same thing from two different sources that they are twice as likely to use it as if they only learned it from one source!

Though books have always been a way to learn about the fighting arts, in the last twenty years videotapes have become perhaps the most popular medium for learning martial skills, and for some darn good reasons:

· Fighting techniques are easier to understand by seeing them in action and hearing them explained by experts, rather than by just reading about them.

· Videos are comparable in cost to books and are very cost effective compared to traveling to seminars or taking regular martial arts classes.

· Videos can be viewed repeatedly to insure key concepts are learned, and often feature slow motion and close ups of key details in the material, yet they are only an hour or two long, and quicker to completely finish than a book.

· Videos address many unusual and specific areas of learning, so students are no longer limited to just learning what instructors in their immediate area teach.

· Watching a video is considered fun, reading is often (sadly) considered hard.

The goal of this article is to assist the serious student of the knife in how to best approach learning the subjects on their own from instructional video. You are your own best teacher, but like anything worthwhile you need a plan of action to follow if you want to succeed in teaching yourself. The video has the information, but you need to break it down so that you can learn it all in a progressive format.

The first step, before buying any video, is to determine exactly what it is that you want to learn. The more specific you can make your reasons for why you want to learn something, the better choices you can make in deciding what to learn and what sources to choose. There is no lack of instructional videos on the market. Some are good, others less so. By knowing what you want to learn, you might not always get the best tapes, but at least you will avoid wasting money on tapes that don't teach what you're interested in!

There are many reasons a person may have for desiring to learn about knives and personal protection. Some people want to learn quick self-defense while others want to learn something more martial artsy, some follow the knife dueling path while others just want to learn to defend against the knife - the list goes on and on!

For some people the knife will be one small element in their bag of tricks, while for others it will be the mainstay of their martial training. Depending on your own priorities and reasons, you will obviously find certain training and approaches more beneficial for you than others. This does not make other methods "wrong"; they are simply not what you need at the moment. Later on you might find they offer valuable skills you had not previously needed, or perhaps even understood!

For example, a person wanting to learn about self-defense could spend a year or more to learn a specific kata (solo fighting form) from video. If they didn't already have a foundation in traditional Asian arts, they probably would just get frustrated and give up! In the end, although they might learn a lot about a specific style of martial arts, they would not necessarily have learned that much about their goal of self-defense.

In that same one year, however, a beginner could learn an entire streamlined self-defense course (like the Comtech Drawpoint method) and get quite good with it. This is Your call! One is not necessarily better than the other - all arts and teachers are different and have very different priorities (and in fact they may share many common technical elements and tactics) but certain arts and teachers are better depending on your needs!

Once you have determined what it is that you want to learn, you need to determine who offers videotapes along those lines, and then decide which of these to investigate. Martial arts, knife, and gun magazines are filled with advertisements for videotapes, as are catalogs from specialty publishers like Paladin Press. Many martial arts groups also offer videotapes directly through their web sites, as well.

Generally, you get what you pay for with tapes, and there are advantages to buying videos by known instructors (even if they are a few dollars more) than ones by some of the unknowns. It only stands to reason that if someone is well known instructor who teaches a lot of seminars and everyone speaks highly of, their tapes probably have stuff on them worth viewing.

The old Chinese saying
"Buy best, cry once - buy cheap, cry twice" is very true in this case!

8 Steps to Master Learning from Video

Once you have selected a video, follow these eight simple steps and you will be amazed at how effectively you will be able to learn! I have used this process many times over the years to quickly and successfully learn from videotapes both in the martial arts and in other fields of interest. It is a fun, interactive way to learn that makes your study time really profitable!

1) Watch the tape through once, just to get an overview. Write down the general topics without worrying about being too specific. Pay more attention to the tape than to what you are writing.

2) Watch the tape a second time and refine the initial outline. Write down any key points the speaker makes, but only describe the physical techniques in a general way. You should reset the tape counter to zero at the beginning of the video and note where about on the tape each technique is. This way you will easily be able to find the individual technique sections again if you have a question.

3) Watch the tape a third time and refine the second outline by describing each technique in as much detail as you can. Get up and do the move along with the performer on the screen, then write down how to do it in your own words.

4) Practice from this third set of notes and see if you can successfully go through all the techniques you have written down. Make any additional comments to clarify how to do the material, and write down any questions you have on the specifics.

5) Watch the tape a fourth time. Read through your notes as you watch the video to make sure you have not missed any key details. Find out the answers to your questions, and rewrite your notes accordingly.

6) Practice from your revised notes and as before revise as needed. Try rewriting your notes from memory and comparing them to your original set - this will instantly show you what you don't know!

7) Teach a friend what you have learned, and you'll be surprised what it teaches you about the topic - both what you know and what you don't! Even better, have your friend watch the same tape and write his or her own notes. They might get all kinds of insights you didn't, and vice versa.

8) Review your notes frequently to insure you understand them and can instantly remember all the information from them. Save all your condensed notes in a binder, and you'll be able to recall all the tapes you've ever seen at a glance!

By following this eight-step process, you will have converted the video into a written format in just a few sittings, and have a solid little document to refer to. By writing things in your own words (and rewriting them) you are active in the learning process on many levels, and will retain the material better, and at a much faster rate. By analyzing movement and technique like this you will gain a deeper insight into the how's and why's of the fighting arts.

Following the eight steps requires you to view the tape only four times through, and requires you to write four sets of progressively more detailed notes. Presuming you were watching an hour long video, this entire process of viewing and note taking should take you only about 6 to 8 hours total.

In the end, you will have a summary of the entire tape written so clearly that you can practice from it and instantly recall the information from the videotape whenever you look at it!

Remember that while the tips in this article are focused on enabling you to learn quickly and retain material from videotapes, they can be adapted to learn more rapidly from books as well. Once you start to use this simple eight-step process to absorb information you will see many other applications for it, as well. Happy learning!

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