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Learning Physical Skills Online – Part 4

Having worked through different learning and teaching styles amongst other things, then what we must do to understand whether someone can be taught physical skills is work through the limitations of the format itself. So then just what are the limitations of the format?

Having worked through different learning and teaching styles amongst other things, then what we must do to understand whether someone can be taught physical skills is work through the limitations of the format itself. So then just what are the limitations of the format?

  • You can’t physically touch someone.
  • You can’t physically feel them.
  • You can’t physically see them.
  • You can’t physically hear them.
  • And thankfully, you can’t physically smell them either.

The top three of these are the primary methods that a Coach/Delegator use to instruct—recognizing that not every teacher fits in one learning style or another but normally has the ability to fit into any of them to some degree. However, they have a personal preference and when there is no attempt at understanding personal preferences or any kind of inventory process, a person will naturally move towards their preferences. Again, it’s not a good or bad thing—just a thing.

On the other hand, as I’ve already discussed, learning is done through four different ways: Verbal/Aural, Visual, Reading & Writing, and Kinesthetic methods—which again—kinesthetic means via physical interaction, so the obvious real dilemma is that a Coach/Delegator cannot physically interact with a Kinesthetic learner.


Can we agree that the Kinesthetic Learner is the one most likely to struggle with learning online? Yes? And can we also agree that the Coach/Delegator style of teacher will most struggle with being able to teach online? Yes? The rest of the methods of teaching and learning will generally work pretty well, with a few exceptions.

Knowing that there’s a challenge is the first bit of the process of finding solutions rather than accepting arbitrary limitations. For over 20 years I have been not only teaching, but learning at a distance from time to time. Overcoming the struggles of distance coaching has been a pursuit that has been made easier and easier over the past 20 years. Initially it was videotape but with today’s technology instant feedback is available to anyone that seeks it through the use of video.

Ah! But that doesn’t address the “hands-on” type of instruction or learning right? No it doesn’t. Can we think through how that might be addressed? The most simple of ways is to consider that someone learning “must” have a training partner, someone to study with. And in the best of situations they should have a group to train with. Very simply, the sooner you can get the Kinesthetic learner to be hands on, the better we are.

As for the instructor who is a kinesthetic teacher, well, that is a different story. A teacher who is unable to teach in any other style or format will be limited and feel unable to communicate effectively enough to transmit the necessary information. However, that is not a limitation of the method of instruction as much as the instructor themselves and not something that can be addressed directly, but through growth.


The process then of learning physical skills online is more a matter of finding suitable replacements for commonly accepted methods, essentially rising above problems to find the solutions. To do that we must address what a normal situation might look like: A normal self-defense or martial arts class is essentially taught in this very abbreviated way: Warm-Ups, Exercise, Fundamentals demonstrated/learned, Fundamentals Practiced, Observation of practice, Correction of practice, Application of practice. Most often the application of practice is peer-to-peer. Feedback is hit-or-miss dependent upon the efficacy of the peer and the attention of the instructor. Occasionally or even regularly the teacher themselves will demonstrate to ensure the “feel” is provided to the student. It will also be demonstrated as often as needed for the group. Details that are specific to the individuals needs are transmitted.

Well…. interestingly, little of that changes with the right online learning structure. A structure that requires peer-to-peer training time, regular, detailed video correspondence, and even the occasional inclusion of in-person instruction can accommodate all of the necessary elements of learning. Additionally, a student who is learning from an online course, may also benefit from material that is meant to be read such as accompanying text, repeated playback of the exact same movements and methods, repeatedly hearing the same instructional components, and more importantly the private and very personal instruction that accompanies video critique if it is provided. The only thing that would be an issue is if the intended student never works with a peer. No, from a learning perspective it is quite possible learn and gain efficacy at physical skills in an online format.

Stay tuned. We are in the home stretch but there is one more post! The other struggles that exist.



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