When I first started as a martial artist I was fortunate that I had a great instructor. This was fortunate for many reasons but one of the least obvious was that back then it was very hard to get more information. The internet was very limited using a dial-up phone line connection, there was no way you could watch a video at those download speeds. As a result, if you wanted to learn more the options were to go to more classes or read a book or buy an expensive video.
These days the sharing of martial knowledge is super quick and easy. In an evening I can watch a Okinawan 8th dan Karate master run through the bunkai of the kata that I am learning, pick up a tip for my ground fighting game from a jujitsu black belt and refresh my memory of some self-defence from a gritty combatives expert. One of the best things about the internet and youtube, in particular, is that you can see how several experts solve the same problems. There is always more than one way to skin a cat and looking at different solutions broadens your understanding as well as your tool box.
Obviously watching videos is no replacement for training. As Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid movie said: “No learn karate from book” (or video). And as Iain Abernathy says the fact that you know airplanes exist and you know what they do doesn’t mean you can pilot one. In the Martial world, knowledge must be invested in action. In order to practice most skills, you will eventually need to practice them on a partner. Not to mention that you can’t get personal correction from a video.
Youtube is a tool for broadening your knowledge and understanding.
One of the best things about Youtube is I can pick and choose what I want to watch and from whom I want to learn from. There are some amazing experts out there sharing skills. But be warned that there are plenty of idiots out there too who don’t know what they are talking about too, some of whom do a great job of presenting themselves as experts.
So it is really important that you think about and most importantly rigorously test what you learn on youtube before taking it as gospel. This is even true from a credible source. For example, Rener Gracie is an amazing Brazilian jujitsu exponent although he is a little preachy about how jujitsu is the best martial art. His solution for situations with multiple attackers is always run, which on face value seems like good advice but if you spend a moment to think about it you will not always be able to run. Firstly it presumes that you can outrun your attackers and that you are alone and don’t have a partner or your kids to defend. It presumes that they haven’t already surrounded you and cut you off from exits. It presumes that safety is close by and that there are no obstacles like furniture or other people or doors to get, though. It presumes that it is not a bullying situation where there may come a time where you have to stand your ground. So why does Rener give this advice that doesn’t work for a lot of people and a lot of situations? It is simple ground fighting which is what Brazilian Jiujitsu is all about doesn’t work against multiple attackers and rather than admit the flaw in his art he presents running as the only solution.
Just because I fervently disagree with Rener on this point doesn’t mean I throw the baby out with the bathwater and I won’t learn from him again. I still watch Rener he knows his stuff when it comes to his area of expertise.
So take what you learn with a grain of salt. Think about and most importantly test what you learn to see if it works and fits in with what you do and your philosophy of martial arts.
Here are my personal favourites
Shotokan Karate – Rick Hotton
Rick is a Shotokan Karate exponent, you don’t need to see his impressive credentials to see he is the real deal, just watch the way he moves and the technical nature of what and how he teaches and you will be impressed.
Rick is an expert on the mechanics of movement in karate. Don’t expect to watch his videos for sparring combinations or self-defence.
Rick is a very kinesthetic teacher, in that is he is all about the feeling of a technique or movement. Beginners and kids may find his videos boring, as they are super technical and demand that you already have a strong feeling and understanding for your stances and technique.
In short, watch Rick’s videos if you want to get better at the fundamental movements in karate.
Practicalkatabunkai – Iain Abernethy
In my opinion, Iain is simply the best teacher of kata bunkai and in particular oyo out there. He is of the school of practical, self-defence focused karate, just like we are (as opposed to highly stylised, sport fighters or aesthetic kata performers)
As I touched on above, Iain presents not just kata interpretations and application but he also teaches within this the principles or oyo involve, this means what he teaches can be applied in other areas of your karate, in particular sparring and self-defence and is not just applicable to specific kata or bunkai.
Essentially Iain is an expert a reconnecting the art form of karate; kata with its true nature and origin; the practice of practical self-defence.
Is a Brazilian Jiujitsu teacher and is my first port of call for all things grappling and ground fighting. He has a very clear teaching style and shares lots of small but key insights as he teaches. This is really important as Brazilian Jiujitsu is a tactile art that is really hard to pick up from a video, Stephan is one of the best at doing this.
The second thing I like about Stephan is that he doesn’t just address sport jiujitsu, he often talks about MMA and self-defence applications which is more inline with what we do at Shinkyu.
Stephan has a really warm teaching style and a great sense of humour too.
FightSmartTrav – Trav
The first thing to know about Trav is that he actually doesn’t have that many videos up on youtube and what videos he does have up are mostly introductions to programmes that you can purchase from him. Essentially his youtube channel is an infomercial for his online courses.
That being said that doesn’t mean you won’t find great material on there, and buying his courses is not a bad thing.
In spite of his small library, I have included Trav as he is an awesome instructor. Trav’s niche is that he takes concepts from MMA and applies them to street self-defence, so he is right up our alley. He also has a funny delivery which I really like.
FightTIPS – Shane
Shane is like Trav; he mainly takes concepts from sports martial arts and applies them to street self-defence. He has a great library of stuff on a wide variety of subjects and is great at breaking stuff down.
I don’t always agree with the self-defence Shane teaches but he has so many awesome technique videos where he breaks down skills and delivering key pointers and insights.
With over 600 videos, fight tips is one of the best resources on the net.
Ando Mierzwa – Sensei Ando
When I first watched Sensei Ando I personally found his forced, cheesy humour really annoying. His humour probably comes from teaching a lot of kids. The good news about this is that I would highly recommend his channel to kids.
He makes up for his cheesy humour because what he teaches is gold (and you get used to his sense of humour pretty quickly). Most importantly what he teaches is also right up our street. His strategies and mindset are very much inline with ours at Shinkyu.
Sensei Ando makes the list mainly because as well as teaching some great technique he also teaches some off beat topics that others don’t cover and gives some little insights that can only come from being an highly experienced instructor, something that few others can deliver.
Raw Combat International – Luke Holloway
Luke Holloway is a beast! In a good way.
He is a highly experienced combatives instructor that specialises in down and dirty real life fighting techniques. One of the best things about Luke is that he talks as much about the context and mindset of self-defence as much as he does technique, he often illustrates his point with real life footage of self-defence some of which is very graphic. He constantly reminds me self-defence or as he would say personal protection is about your mindset first.
As a martial artist I teach and practice staying away from dangerous situations, my personal goal has always been to become great at violence so that I am not afraid of it and violence avoids me. Luke on the other has plunged his hands into the filth, so we can lean on his experience of real life violence, which as a bouncer and a very proactive person he has encounter a hell of a lot of.
Luke’s videos are not scripted and he rants on sometimes which can be entertaining. BUT BE WARNED HE SWEARS LIKE AN ABSOLUTE TROOPER (Even the titles of his video use swearing), HE IS EXTREMELY AND EXCESSIVELY VIOLENT TO THE POINT WHERE A LOT OF WHAT HE TEACHES WOULD GET YOU IN TROUBLE WITH THE LAW IN THE UK. THIS CHANNEL IS NOT FOR KIDS.
Of everyone on this list, Luke has influenced me the most by passing on his knowledge of real life violence and how to deal with it. But in general, Luke is pretty extreme.
EnterTheDojoShow – Master Ken
Of course this is not a serious channel but rather a parody of the Martial Arts industry. Unmissably funny.