Monday, June 25, 2007

Using YouTube for educational and research purposes

In the previous post, I briefly skimmed over a few ways in which YouTube can help market your studio or share your art with the world. As you may have learned by now, there is a great deal of martial arts video circulating on YouTube, ranging in quality from pheonomenal to poor.

It might be extremely tempting for one to say "hey, I can learn this form/style off YouTube! Yay!" This is a great thing to say if you want to watch the veins on your instructor's forehead pulse with anger.

However, I think this is important to address, since Pandora's box is now open, and chances are you will either stumble upon or intentionally find an advanced form that you'd like to learn.

It is extremely difficult to learn a form based upon video alone. Depending on your level of experience and ability, it may be very hard for you to see exactly what is going on, and more importantly, why these subtle differences are important. In some ways, it would be akin to learning a form by only watching your instructor do it over and over again, never offering instruction or changing the angle for a better view. Ever notice how most forms online have a good portion being performed with the back to the camera? How can you be sure of what's going on then?

Let's say you are well versed in body mechanics, have a good sense of the skill you are mimicking or have just decided to give it a shot anyways. A real problem lies in the quality or accuracy of what you are copying. Many Masters, for example, will never share everything on video. In fact, they may either re-arrange small portions, perform sections out of order, mirror imaged, etc just to be able to spot the copycats from a mile away. In this case, they are sharing the essence of their art without giving away what they see to be the secrets. Unless you, or someone you know, are in a position to judge the authenticity of a video, I would be cautious in trying to duplicate their efforts. You also have to be wary of for issues of timing changes, changes made to make a form more "tournament friendly" or just accomodations for space.

The above assumes that the person demonstrating is an expert. Chances are, a lot of the video on youtube is created by someone is just the opposite. Search for videos showing Bassai and you will find dozens of style variations, and hundreds of quality variations within each style. Remember the last tournament you judged and saw 20 different Pyung Ahn E Dans? What if somone videotaped one of the poorer performances, uploaded it to YouTube, and another poor soul decided they would emulate this particular video?

That being said, YouTube can also be an excellent training tool for the advanced student who already has a solid foundation. You may wish to search Youtube for other WTSDA students and see how they compare in technique and delivery. Want to be a hyung champion? I'm sure you can get some excellent ideas from Youtube as to what works. At the very least, you learn how to pay attention to details in performance which, if applied to yourself, will help immensely. Instructors might use Youtube to come up with some new conditioning exercises, combinations, target drills and more.

For my own research, I have used YouTube heavily to research So Ho Yun, a form from the Korean kung-fu style of Sip pahl ki. So Hu Yun was allegedly among forms learned by HC Hwang, son of Hwang Kee, when sent to a Sippahki school.

This form, also performed at demonstrations by CS Kim, appears to have significantly influenced the Chil Sung and Yuk Ro hyung performed today in Soo Bahk Do. While I don't practice these forms, I'm sure the principles that lie beneath them are also expressed in Tang Soo Do as practiced today. By studying So Ho Yun, I can gain a deeper appreciation for my art and its technique and philosophy.

By digging a little deeper, I found some very different versions of So Ho Yun that all have something to offer.
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