If you had asked me this question some years ago, I’d have answered with a clear “No!”.
I’d still advocate to learn from a true living master in person whenever possible.
But what if there is absolutely no one capable in your area to teach you?
Should you travel the world to find someone and practice at home?
Yes, absolutely, if you can find someone willing to introduce you into the traditional martial arts and if you can afford it (financially and socially).
I travelled to Malaysia and other beautiful places several times just to learn from my Sifu for a few days and later practice on my own at home. I’ll never regret any lost hours sitting on airports during stopovers and money spent on courses and plane tickets. Those were the most enriching and transformational travels of my life.
Training under the supervision of a master surely is the best option.
So if you have the chance, go to wherever your master is situated and learn from them. Just make sure not to fall into a Chinese tourist trap where you’ll learn modernized Wushu (that looks like Kung Fu but actually isn’t) in a military style camp, which is what most Westerners experience – thinking they’re learning the real deal.
Finding a true master has always been, and still is, a difficult task. It’s probably even more arduous today, as the choice of courses, schools and camps is practically endless.
How can you tell the difference between a superficial show school, bogus teachers and genuine masters as a beginner?
Probably only by trial and error… and error... and error… and some luck.
But CLARITY about different levels of Kung Fu practice and ways of teaching provides a good guideline.
How to best learn Kung Fu
As explained in more detail in my article “The 3 Keys to Success in Learning Kung Fu”, the following three factors decide about the potential of your Kung Fu journey:
The METHOD limits how far you can get. You can only learn what’s included. It should at least be genuine. A great method enables you to reach a high level in shorter time.
The TEACHER regulates how fast you can get there safely. A great teacher will help you gain all the benefits of the art and inspire you to become the best you can be, in the art and as a person.
As a STUDENT you have to make use of what you learned in exactly the way your teacher taught you. It’s very simple if you trust your teacher and just do what they tell you to do. Nevertheless, it’s a shame how many fail because of laziness or trying to be smarter than the master.
Since ancient times, the teaching was always in-person and we in Shaolin Wahnam followed this tradition, as it provides the best and most direct way to teach and learn.
But during the pandemic starting in 2020, I had to put all my courses online at a moment’s notice. A step that we had considered unthinkable before. Anyway, we’re trained to adjust to the given situation and find solutions flowingly.
To our surprise, training in Zoom calls worked much better than we had imagined. Student’s comments like “it’s nearly as good as at the school” (if we take partner exercises out of the equation) confirmed that this is truly a good alternative to training in person, at least when personal training is not possible for whatever reasons.
Livestream training works very well too.
I reflected and discussed a lot on the various ways to learn the fantastic Shaolin arts.
The following ranking of how to best learn Kung Fu is the result of this evaluation.
- A great method by a great teacher in person
- A great method by a great teacher per online livestream
- A great method by a great teacher in an online course
- A genuine method by a good teacher in person
- A genuine method by a good teacher per online livestream
- A genuine method by a good teacher in an online course
- A shallow method by a mediocre teacher in person
- A shallow method by a mediocre teacher per online livestream
- A shallow method by a mediocre teacher in an online course
- From a friend who’s just a student themselves
- Alone by watching random videos on YouTube
- Alone by reading books
- A bad method by a bad teacher in any way
What stands out of this list: It’s still better to learn a high-quality method online than wasting your precious time (and money) with teachers who lack depth and understanding themselves.
Of course, this comparison is just a guideline and only valid if all things were equal. There may be overlapping due to personal characteristics and preference.
Having experienced methods and teachers of most levels (fortunately no bad teachers), they are the deciding factors in my opinion. If you get access to high-level teaching, take the chance! No matter how it is transmitted.
By combining the first three ranks you can use the strengths of each whilst overcoming their weaknesses.
Let’s have a look at…
The Strengths of Training Kung Fu Online
Learning online opens up a lot of opportunities that you’d normally not have. Here are some bonus benefits you can gain by our online training courses, whilst following a great and time-proven method.
While I don’t hesitate to show a technique or application again and again on demand in class, you can watch the videos I recorded from various angles over and over again and even adjust the speed.
You can't replay the instructions of an offline training. ;)
You can internalize important explanations of ancient principles by reviewing them from time to time.
You never miss a class again. It’s all there for you to replay. And you can take me with you on your holidays (though you can’t take me out for lunch, which is common in personal courses).
While the material is released in a structured way, you can learn at your own pace – different to practicing with a group. But make sure to still follow the method step-by-step. (Remember: Don’t try to be smarter than the master by skipping lessons whose benefit you may not yet understand!)
You can find training buddies all over the world through the Buddy Program in our Community Section, the “Shaolin Tea Room”, and discuss the material with people from all over the world. (We’re just starting out, so the community will surely grow.)
And yes, it’s convenient, saving you the time of commuting.
You’re also more flexible, which comes in handy particularly if you have varying working hours.
Learning the basics online also serves as a good preparation for future offline courses and teachings.
Aren’t we living in a golden era?
We can train martial arts for fun to improve our health and well-being instead of fighting for our life and we’re able to access once secretive teachings through modern technology.
Choose your method and master wisely!
I hope you gained insight and clarity on what is really important when searching for a beneficial Kung Fu training.
By the way:
While you still have to try our courses before you can decide if it’s a good fit for you, you can do so risk-free thanks to our 30-days money back guarantee.
Have a look at our online course "The Entrance to the Chamber of Shaolin Kung Fu" here!
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