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Self Defense Tip: Can you learn how to fight from a book or video?

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.

If you look historically, self-defense training 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 generation to generation.

Additionally, many professional fighters and champions started their Mixed Martial Arts training self-taught, (with the help of books and videos). Some include UFC Champions Jon Jones, and Anderson Silva, as well as Bas Rutten who, was also a three time King of Pancrase, and 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.

The confusion occurs when someone thinks that just reading a book or watching videos will teach them how to fight, and that is impossible. Self-defense and many martial arts are physical/tactical endeavors. You must DO self defense in order to LEARN self-defense. 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 must get some folks to practice the techniques with.

Reading a manual and/or watching videos with your training partners, and then practicing the techniques, have an enormous benefit to the practitioners. It is like having your own coaches right in front of you. You and your group members can help each other out. This is how martial arts schools began; a group of people training together!

Now, I agree that you cannot learn certain complicated martial arts from a book or video. If you want to learn a highly technical traditional martial art that has lots of moving parts and specific nuances, you will not get as good as someone who is training under a teacher who is watching your every move. But that has nothing to do with actual fighting.

Fighting and defending oneself is not rocket science, and it's already in our DNA. Also, it is NOT highly complicated or technical dance like you might see on TV, or in demonstrations. Fighting is a messy act of survival, full of gross motor skill techniques. As such, you can learn self-defense and fighting from a book and/or video. The key to success is to train with some folks, so you all actually get to DO the self defense techniques/fighting with each other.

So the next time you hear someone criticize, and say you can't learn self-defense from books or videos, understand that these people either don't know what they are talking about, or they have an underlying motive (maybe they want you to pay them for lessons).

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

If you're interested in learning essential self-defense techniques and tactics, get my book, The Short Fight, on Amazon at

You'll receive free lifetime access to my video library that contains over 100 self-defense and fitness videos at

Want to get in the best shape of your life? Check out our fitness training programs here

Until next time, Stay Safe!

Lawrence Castanon

Author, The Short Fight

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