There are basically three ways to study martial arts:
1) by taking group classes
2) by taking private lessons
3) by taking a combination of group and private training
To be sure, the best approach is the combination of group and private training, but it may surprise you to learn that the worst approach is taking private lessons exclusively.
While the Filipino martial arts are often referred to as 'direct transmission' arts and it is therefore considered absolutely essential that the student actually touch hands directly with the teacher, it's just as important that they train with many different kinds of opponent-partners as well.
After all, the art of martial arts is relationship and – despite what the movies may convincingly depict as being the ideal teacher-student dynamic – training with only one person cannot provide the variety of experiences and challenges that are key to developing a full understanding of how to apply the art effectively against anyone who might do you or your loved ones harm.
From the teacher's perspective, teaching a private lesson is a great way to fine-tune a student's skills. Having observed the student's efforts in the group class, the teacher can bring a much more productive focus to the one-on-one training experience, zeroing in on the specific needs of that student.
Thus, taking private lessons is best thought of as a powerful supplement to group class training, which should be the primary training mode.
With that said, there a few exceptions that are worth noting:
• Visiting students can benefit from taking one or perhaps a few private lessons during their stay, with the focus of those lessons being on the specific areas of interest that they express.
• Recent victims of violence or sexual trauma may feel more comfortable beginning their martial arts studies by taking private lessons until such time as they feel ready to join the group class.
• U.S. military personnel preparing for deployment to combat zones. The Filipino martial arts have a lot to offer warriors not only in honing their skills but also in preparing their minds for war. However, such intensified, mission-specialized training isn't appropriate for civilian students, so private instruction is definitely warranted.
• Actors preparing for film or television roles that involve martial arts often need to learn very specific skills, so private instruction is also warranted.
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