By Dan Burbank

Social media provides a staggering amount of martial arts information, spanning the spectrum from the ridiculous to the sublime. Every conceivable style, and some inconceivable ones, are represented online. The ubiquitous Wikipedia, websites, Facebook, forums, chats and YouTube videos are simultaneously blessings and curses.

To be sure, there are gems to be found in every medium, but how do we recognize a diamond from a piece of quartz?

For practitioners of a martial art, especially those with a few years of training under their belts (pun intended), it's difficult enough to click through all the nonsense before arriving at something interesting, much less true. For a martial arts newbie, surfing the Web to expand his or her knowledge, the sheer amount of "stuff" is bewildering. Unfortunately, a great deal of the information is opinion, and we all know what's said about opinions. Some contributors simply can't be taken seriously. Most of their offerings can be recognized for what they are. But some are more clever at disguising their deceptions.

In a reversal of the classic Eastwood western, we'll look at The Ugly, The Bad, and The Good posts in this brave new world of on-line martial arts.

The Ugly: The 'Net blazes new trails almost every day. As a result, the concept and terminology of the "epic fail" has crept into common usage wherever a computer can be tethered to the World Wide Web. Every cellular device has a camera, most with high resolution. Family and friends, not to mention professional news and documentary makers, are now able to visually record all manner of material, which in turn can most often be instantly uploaded to the world at large. When it's good, it's great. When it's not, it looks something like this:

The Bad:

There are many times, while digging around for nuggets of knowledge, that I've come across something that just plain makes me shake my head. For instance, you're sure to be "amazed" at the "touchless knockout," the martial arts equivalent of using The Force to incapacitate an opponent. This is so patently ridiculous that it edges into Ugly territory. Unfortunately, there are a number of posts presenting just this type of hype.

And then there is the concept of remote training. A person records their work, to be presented to a source removed by time and geography, and receives helpful instruction in the same way. There are reputable organisations that use video/Youtube to good purpose, but it is understood by everyone involved that the use of remote sessions should never be confused with a serious grading by experienced and knowledgeable instructors.

If you believe certain "masters," you can achieve rank certification by watching a video of said "master," recording yourself repeating the techniques, and sending it back to the "master" for judgment. A critique of your performance, generally for a substantial fee, comes with a belt rank. Pay enough up front, and you may be guaranteed a "black belt" in 10 easy lessons or 12 equal payments. A combination of good marketing, and a desire for instant gratification eliminates the years of hard work, sweat, and sometimes blood a true martial artist will put into his or her art.

The Good: having said all that, there are many skilled, experienced and eloquent people who maintain excellent sites. In these cases there is a minimum of ego and a maximum of open, useful information, instruction and/or dialogue. Traditional martial arts commonly teach respect – for tradition, for self, and for others. This philosophy is apparent within the communities who frequent these sites. These sources run the gamut from historical data, to practical application of technique, and virtually (again, pun intended) all points between. Many of my favourite sources have published their work, either in print form or as E-books, as well as creating very good web or Facebook sites.

For excellent discussion and debate on the birthplace and lineages of karate, look to Ryan Parker Sensei's Ryukyu Martial Arts :

For traditional martial arts training methods, and their modern counterparts, look to Hojo Undo ;

and Jerry Leverett Jr's Iron Hand site:

For discussion and application of technique, Iain Abernethy Sensei's site is a wealth of knowledge:

And as a source of "insider" entertainment, and a lighter-hearted look at the martial arts in general, try Master Ken's site:,d.aWw

These examples are in no particular order, Each contain many useful links to other sources, which opens up the world of martial arts to anyone who may already be involved, or who may be considering a start.

I'm a member of a number of pages, and as source material and a place of debate, they have increased my knowledge of an art I thought I knew well. My knowledge, I say again: An intellectual pursuit of information in aid of the physical act of practicing, for me, karate. Regardless of what films such as "The Matrix" would have you believe, there's no upload available that will make you a martial artist. You cannot replace the physical act with any amount of virtual training.

Dan Bank is a martial artist and instructor with Fudoshin Classical Karate, which operates a not-for-profit, traditional karate dojo in Owen Sound.


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