All About Martial Arts and Finding the Right One
- What Makes a Martial Art?
- Origins and History
- Classifying Martial Arts
- Finding the Correct Martial Art for YOU
- YouTube Training Videos, Are They Any Good?
When people think of martial arts training they may think of jumping, kicking, powerful punches, and acrobatics, ninja style. Of course, all of those things can be a part of the martial arts training, but those physical aspects are largely a product of a martial art itself and not every one will have the same configuration. Some may also think a martial art is meditation and the control of emotions. Again, there are some martial arts that have those goals, but not all. Martial arts as an all encompassing term just doesn’t exist, the words themselves have severe limitations, and we will discuss that. In this article I will discuss what is a martial art, classify some common forms of martial arts, give some origin and history of some select martial arts, and how to chose a martial art for yourself. In this article, I will write for the person who has never taken a martial art before.
I. WHAT MAKES A MARTIAL ART?
Martial arts are near and dear to the heart, not unlike religion or politics. When speaking of various martial arts, as I will be in this class, I realize that there may be hypersensitive students that may disagree with some of the issues discussed. Know that I will be providing as honest and open a summary as I am able in this article. Realize also that impossible amounts of variations within a martial art is the norm and many times what is true for one school is false for another even within the same style. The reason is that martial arts are not taught in a vacuum. The teacher/student mix changes the process so much that they can destroy the original intention of an art, bring it to its natural fruition, or change it to something else entirely. The individual martial art teacher has a powerful influence on how the art moves into the future for the benefit or detriment of that art, and has far reaching results.
I hold to the belief that there are no superior martial art traditions, but rather only superior martial artists. That is, that every martial art has benefits and it is up to the individual practitioner to bring out the best of their particular art. Common among the benefits of most martial arts are;
· an increase in confidence
· strength of body and character
· willingness to help those in need
These and many others come shining through as the reasons that people either begin or continue in the martial arts. Having the martial arts continue into the future seems very likely, especially in two distinct forms; 1) self-defense and 2) tournament applications, but I believe that without students who are willing to dig in to search and understand the origins of their chosen system, martial arts will lose many powerful lessons and magical wonderment to future generations. Also without students who understand the needs of modern self-defense, a martial art would lose it ability to deal with realistic threats and therefore the favor of some students and their families who have kept these martial arts in good standing over the centuries.
Before we begin, defining terms is always a good place to start. If you asked a hundred people what martial arts are, you would get one hundred answers, some only slight variants of each other, but others completely worlds different, yet there is something that binds them all together –its martial-ness if you will. According to my Lexicon a martial art is;
“Any of several Oriental techniques of self-defense, e.g., karate, judo, tai-chi.”
When I read this, I cringed. First off, are martial arts only Oriental? What about European fencing? MMA? Penjat Silat? Boxing? Wrestling? While it is true that the Orientals; Chinese and Japanese in particular brought their fighting styles to the level of an art form, wrote them down in scrolls for others to follow, and passed them on in schools specific for the processes, other cultures passed on their fighting forms too, right? Well, these non-Oriental fighting forms did pass some of their art on, but in a much more haphazard fashion; through tournaments and skirmishes with other cultures. Some of those techniques became absorbed into newer methods of combat and others simply discarded as no longer practical. With the use of reliable firearms, other martial arts became only suitable as sport. This is why many martial arts of Europe are no longer present – not so in the Orient. When firearms became the preferred weapon for war in the Orient, the old martial arts became loved and respected for the power of spirit that they promoted. No, all martial arts are not Oriental, but they all have strong links there.
The second part of the Lexicon definition says that martial arts are “techniques of self-defense.” All martial arts were not designed only for self-defense; some were also designed to attack. Kicking and punching are by nature offensive (attack) and may be used either as an attack or as a defense. In combat, sometimes an attack is the best defense.
I used my Lexicon further and looked up the word martial. The definition of martial is,
“Of, relating to, suited to, or suggestive of war.”
If this is true then for any martial art to be “martial” it has to be able to be used in wartime. That would mean that there are very, very few true martial arts. Consider with the advent of guns, machine guns, smart bombs, jets, nuclear missiles, atomic, biological and chemical weapons, etc. hand-to-hand martial arts have definitely taken a back seat and are mostly UNsuitable for modern warfare. Why? Why would any soldier use hand-to-hand skills to dispatch an opponent when means exist to do the same thing with less energy, less danger to self, and from a much greater distance? Other than a limited use of martial arts in the military, I’d say that the majority of martial arts fall into the “suggestive of war” category.
The last of the Lexicon definitions I will bother you with is art. What makes a fighting style an art? Isn’t art where you create something beautiful using paint or clay? Dance might be the closest that you can actually get to a martial art. Are then martial arts a dance suggestive of war? Some martial arts definitely are, but the definition of art that I keyed on was,
“The technique involved, or the sphere in which creative skill is used.”
Here is, in my opinion, where the martial arts become an art…and usable. Combat, as is life, is a fluid environment, changing with every little detail. All of the raw techniques ever created cannot possibly cope with the variety of possibilities that exist without creative adaptability.
We have talked a lot about the definition of a martial art to try to see how it fits those molds. I have shown that outside of a limited use in the military, most martial arts nowadays are a way of winning fights in either self-defense situations or in tournaments rather than war, but have their clearest benefits in confidence and physical fitness.
II. ORIGINS AND HISTORY
Since all humans have nearly identical bodies (we all have two arms, two legs, a head on a neck, and a torso that holds vital organs) and we range only slightly in size (a few feet plus or minus and a hundred pounds or so different), it can be seen that skills in fighting have adapted similarly across different geographic areas. The use of our body as a weapon to inflict damage on an opponent will not be too different from each other. A human body also has certain weaknesses, which are commonly exploited in the martial arts. So it is without doubt that striking with the legs and arms to weak points in the human body are shared common traits among all martial arts.
Cultural climates and environments affect creativity within the martial arts giving interesting differences. Differences among cultures also provide changes in types of attacks. If your attacker’s weapons and tactics do not change greatly, then mastery can occur. This happened in the Orient. If your attackers are varied, and the techniques drastically different, then a state of constant new development must be maintained. You could end up becoming a jack-of-all trades, but a master of none. This happened in Europe, where they were constantly trying to “one up” with technology.
Weapons are an area that has undergone a lot of change. Originally, weapons were used to kill animals for the hunt or for protection from animals. Without any adaptation, weapons were also used against single persons or groups of people. Better weapons have always been welcomed across all cultures.
I see the main differences between all the Oriental martial arts as a personal preference among the founders, based on their experiences, personalities, and body types. Imagine two warriors in armor. Strikes would be less than stellar, so throwing and immobilization techniques would be the preferred method of dispatching (killing) an opponent, however, there might be some warriors who had luck kicking their opponents to the ground in order to dispatch them. Of course where no armor was present, strikes of all sorts would obviously be used more. Similarly, if one person were physically larger, likely he/she would tend toward striking methods, where a smaller person would have to rely on his speed and ability to move quickly. What has worked in combat for a group or an individual will make the combat preferences in a martial art.
Martial skills are not limited by geographic boundaries; however, most scholars will agree that the formal methods for teaching martial skills began in China. Formal teaching methods really just means writing them down, or passing them on by word of mouth in a strict manner. While other countries undoubtedly fought and developed skill in war, they just didn’t formally transfer them with as much diligence as did the Chinese.
The first record of martial arts anywhere is in 1122-255 BCE during the Chou Dynasty in China.
“Shaolin monastery records state that two of its very first monks, Huiguang and Sengchou, were expert in the martial arts years before the arrival of Bodhidharma” (Canzonieri).
Although there are some who believe that the martial arts of the Shaolin Monasteries were the first ever formally taught, historians have shown that other Chinese martial arts predated that event by centuries (Canzonieri). Religious monasteries in China were established long before Buddhism was introduced. The monks of the various monasteries had to defend themselves from roving bands of thieves and small armies, so they practiced martial arts as methods of self-protection, using various weapons and hand-to-hand methods. These rough times gave plenty of reasons to continue their martial training alongside any religious studies. With the introduction of Buddhism to China by the Bodhidharma, a different way of looking at the martial arts began to take seed. Instead of using martial arts purely as a self-defense method, the Shaolin monks learned to use them as methods of understanding spiritual principles and ways to gain enlightenment. This was the environment in which Shaolin Kung Fu originated.
Chinese Martial Arts
1. Kung Fu (Gung Fu / Wushu) general term meaning “hard work to succeed.”
2. Shaolin (External: hard style – concentrates on strength and speed of striking)
· Long Fist Kung Fu: fighting at arms length vs close in.
· White Crane Kung Fu: based on the animal fighting style.
· Tiger Claw Kung Fu: based on the animal fighting style.
· Eagle Claw Kung Fu: based on the animal fighting style.
3. Wudang (Internal: soft style – concentrating on internal energy)
· Tai Chi Quan: using the attackers force against them.
· Xing Yi Quan: aggressive, linear force.
The Japanese have records of Sumo-like fights occurring early in its history, but it was not until after Chinese influences that the techniques were formally written down. Originally, the methods of combat all had military uses. Hand and foot strikes could knock enemy soldiers down in order to spear them, while throwing and joint-locking could be used to disable an enemy soldier in order to regain a dropped weapon, or immobilize them long enough to knife them. Through time, the Japanese developed a warrior caste system where warriors were born into warrior families, and each warrior was responsible for knowing how to use the normal weapons of their time. The Gomawai are the five combative distances that Samurai (literally: a man who serves) had to be very familiar with. The five main arts became:
· Kyujutsu – the art of shooting the bow and arrow, normally from horseback.
· Sojutsu – the art of using the long spear on foot or horseback.
· Kenjutsu – the art of using the long sword either mounted (horseback) or on foot.
· Tantojutsu – the art of using the short sword or knife (usually only if a longer weapon was lost).
· Jujutsu – the art of using the body as a weapon, and to throw or immobilize an opponent in order to regain a lost weapon or to hold an opponent long enough to kill them.
Eventually as is the case with all war arts, when they are no longer needed, they mutate into civilian use self-defense methods. The suffix “–jutsu” means science or method and demonstrates its usability. Eventually, most of those suffixes were changed to “–do” which means literally a spiritual path. Therefore many Jujutsu schools morphed into Judo, and most Kenjutsu sword schools mutated into Kendo along with corresponding philosophies. Judo is not Jujutsu, just watered down; they are completely different and encompass different philosophies and techniques. Similarly Kendo is worlds different than Kenjutsu. Nowadays, non-Japanese might use the suffix “-jutsu” or “-jitsu” to show that you can use the art for defense or attack. Japanese Martial Arts
· Sumo – Wrestling art over 2000 years old for tournaments (not practical for most people – the wrestlers can be hundreds of pounds).
· Judo – Wrestling and throwing art for tournament and self-defense.
· Aikido – Joint locking and throwing opponents for self-improvement and defense.
· Jujutsu – Joint locks, painful throws, and pressure points for self-defense.
· Karate – Hand and foot strikes for self-defense and tournaments.
· Kendo – Using a bamboo sword and light armor for tournament fighting.
The Korean martial arts, due to their geographic location (attached to China) came to share many of the Chinese martial developments. Su Bak was the main military hand-to-hand method that employed hand strikes, kicks, joint locks, and throws, as did many of the Chinese Kung Fu. Taekkyeon apparently was another name for Su Bak and was used in a similar manner by the Hwarang warriors of the Silla region.
Tang Soo was an art developed through direct exposure to Chinese Long Fist Kung Fu during the Tang dynasty. Tang Soo means “the China (Tang) Hand.” During the Japanese occupation of Korea in 1910–1945, the practice of any non-Japanese martial arts were banned, and appeared to have nearly been eliminated, except through kicking games that the people played on the street which kept some parts of the Korean arts alive. Around the time of the liberation of Korea in 1945, five martial arts schools called “The Kwans,” were formed by men primarily trained in some form of Japanese karate. These men also had some exposure to taekkyeon and kungfu. They helped recreate the Korean arts. The five prominent Kwans were:
· Chung Do Kwan
· Jido Kwan
· Chang Moo Kwan
· Moo Duk Kwan
· Song Moo Kwan
These schools taught what most Americans now know as “Korean Karate.” Tang Soo Do came directly from Moo Duk Kwan as a synthesis of what remained of Tang Soo, influences from Japanese Shotokan, and Su Bak Do. Tae Kwon Do was a mix between the various other Kwan in a joint effort to help Korea regain their all but lost martial arts and regain national pride.
Hapkido was developed by synthesizing the Japanese martial art of Daitoryu Aiki-Jujutsu with Korean martial arts. The founder of Hapkido traveled to Japan to study under the famous Jujutsu master Takeda Sogaku. The Daitoryu also boasts being the root system of Aikido and Shorinji Ryu Kempo and others. The Daitoryu student role reads like a Who’s Who in the martial arts.
Eventually, the Korean government decided to attempt to get rid of much of the Japanese influences of earlier years by revamping Tae Kwon Do. They eliminated all of the old Japanese forms that they practiced and changed other areas to show more nationalistic pride and to further separate themselves from the Japanese arts.
Korean Martial Arts
· Tae Kwon Do – Hand and foot strikes for tournaments and self-defense.
· Tang Soo Do – Hand and foot strikes for tournaments and self-defense.
· Hapkido – Hand and foot strikes, joint locks, and throws for self-defense.
D. Other Countries
As mentioned earlier, other countries undoubtedly had martial skills; they were just not passed on in codified methods and taught in schools like the Oriental arts were. Mostly the Europeans and Middle Easterners dropped a skill quickly when they felt it had been trumped by new technology. When reliable firearms became widely spread, the use of the sword drastically reduced and became only a personal self-defense weapon. The sword became lighter to facilitate faster moves. Bringing fists to a sword or gunfight would surely be the death of you unless the swordsman or gunman was incompetent. So why did martial arts remain popular in the Orient? First, martial arts could be used to buy enough time to regain a weapon, and second, the strength of mind and will that the martial arts forged made its study a prime endeavor long after its actual battlefield
Other Martial Arts · *Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)- Hand and foot strikes, joint locks, and throws for tournament and self-defense. * Systema / Sambo – Russian martial arts for self-defense * Krav Maga – Israeli martial art for self-defense
There are many other arts than these but most will fit into the above categories quite nicely.
Concerning weapons, that is almost always up to the martial art instructor, his or her knowledge and training, and willingness. It is not uncommon to find weapon training in hand-to-hand martial arts and hand-to-hand training in weapon arts. Weapons fall into two categories with some overlap; archaic (ancient) and modern.
Archaic weapons include the nunchaku (two short wooden sticks with a chain or rope in the middle), tonfa (short sticks with a handle), bo (6 foot staff), katana (sword), yari (spear), kusari (chain), shaken (throwing stars), shuriken (throwing spikes), of course this list could go on for quite some time.
Modern weapons include; gun, knife, and stick. Guns could range anywhere from automatic weapons to single shot shotguns or derringers. Guns shoot a projectile very rapidly in one direction at a time. Knives have a great many shapes and sizes but generally have one or two cutting edges for slicing and a point for poking. Knives can be swung rapidly in many directions, but must be used in close range. Sticks are normally broomstick or cane size, but walking sticks or poles could be used. Sticks are normally swung but you could also poke with them or use them in other ways.
III. CLASSIFICATIONS OF MARTIAL ARTS
Why classify a martial art when an individual teacher can have so much influence to make any classification useless? Classification is a way of understanding the arts through comparing and contrasting; this helps in matching a martial art school and an individual’s personality or desires. Methods of classification can include aggression levels, basic techniques, levels of preparedness, or strategies based on the elements, among others.
A. Aggression Levels Classification
Philosophy is sometimes told to students right from the very beginning in an advertisement or from the mouth of the teacher or students. Philosophy in martial arts is the how and why you will deal with aggression from another person (the aggression level). Many times the aggression level is only hinted at, or hidden, or not even considered at all. Sometimes the aggression level that is given is quite different than what you see being taught.
What aggression level should you look for? A wise student who searches for a martial art should first know himself. This seems easy enough as to be laughable; after all you have lived with yourself at least your whole life, right? In aggression levels, we must answer the question, “What do you believe should be done with an attacker who is aggressive to yourself, a family member, or a friend?” Consider that sometimes a quick answer is not as truthful to your personal philosophy as it is to someone else’s view of what should be done. Would it make a difference if the attacker were a friend, a relative, or a friend of a friend? If you try to train yourself away from your personal philosophy on aggression levels you will find that a conflict arises that may be harmful to you. Any internal conflict that has not been dealt with can mean a delay in your reaction time that may even prove fatal. You will have to examine your deep feelings on aggression, your right to live, your right to protect, and even your attacker’s rights.
How do you tell what an aggression level of a particular martial art is? You will be able to tell the philosophy of a martial art by how the martial artist begins his/her defense.
- Aggressive attacking arts show their philosophy by having mostly strikes in their art. There may be very few blocks or parries involved and very little grappling (grabbing) self-defense maneuvers. The philosophy is really, “The best defense is a good offense.” This philosophy can be seen in all forms of Karate, all forms of Shaolin (external) Kung Fu, all Tang Soo Do, Hapkido, and Tae Kwon Do, and in the Japanese fencing style of Kendo among others.
- Aggressive defense arts show their philosophy by responding to grabs or strikes in an aggressive manner. The philosophy here is, “If it’s going to be, let’s get this over with.” Wudang (internal) Kung Fu styles, Judo, Jujutsu, and Iaido sword schools clearly use this philosophy.
- Passive defense arts show their philosophy by responding to grabs or strikes by moving out of the way, or circling around. Their philosophy is, “Better not to be there.” Some styles of Wudang Kung Fu and most Aikido respond this way to an attack.
Individual school aggression levels can also be seen by how the martial artist ends his/her defense. Does the teacher say to stomp the opponent until they cannot be a further threat? Does the teacher say to hold the attacker and call for help from the police? Does the teacher say to run away? These are all considerations to face and questions to answer.
B. Basic Techniques Classification
Classifying martial arts by their basic techniques is a popular method of comparing and contrasting schools. Different martial arts will concentrate on different aspects of fighting, as was the preference of their founders. Some martial arts will attempt to do all of the different basic techniques but usually will concentrate on only a few select ones that follow their aggression level. When you look at these basic techniques think of what types of attacks you’ve seen before in real life (not movies). A good exercise is to look at each technique and give each one a percentage score of what you believe are the most common types of attacks (of course totaling 100%). Once finished you will know what areas to you should concentrate on. A visit to any martial art studio will quickly allow you to discover the basic techniques of that art. Here is a short list, but one that should work for you.
Leg/foot strikes (kicking and kneeing)
Waist up kicks (high kicks)
Waist down kicks (low kicks)
- Arm/hand strikes (punches, chops, using the elbows)
Hand strikes (using the forearm or wrist to stop or move a hand strike to the side)
Leg strikes (using the forearm, hand, or leg to stop a kick or move it to the side) Throws (stopping someone from throwing you)
- Pain compliance
Joint locking (using knowledge of the limits of joints to cause pain)
- Pressure point use (certain parts of the body are more sensitive than others)
- Wresting/grappling techniques
Falling and rolling methods (falling safely or coming back to the feet rapidly)
Choke/strangle techniques (grabbing the neck or defending against)
- Throwing techniques (making someone fall down)
Pick up throws
Fall back throws
- Weapon defenses (what to do when someone attacks you with a weapon)
- Weapon offensive use (how to use a weapon)
Projectile weapons (guns, bow and arrows, throwing weapons)
Long range weapons (spears)
Medium range weapons (swords, sticks, baseball bats, pool cues)
Short range weapons (knives, short sticks, needles)
- Forms (a series of martial movements usually done solo) as a teaching method
- Competition (see who is faster, stronger, or can take more abuse than another competitor)
Point (touch only)
Full contact (full strikes allowed)
Submission (the opponent must yield)
C. Preparedness Classification
Strategies guide what you do; techniques are how you do it. While there are bunches of strategies relating to martial arts, I feel that there are only two overall strategies that easily show how to categorize martial arts, I call them “unsheathed” and “sheathed.” I named them after sword strategies. A sheath is the cover that holds a sword at rest.
If you can imagine, in the not too distant past, a sword had two purposes; 1) kill (killing sword), or 2) protect (life-giving sword). A killing sword takes life out of anger, evil, or the necessity of war. A life-giving sword is one that by virtue of possessing it, you are protected. You have no intention to kill; only protect, but may kill if needed. We have established that other than limited military applications, most martial arts nowadays are of the “suggestive of war” category and not specific for war; therefore, a life-giving sword is really the only thing we will consider here.
An unsheathed sword is a life-giving sword ready to be used, it is out and threatening. It is overtly ready. You unsheathe a sword when you know you are in trouble and you must defend yourself. Normally your opponent will have his sword unsheathed also. This is mutual combat. A duel is also a form of mutual combat, a fight were one person has accepted the fact that for sure you will fight or that it is desirable to fight. It could also be used to intimidate a lesser opponent. An art that practices the unsheathed sword should be obvious to an observer since they fight out of a stance (they look like they are ready) and has many long-range techniques (that is, techniques meant to be used as far away as possible). Most striking and weapon arts fit into this category, like Karate, Shaolin Kung Fu, Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, and Kendo the sword art. The unsheathed sword strategy is where you might hear, “come on fight me,” as the person waves his fists menacingly.
The sheathed sword is a life-giving sword strategy where you are not threatening; you may even pretend to be unprepared in order to have the attacker feel more confident to attack. The sword (your technique) would then respond very quickly and decisively ending the confrontation to the surprise of the attacker. This is deception. The sword is covertly ready. A person versed in this strategy must develop keen judgment be able to respond quickly enough and possess a great deal of confidence. You will be able to tell this overall strategy by the practitioners who do not fight out of a recognizable stance, do not ball up their fists or show readiness, and they allow their opponents to come much closer to them than the unsheathed sword strategy. A master who would face such a person would see behind the ruse and walk away without a fight. Wudang Kung Fu, Judo, Jujutsu, Aikido, and Iaido exemplify this strategy. With the sheathed sword strategy, the defender would likely try to calm the aggressive person with open hands and talk, but is very aware of danger signals that would prompt him to action. Training in this method enhances the sixth sense of clairsentience (explained soon).
The choice of using the unsheathed or sheathed strategy is again personal. Certain qualities will appeal to different personality types.
D. Elemental Classification
Elemental strategies are a simple method of classification and should be easy enough to recognize when you think about it.
Fire strategy – Pure aggression. Attack, attack, attack! Need I say more? Most Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kendo, and MMA arts use fire strategies. A person with a normally aggressive personality would be drawn to such arts.
Water strategy – Avoiding the initial attack, but quickly flows to take advantage of an off balanced position. Judo, Jujutsu, and Iaido sword arts use a lot of water strategies. A person who is strong-minded but doesn’t want to initiate a fight would be drawn to these arts.
Wind strategy – Constant movement, swirling. Quick in and out strikes. Aikido and soft style Kung Fu use these strategies. A person who is reluctant to fight at all would be drawn to these fighting styles.
Earth strategy – Immovability. Solid stances. Powerful strikes or immobilizations. Sumo comes to mind for a strong earth strategy, Judo practitioners also make use of this. A large or strong person who feels powerful would be drawn to these arts.
Since most martial arts use a mixture of elemental strategies, their pure forms are not often seen in their entirety. The fifth element, Void, is where a practitioner moves from one strategy to another as needed. This is a fairly high level of mastery as it is a difficult thing to do. Elemental strategies have a LOT to do with personality and to alter your personality to fit a swiftly changing environment is not easily done.
IV. FINDING A MARTIAL HOME
In finding a martial art that is just right for you, I would like to give you the words of Sun Tzu, a military strategist of early China, “to know yourself and your opponent, you will not fail.” First, you must know yourself.
· Choose a doctrine and strategy that fits your personality.
· Analyze the threats that you feel are more likely than others to occur, even put them in a list with their percentages next to them so you can easily see what you believe are the worst threats that you must deal with.
· Evaluate your physical and emotional assets. (Can you perform at the level of aggression that a martial art teacher says to?)
· Visit different schools that you believe will fit your criteria.
· Do you feel that you could get along with the teachers and students? Yes? That’s it, you should now join.
Ha! Okay, truly that is it, but it’s much more difficult to accomplish. While you can know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your idea of philosophy, and what types of attacks that you feel are most relevant, finding a martial art that matches all of those criteria may be truly impossible unless you are willing to relocate. First, are there that many choices in martial arts schools close to you? Yikes, that may just be the limiting factor in what martial art you can study. Can you learn to perform good martial arts even though your ideal school is far from available? Yes. The exercises that I gave in this class should more than adequately increase any martial training. So, the point is, don’t let unavailability of the perfect martial art for you be a stopping point. Begin. It is the warrior way. Take what is given you and make it more powerful, “make lemonade out of lemons.”
Well what if I just use videos or YouTube to train myself? While I believe, in theory, it is possible; you would need at least one other highly dedicated partner, a lot of stick-to-itiveness, a critical eye, and a regular schedule. I think without those criteria, video training would mostly be a waste of time, unfortunately. When I first began training, there were moves that I absolutely thought was a huge waste of time and now I find utterly indispensable. If I had trained under my own wisdom, I would have fallen far short of the degree of success I now have (I understand that sounds haughty). I have since learned that many “old style” martial arts teach an Okuden (secret teaching) in the very beginning of training because students wouldn’t know one if it shot them in the foot. You would miss all of that, if you thought you could do it on your own or you study from someone who never really reached a level of complete understanding in his or her art. You could become competent if everything worked out, but more than likely your training would skip the basics (which provide mastery) in order to jump to the “good stuff” (which would never be that good because the basics were skipped). No, my recommendation is to know yourself, then try and find an art that fits you, with teachers and students that you can get along with. If that simply isn’t available, then take what is available. Remember that there are no superior martial arts, only superior martial artists – that will be you.