Running a Dojo during this turbulent time of social distancing is almost impossible but the concept of Online Dojo has been around for a while.

The idea of distance learning has been around since the 1800s when teachers would write to their students to teach a given concept. However, computer based learning did not emerge until the 1960s after its invention in the 1946. The internet and home computer started to enable interactive learning by the 80s and by 2000, the introduction of broadband digitally connected people globally. Subsequently, in the last decade with the expansion of social media platforms such as YouTube, online learning has become the new “norm”!

Today, all of the major education institutes have embraced online learning. This landscape is yet to further develop where traditional schools, colleges and universities are likely to downsize or close down in some cases. The emergence of home working and online tutorials has been a massive game changer. Automated machine learning Artificial Intelligent orientated technologies are likely to further enhance this space within the next 5 to 10 years. To surmise, online learning has arrived and it is here to stay!

How can Martial Arts be taught through a computer? I know… I have been asking this question for many years with cynicism and doubt… Until I had no choice but to run my first class using the best online learning platform I could find. The Martial Arts has taught me that if you are going to do anything in life then you must go all the way!

Yes, there are plenty of platforms out there that can enable you to do online learning for FREE. Most people I have spoken to consider online learning to be a version of a Skype, WhatsApp or Zoom call between a bunch of people but please note that this is not online learning. Running live interactive video calls is only one aspect of online learning.

The key point to note when constructing your online Dojo is not to think about all the constraints but rather consider all of the new possibilities that will be available to you. When I first setup an online Karate forum (ZenKarate Online Magazine) in the 90s I was completely blown away by the sheer response I got from fellow Martial Artists across the world. This experience taught me that an online presence creates a medium of communication for like minded people to collaborate and interact at any time or location globally. This medium helped establish a 1000+ readership globally long before the emergence or idea of social media.

How do you construct an online learning platform for a Dojo? The first thing to consider is how do you normally teach on a weekly basis? What is the basic outline or framework of your class? In most Dojos there are four fundamental dimensions of learning;

  1. Basics.
  2. Form.
  3. Physical (partnering or grappling).
  4. Theoretical and Technical study of the Art.

Note that most of these can be practiced and taught using an online platform with the exception of the challenge with partnering and grappling. But there are strategies that can be used to replicate this at home e.g. shadow boxing, bag work and posture testing etc.

Microsoft Teams

is a hub where teachers and students can interact online, a workspace where everyone can communicate, share files, and even meet online through voice or video. Teams allows you to create a private/secure web space exclusively for your Dojo members.

Through Teams teachers can collaborate with students either through a group conversation or on a one to one basis. Teams allows a rel=”noreferrer noopener” href=”” target=”_blank”>peer review and teacher assessments to occur regularly and with rigour. These are two powerful assessment tools readily available to all Teams members through collaboration, analysis and sharing of relevant internet data.

Don’t over complicate your Team. Remember to create channels that are relevant to your Dojo or areas of training that you are focusing on. Make use of Applications within Teams for e.g. you can add a Planner application into your team channel that allows you track study tasks for students.

In conclusion, online learning for Martial Arts study is possible as it empowers students to self discipline themselves and take control over their training syllabus. One of the key problems with Dojo training is that students become use to being led by their teacher and learning can become autonomous without reflection. Online learning challenges the student to enquire and research for themselves and yet be steered and directed when needed.

I will always remain a traditionalist and believe that true Martial Art transmission can only happen between teacher and student in person. However, we live in an era that is forever changing and Martial Arts is a subject that has yielded to its practitioner’s many times over the centuries!