My Thoughts on the Video Market

I have been asked many times about my stance on the Instructional Martial Arts Video industry.

It would appear, by reading the surface of what I’ve written over the years, that I am completely opposed to producing, buying, even learning by video. I am not. I understand that the video/DVD industry allows for quick glimpses into another’s training methods and style; one can even learn from a well-put together video! I am not denying the usefulness of video. But what I am opposed to is the fact that most of some teachers’ learning comes from the video market and seminars. Fine if you want to learn that way, but I believe it is irresponsible to teach others “self defense” if this has been your primary method of learning.

Let me qualify that first.

If you have spent the last 5 years learning karate/tkd/kung fu/etc., but your FMA training has been mostly from video and seminar, you cannot call yourself a Guro and teach… I don’t care who signed the certificate.

If you spent the last 5 years learning karate/tkd/kung fu/etc., and you trained with a group of guys who learned from video and seminar, you cannot call yourself a Guro and teach… I don’t care how much “experience” you consider this might be.

(FMA people, it is time to put our foot down and stand for what’s right. Yes, it will hurt some feelings and even offend some of our friends.)

Video training and especially video certification does not make one “qualified” to learn an art. So you don’t have a Guro near you… travel! So you don’t have the money to travel to a teacher…. you are not being trained properly. It’s not a matter of “this is your path” or “this is our culture”! Just as you cannot get an MD through a correspondence course–I certainly wouldn’t want a self-taught (which is what that is!) heart surgeon working on me or my mom… would you?

Back to the video thing, it all starts with a knowledgeable and ethical teacher. You cannot have a good video/dvd if the teacher is bogus. When people buy videos, they usually look as how popular a guy is, or how exotic the art is packaged or marketed. Put these clowns in traditional Moro costumes, Kulintang music, new fangled Tagalog terminology, pose on the cover with neat chokes and threatening poses and BAM! We’ve got ourselves the next thing in the FMA. Now flip to the back, and make up some BS history about where the art came from…. “Pacific secret combatives from the Archipelago” , Navy Seal washouts, MMA wannabes, survivor of death matches, revamped-practical-combat FMA repackaged! You too can look like the guy from Ong Bak! If the teacher on the video is looking to make money first, teach second, it’ll be obvious (though it may not be as obvious to the customer). An ethical teacher will tell you exactly what the hell he’s teaching you, and not try to rename it. For example, the big trend right now is to teach Pa Kua/Hsing Yi but call it “Silat”.

Check this out:

Titled “Ba Gua”

Then titled “Kuntao” (disabled on his site):

But you wanna see what Silat looks like IN INDONESIA?

not quite what you see in those videos, huh? But you can’t get more real that Indonesians, at an Indonesian Championship tournament.

How about Silat in the Philippines?

Sorry, but that’s not exactly put on video either. I once referred a gentleman to the INDONESIAN EMBASSY, where Silat classes have been going on (in Washington DC) for almost 15 years, and you know what he told me? Those guys don’t know Silat, they’re doing Karate. Poor guy, he doesn’t wants Silat, he wants BaGua/HsingYi dressed up by some Dutch guy who use to live in Indonesia. He wants to look “exotic”…

Back to videos (again).

The second thing is that a video has to have practical technique on there. Is this information useful? Is it something you believe the instructor has actually used? Can he use it? A well-produced video by a well-known master is pointless if the stuff he’s teaching is crap. There are very few tapes out there giving good information. Most of the people are doing what the next guy teaches: disarms, the same stupid drills, the same give and take drills, the same neat take downs and chokes with the stick, and the same Wally Jay Jujitsu techniques with a stick. Then you have the all blade guys… we don’t do stick we do only the blade. No wait, we do do stick, and empty hand. Okay, I’m digressing again. But now, we have blade “experts” who have never fought with a blade. Oh then there’s the prison guys, ex correctional officers, and ex cons, teaching their techniques. Hmm…. minus the cussing and the sloppy bellies, it looks like the same stuff on my FMA video. Oh, but this is real streetfighting, not FMA. Come on! I just want to learn some technique, good, practical technique!

After all of that, you need to practice. And here is my big beef with the video industry: it has created a generation or two of arm chair martial artists, who can demo the hell out of techniques, but still don’t know how to fight. So much that they won’t travel across town to train. So much that they can hide behind knowledge (too deadly… yes they are still saying that!) and cliches, like tournament fighting is not real fighting. We have guys who have learned so much through Youtube, that they think they know more than the ones teaching. Yuck.

Videos have their place. Those who learn by videos have their place too. As long as they don’t cross over the boundaries we’re all good. Just remember that they are not a substitute for training, and training is the key, not the side dish, to learning. I will be adding a video review section to this blog, as students and friends are always asking my opinion about youtube clips and videos they have purchased. So I thought, why not? I am negotiating with the folks over at Goldstar Video to get a deal. Soon I will be reviewing instructionals based on three things:

Is the information practical?

Is the guy teaching legit?

Is this good overall information, or just rehashed garbage for some guy’s ego and resume?

As always, I promise to give only the truth, never sell out to commercialism (even if it offends), not to sugar coat anything, and give you pure thekuntawman.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

One thought on “My Thoughts on the Video Market”

  1. My teachers have all mentioned that there is good silat and bad silat. Just like there is both good and bad karate, kung fu, escrima, etc.

    From what I have read on their websites, the silat organizations usually break silat down into three separate categories: Competition, Self Defense, and Art (demonstration). Sometimes the competition techniques look nothing like the self defense techniques, even within the same system.

    Once a term (Karate, Kung Fu, JKD, MMA, Silat) becomes popular, instructors and schools are quick to include it as part of their style or system name. Here is a good one, “Indonesian School of Ninjitsu Ba Gua Escrima”. Sounds kind of cool… maybe not.

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