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My girlfriend has expressed interest in learning one of the martial arts I practice with me, but when she has come to a class she has been very self-concious about being new and inexperienced (I've done martial arts of some variety for a long time, she's never done them before).

She has said she would prefer to practice with me, rather than in a dojo, and get to be fairly capable that way and then start attending classes. I have taught beginners' classes in Taekwondo before, so I could reasonably teach her that, but I am skeptical about how valuable/effective it would be to learn 1) without a peer group at a similar level 2) from someone you know in a personal context such that recreating the rigor of a dojo would be difficult and feel forced.

I'm interested in the experiences of anyone who has taught or learned a martial art in a similar fashion--how well did it work? Did the student improve at a rate comparable to beginners in a dojo, and were they able to transition into some kind of formal training more easily than someone who had not done this?

{ asked by RSid }


In my experience this is not a good way to learn, no matter how capable a teacher you are. I'm not saying that it won't work, just that the chance it being successful is very low.

Any martial art takes a lot of time, patience and discipline to learn. Outside of the dojo these things can all be in short supply. Training at the dojo forces you to make the time available and training there helps with the patience and discipline side of things.

I also think your relationship status is going to influence the training. As an example, my children have been learning various martial art techniques since they were old enough to wrestle and play fight (roughly 18 months old IIRC). However they have had very little formal training from me - not because I can't do it, but because they don't want to accept it from me. I am Daddy, not Sensei, and they simply don't want formalized lessons from me. I am fine with this and am quite happy to let other teachers teach them for now and I'll pick up the pieces later.

With your girlfriend you will strike the same issue. Sure you can teach her a few cool moves, but you also need to demand a certain amount of blood sweat and tears from her1 in order to train properly.

I can understand your girlfriend's concerns, but you really need to get her to the dojo. Everybody is afraid or nervous the first time they start learning a martial art, so she is not alone. She will benefit far more from the structured dojo environment and being surrounded by others at the same level as herself. She will also progress faster if she has other people to measure herself against, and having multiple opinions available from senior students (or multiple instructors) can be quite beneficial.

Once she is in the dojo she will soon get over her mental hurdles and not care how she looks or what other people think :) At that point she will be quite keen to do extra training which you can then help her with.

1 A teacher in a dojo environment is going to have far more success demanding bunches of press ups and loads of line work from her than you can in an informal environment at home.

{ answered by slugster }