Kicking in the dojo or Punching online – what’s the future of online training?

Kicking in dojos or Punching online – what’s the future got in store?”

I’ve been wondering about the longevity of online martial arts training post the pandemic. Is it realistic for self-defence, is it here to stay, does it have tangible benefits?

As many coaches in martial arts, fitness and other activities have done. Due to lock down and the need for people to isolate. We moved our martial arts classes online in march 2020.

At first, it was a necessity to ensure that people could continue training.

But over time, I’ve observed the development and characteristics of the people who have been training with me online for almost a year.

 Research by MacNamara, Á., Button, A., and Collins, D.2010 identified that there are psychological factors that determine the potential of a person to become an elite athlete.

The research names “high level of commitment, long and short term goals, imagery and focus” as key factors that distinguish successful athletes from their less successful counterparts.

They went further to decode the importance that “imagery and self-talk” play in high-level performances.

These personal characteristics are also essential for self-defence, self-offence and performing martial arts skills under periods of intense stress.

These same characteristics are also implicit with online training. 

This is what makes it a successful form of learning martial arts. 

As a martial arts coach and a former world champion. My personal experience and observations are that the path to success is rarely smooth, anything but!

We can all think about hurdles that have hindered our progress in life, in any endeavour that we have sought out.

Having an opportunity to overcome these obstacles, to push through fear is beneficial and online training can still provide this experience when learning martial arts. 


One of the key benefits of training online is the opportunity for imagery and visualisation.

Imagers and visualisation when training online becomes more important. There is less opportunity for kinaesthetic learning and I’ve observed that there has been progress from the students in their ability to train utilising imager and visualisation.

Half of the athletes surveyed by MacNamara, Á., Button, A., and Collins, D.2010 cited imagery as a key factor in their success. These athletes spontaneously (i.e., not as a result of specific coaching or education) employed imagery processes from early on in their development to facilitate both their development and their ability to perform optimally in competitions.

They went further to site that they were able to employ imagery effectively to their unique competitive environment. The javelin thrower highlighted that the ability to simulate competition environments using imagery was essential within his sport.

With online training, we have the benefit of being able to facilitate, instruct and develop these imagery skills. As martial arts coaches, we can use these tools to simulate tactical training environments.

With enough mentoring, there is the potential that this training could help someone avoid a deeper freeze. This is essential in self-defence, as a deeper freeze is that “deer in the headlight scenario”. During times of stress, the mind seeks a point of reference and we can still provide this from learning online. You can still develop a plan of action from online training.

There are lots of studies that suggest that the mind does not necessarily know the difference between reality and visualisation. In the film the matrix, Morpheus said “”If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”.

OK, so that quote is from a film which I liked. However, with consistent practise, such as the people who have been training online for the past 10 months. It’s possible to develop neural pathways that provide the motors skills needed for martial arts.

Former Olympic springboard diving champion Sylvie Bernier would mentally practice her dives (all ten of them) each night before going to sleep.

 But we did say that commitment was one of the key characteristics of successful elite athletes. 

This takes a little self-reflection and planning.

The last point I’m making here about online training is that it can still allow us to progress as martial artists. But this takes a little self-reflection and planning.

 One Judo player interviewed in the research by MacNamara, Á., Button, A., and Collins, D.2010  said that he believed his ability to identify and work on his weaknesses facilitated his development.

 If you can look at your bigger picture, see what you’re good at and where you need to improve.

 You can still make progress in these areas online.

 It could be practising your boxing southpaw instead of orthodox or putting more energy into your counter strikes as you’re no longer worried about hurting your training partner.

 Sometimes this is what we need to ‘get up’ from our training plateaux?

So back to the title “Kicking in dojos or Punching online – what’s the future got in store?”


What would Darwin have to say about the future of dojos and online training?

 I don’t think he would be citing that dojos will disappear due to natural selection quite yet.

It’s a long way removed from how online shopping has impacted our high streets. I don’t think we’re going to see floods of people training online and avoiding the dojos.

 But the Amazon of today has had a lot of, time, investment and development since the Amazon I remembered when I made my first book purchase in 1996.

Time to mature and grow is needed with online training too.

Online training has a lot of great characteristics, but it still has some development needed before it can replace ‘dojo’ training. But in 10 months of coaching online, we’re developing as coaches and in another 10 months’ time, who knows…..  

I would expect the classes to evolve to be even more beneficial and interactive.  This may not happen at the pace that Amazon changed though.  

Not until online training becomes more tactile and kinaesthetic, perhaps with the development of technology to supplement its benefits.

There’s a lot of benefits to training online, most of all the flexibility it offers and how time efficient it is. It can certainly complement training in a martial arts centre.

But for now, I would suggest that a hybrid approach is going to be the new norm.

Where we want a mixture of virtual and martial arts centre classes. Due to having the best of both worlds.


The role of psychological characteristics in facilitating the pathway to elite performance, MacNamara, Á., Button, A., and Collins, D. (2010)

The Matrix, (1999)

( ) 7 Olympic Swimmers who use visualization, Olivier Poirier-Leroy


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Kicking in the dojo or Punching online – what’s the future of online training?




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