Learning martial arts at home can be difficult depending on the specific martial art in question, however, there are a few forms of martial arts in which at-home learning is more doable than others. When I was forced to either stop training or learn how to do training at home instead, I did plenty of research to determine how to progress in martial arts at home.
Some martial arts like Karate, Tai Chi, and Boxing are more suitable for learning at home. Learning at home is great to build basic skills or supplement existing skills. Mastering martial arts will require in-person learning, but you can get good exercise and build foundational skills at home.
Let’s break down the pros and cons of learning each of these martial arts at home so you can figure out which one’s the right choice for you. Some factors that need to be considered are the availability of learning material, space and equipment requirements, and the complexity of the individual martial art.
Karate comes in many variations due to its origins and ties to different martial arts systems present in Okinawa throughout its existence. Karate has many different styles—and even different schools within them—have their unique twists.
For the sake of simplicity, I am looking at a subset of karate movements that can be trained alone. Any resource for karate that focuses heavily on the basics (kihon) and katas is a good choice for learning at home. This is especially true for beginners, who need training in the basics, where they learn the simplest punches, kicks, and blocks before moving on to sparring (kumite).
Any resource for karate that focuses heavily on the basics (kihon) and katas is a good choice for learning at home.
This way of training is particularly suitable for learning at home as it does not require you to have a training partner and can provide great exercise and allow you to work on the quality of movement and techniques to the best of your ability.
If you learn the basics of karate on your own, you will see the benefits when you are once you are able to practice under the supervision of an instructor. The focus is on learning to breathe and contract your muscles properly, how to open and close your hips to gain maximum power out of your strikes, and practicing swift and sharp punches over and over again.
Other than that, you’ll also learn katas, which you’ll keep practicing as long as you remain a karateka. In katas, your basics are choreographed into an imaginary fight to practice them in a more mindful way.
It is also possible to split the difference between guided training and training at home by consulting with an instructor virtually, usually sending in a video of you performing karate movements and techniques and getting critiques and advice to improve.
What Do I Need To Practice Karate at Home?
Practicing karate at home simply requires some floor space. Ideally, practice on carpet or some other padding surface as it might be more comfortable, but any space will do for practicing basic karate movements and techniques. If you can find a 10-foot by 10-foot you will not need to reset as often.
Karate does not require much equipment or a big room, especially if you’re training alone. Beginners are most often allowed to start training in casual athletic clothes until they acquire a gi, which is the uniform you have to wear in karate classes.
Karatekas typically wear a white karate gi and colored belts to indicate their rank, but at home, this is unnecessary for training.
For kumite (sparring) and developing powerful strikes against heavy bags or other targets, karatekas wear protective gloves, shin and foot guards, and mouth guards. If you want, you can get a basic heavy bag to practice your techniques will more power.
If you are brand new to karate just be careful to moderate your power because poor striking techniques can lead to discomfort if you use too much power against a heavy bag.
What Resources Can I Find for Learning Karate?
Karate and other martial arts need a visual element, and it is possible to learn through online resources like instructional videos, blogs, and even books as long as there are good images. Typically, students will find instructional videos on YouTube or purchased instructionals most helpful.
The Internet is full of various martial arts coaches, influencers, and writers. You can be sure that you’ll find exactly what you need, even if you’re very picky when it comes to instruction. You can even order a variety of books, which can do a great job at teaching you the basics and the history.
If you find an instructor online, make sure to research them and see if they’re legitimate before you pay for any products. The best place to start for a beginner is simply trying out readily available free resources like those found on YouTube from reputable sources like Jesse Enkamp.
Specifically, look for resources that emphasize Kata and solo drilling exercises that can support Karate learning.
If class timing is the issue preventing you from seeking in-person instruction, it is possible to do one-on-one classes. This isn’t the cheapest option but can be a great way to hone your skills while primarily training from home.
When training karate at home it is a great idea to focus on developing your attributes which you can definitely affect on your own regardless of having in-person interactions.
Check out my article How to Improve Flexibility for Karate if you want to try to develop better flexibility and mobility that will pay off down the line when learning karate.
How Much Does Learning Karate at Home Cost?
Learning karate basics at home is virtually free since you can train in normal workout clothes in a space that you already have access to. If you choose to invest in equipment, getting a punching bag secondhand or new can be an effective investment that will pay off with regular use.
There are definitely online instruction resources out there are cost nothing. But fundamentals courses and paid online courses will typically be more focused especially if you sign up for one that is tailored to at-home training. These can be quite affordable or run up into the $100 range.
When it comes to heavy bags, you can purchase something simple starting at $20 that run into the $300 dollar range. Typically, unless you are using a heavy bag regularly for powerful striking going on the cheaper end is typically a better value proposition.
Training karate at home is expensive overall, and you can easily spend nothing if you’re willing to do a little bit more research into free online resources.
How Difficult Is Karate?
The difficulty of karate depends on your level. You can grasp the fundamentals in a couple of months, but becoming an expert may take up to a decade. There are many small details that take a lot of time to understand.
If you’re training on your own, you’ll probably only stick to the fundamentals, which are quite straightforward. If you apply yourself, you can become good at the basic techniques and katas after only a few months.
However, note that you can’t become a karate master unless you join a school, work with a coach and drill and spar with other students.
2. Tai Chi
Tai chi is a martial art that’s perfectly suited for someone who wants to practice at home. It requires no sparring and requires practically zero equipment and very little space. If your living accommodations are too small, you can always practice outside or even in a public park.
One big downside of Tai Chi is that it’s not a martial art in terms of preparing its students for direct combat. Tai Chi has combat techniques, but they have been adapted to be smooth, flowing techniques that do not train force output and striking. They are simply symbolic representations of strikes and martial arts techniques.
Tai Chi is more similar to a martial arts meditation technique that shares more in common with yoga than with fighting-oriented martial arts. If your goal is to learn direct fighting skills, it is probably not the best choice but it’s a good way to improve your mobility and mental state which can carry over into fighting abilities in the future.
Tai Chi is more similar to a martial arts meditation technique that shares more in common with yoga than with fighting-oriented martial arts.
It’s particularly good for the elderly, as it improves mobility and flexibility, reduces pain, and may even reduce the risk of falling and hurting oneself. If you’re a bit older or have an injury, Tai Chi might be perfect for you.
What Do I Need To Practice Tai Chi at Home?
Tai Chi has few requirements to practice at home, only requiring a minimal amount of standing space. Wearing comfortable clothing and being either barefoot or in comfortable shoes is all that is needed for Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is exceptionally cheap and easy to practice at home. It requires practically no equipment and no uniform. You don’t even need to have that much space, and you can always opt for forms that are suitable for the space that you have.
Special Tai Chi uniforms exist, but they are not required even in most formal classes, so investing in one is unimportant for almost all Tai Chi practitioners. Any comfortable clothes, preferably made of breathable cotton or natural fibers will work just fine.
If you can train barefoot that is ideal but it is also okay to start in shoes that have a good grip on the floor if that is more comfortable.
How Much Does Learning Tai Chi at Home Cost?
Practicing Tai Chi at home usually costs nothing since it is practiced in any comfortable clothing already owned and there are many free online resources available on YouTube and other platforms with a minimal amount of research.
If you want to take guided online classes there are subscription services and paid resources out there that might be a little bit more focused and introduce more variety. However, for most people, this isn’t necessary and you can get by with the free resources and get all the benefits of training.
Tai Chi uniforms are unnecessary for almost everybody, so I don’t personally recommend getting a uniform.
If you are interested in practicing sword techniques and training Tai Chi sword forms you can find an extendable training sword (Amazon link) to train sword forms at various lengths that can store in a small space.
How Difficult Is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi basics are not difficult to learn. Tai Chi is probably the softest and most restorative martial art with readily available learning resources. Since it is mostly flow-oriented and meditative your benefits will be reflected in better physical balance and better mental health.
How difficult Tai Chi is will largely depend on you. However, its techniques and forms are not inherently difficult and can be adapted to individual needs. Tai Chi, especially in the way it’s practiced in the west—is for relaxation and not combat.
When you start becoming an experienced practitioner, you’ll progress to more challenging exercises, but reaching that level is not always the point of practicing Tai Chi.
Boxing is a great choice if you’re looking for a martial art with a combat sports focus that you can practice at home. Realistically, live sparring is a significant part of boxing as well as any other combat sport. However, boxing has a lot of options for at-home training that builds attributes and skills that only require gloves and a punching bag.
Since boxing techniques are simpler than many other martial arts techniques, learning the basics on your own is more doable than other more complex forms of martial arts. A good coach will pay dividends if you want to become a high-level boxer, but for somebody who has to train from home, getting to good fundamental proficiency in boxing is achievable.
Boxing is also an excellent form of conditioning and will help you get in good cardiovascular shape. If your home training has a primary goal of getting good exercise and getting fit. It is probably one of the better choices out there. Being fit before starting boxing is not necessary, but it can be helpful to get fit at home by doing boxing exercises before attending classes in person.
What Do I Need To Practice Boxing at Home?
You need a few things to practice boxing effectively at home:
- A punching bag
- A room large enough to move around the heavy bag
- Boxing gloves
First off, you need a room or outdoor space where you can practice boxing. A garage, shed, interior room in your house, and outdoor spaces are all great options for setting up a small boxing training area. Ideally, you have plenty of space to move around the bag and practice some basic footwork and all of the basic punching techniques.
Regarding your punching bag, there are many options for the actual punching bag ranging from a cheaper unfilled heavy bag option (Amazon Link) that will require you to source fill for the bag (can be cloth or commercial filling) to a more complete option with gloves and a freestanding 360 degrees punching bag (Amazon Link). If you are interested in practicing boxing alongside kicks and other martial arts the latter option might be better for you.
Most bag gloves are a bit less padded and not appropriate for sparring. This is fine because you are really working your techniques on a bag primarily when you train at home anyway.
What Resources Can I Find for Learning Boxing?
Boxing is an old martial art and sport and there are many free learning resources for boxing on YouTube and other platforms. Learning punching techniques and working on them against a heavy bag will be good exercise and build some fundamentals.
If you want to take your boxing to a high level you will need to take in-person boxing classes because it will add more realism and allow you to be critiqued by people who are qualified to help you become the best boxer that you can be.
How Difficult Is Boxing?
Learning the basics of boxing is not too difficult, but building high levels of skill and attributes to master boxing is another matter. That being said, practicing punching fundamentals and basic movements are the foundation of good boxing skills and is an excellent form of exercise.
In order to better understand the basics of boxing and how hard it might be to learn boxing check out my article on the topic Is Boxing Hard To Learn?
Learning martial arts at home definitely has some limitations as far as mastery of the total martial art, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t good martial arts to practice at home. Karate, Tai Chi, and Boxing all have skills and techniques that can easily be practiced at home that will add plenty of skills to your repertoire while being good exercise.
If you are looking for mastery, you will need to train under somebody who is qualified to teach you. If you want to build a fundamental skillset in a martial art then there are options to further those fundamentals from the comfort of your own home.
For more check out What Makes Learning Martial Arts Hard? | A Holistic View