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Self Defense Tip: Can you learn how to Defend Yourself from books or videos?

With so many books and videos out there on martial arts training, the question arises, "can I learn self-defense from a book (or videos)"?

My answer is yes and no. Here's why:

If you look historically, self-defense instruction has been recorded in drawings dating as far back as the Bronze Age, 3000 BCE (as seen above with a mural at Beni Hasan, Egypt). Additionally, many cultures from around the world recorded their "combat arts" in both drawings and in writings. These "writings" were practiced and passed down from person to person, generation to generation.

Many pro fighters were self taught.

Additionally, many professional fighters and champions started their Martial Arts training self-taught, (with the help of books and videos). Some champs include UFC Champions Jon Jones, and Anderson Silva, as well as Bas Rutten who, was also a three time King of Pancrase, and a world class Kickboxer. Many other boxers and kickboxers started off as self taught also. When I was young, I too read books and watched videos when there was no teacher to train with.

You can't just sit and watch.

The confusion occurs when folks think that just reading a book or watching videos will teach them how to fight, and that is impossible. Self-defense and martial arts in general are physical/tactical practices. You must DO self defense in order to LEARN self-defense. You must Fight in order to get good at Fighting. As I mention in my book, The Short Fight, while you can (and should) practice the techniques in the air, on pads and on heavy bags, you eventually must get some partners to practice the techniques on.

Martial arts schools began with a group of people training together!

Reading a manual and/or watching videos with your training partners, and then practicing the techniques, have an enormous benefit to its practitioners. It is like having your own private coaches right in front of you. You and your partners can refer back to a book or video 25 times if you want to. Try doing that in a class with one instructor and twenty + students training. You'll be lucky if he gets to you once in the class.

Additionally, the information is consistent each and every time, and it does not vary by instructor. You and your partners can help each other get better while following the exact instructions as it was intended to be taught.

Now, I agree that you may not fully learn certain complicated martial arts forms from a book or video. If you want to learn a highly technical martial art that has lots of moving parts and specific poses, you will not get as good as someone who is training under a teacher who is watching your every move. But that has little to do with actual self-defense fighting.

Fighting and defending oneself is not rocket science.

Defending ourselves and fighting is already in our DNA. It is a messy act of survival, full of gross motor skill techniques. It's NOT the highly complicated technical dance you might see on TV, or in demonstrations. So, you really don't need someone watching every little move you make.

In conclusion:

You can learn self-defense and fighting from a book and/or videos. The key to success is to train with some partners, so you all actually get to DO the self defense techniques on each other, and to spar/grapple (fight) with each other.

If you are interested in starting your own group/club of people to learn and practice self-defense with, contact me and I'll help you get set up.

To learn more simple, effective self defense techniques and tactics, get my book The Short Fight,

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They include free access to all my exercise and self-defense instructional videos by signing up at

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Thanks so much!

Until next time, Stay Safe!

Lawrence Castanon,

Author, The Short Fight


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