Distance learning is a term used to describe the different types of non-traditional learning methods. The traditional learning method is attending on campus classes in a classroom, lab, etc. Many colleges have distance learning programs that have been successful. These include:
- Satellite campuses
- Off-site classes
- Online classes
- Instructional videos
- Cable television
- Correspondence courses
Some martial arts programs try to achieve the same success. However, most college classes only deal with knowledge, not physical skills. You cannot learn to play soccer online; you may learn the rules but you must play to develop your soccer skills. You may learn about Taekwondo or other martial arts online, on videos, or in books, but you cannot develop the skills needed without being in class environment with a certified instructor, or one-on-one with a certified instructor, to tell you want you are doing wrong. Anything is better than nothing, but something things are only slightly better than nothing. When it comes to distance Taekwondo learning, it is slightly better than nothing.
Even when you are a Taekwondo expert with many learns of training, if you do not have another independent, impartial instructor watching you and pointing out your mistakes, you will develop bad habits and sometimes even get completely off track. I once practiced hours on a pattern for a tournament, went to the tournament, and performed it perfectly, just as I had practiced, only to find I had changed a move at some point in my practice and then had kept practicing it that way.
In the organization I train with, we use the traditional ITF pattern set, but there are some minor differences in the movements in some patterns, such as a step that has been left out of Won-hyo. It appears that the only reason for this error was because, at some point, the founders of the organization either learned it this way from someone who had forgotten the step, or they themselves simply forgot the step. Either way, it appears they have practiced it this way for so long that they see no reason to change it.
Distance learning is an excellent way to increase your knowledge, double check movements in pattern, or learn about new techniques or combinations. However, it does not help you perfect techniques or increase your skills. Whenever possible, there is no substitute for traditional learning. However, there are times when distance learning may be your only choice, such as:
- You have been studying a style for a long time and then move to an area that does not have any schools that teach your style.
- You live in or move to a remote area where there are little to no choices of styles or schools.
- You want to try a different style but find limited choices in your area.
- You do a lot of business travel and need a way to keep up with your learning and training while away.
Two versions of distance learning may help in this circumstances
In this version, a student trains on his or her own in a style in which he or she has had traditional training, but he or she periodically travels to train with a previous instructor or another cooperative instructor. In one or more intense training sessions, the instructor observes and corrects problems. This allows the student keep training and testing for rank even when the style it is not offered in his or her area. However, depending on the distances involved, the cost may be prohibitive. If you are not able to visit frequently enough, the visits may not be productive. Also, current students of the instructor may consider you an undeserving outsider.
Some styles teach exclusively via video tapes or disks. You purchase a video and written material, practice the material, make a video of yourself performing the material, and then send the video to the organization office for review of your performance and feedback. You are promoted by sending a testing video of yourself. With the latest digital video technology and the Internet, it is possible for an instructor to evaluate the progress of student in real time. The video method saves travel time but requires expensive video equipment and other technologies. Unless the instructor knows the student personally, it is easy for a person to send videos of another person performing the material. Training and performing self-defense and fighting techniques without experienced training partners are not only ineffective, it is counterproductive.