Watching Movies: video training part 2 (revised and reposted)

Lights, camera, action! It is time to take another look at technology and how it can help the independent martial artist. A few months ago, in video training part 1,  I discussed some of the strategies for filtering through and learning from the mountain of martial arts videos on youtube. The goal was to improve by watching others. Now it is time to turn the camera on yourself.

One of the biggest challenges that solo practitioners face is the lack of external feedback from teachers and fellow students. The idea of filming yourself was fairly impractical, even just a few years ago, since good video cameras were expensive and hard to operate. Now almost everyone has hd video in their smart phone, or as part of their digital camera (a tripod is about the only thing I might recommend). The files are easily transferred to the computer and, “voila,” there you are in the movies. And the best part is, you now can sit back and watch yourself without distraction. This is very different from watching yourself in a mirror. Mirrors are problematic because, while you are training, you tend to watch that “person reflected over there” instead of focusing on your own movement (see Reflect on this for strategies in using mirrors). By contrast, video lets you be an unbiased observer, after the fact.

The key is to use video as a tool for improvement and not for an ego boost. Do not worry about how you look while you are filming yourself. Don’t practice for days so that your performance will be Oscar-worthy. I suggest setting up the camera, running through a routine a few times to work out kinks, and then recording it once. You might then want to wait a few weeks before you look at it. If you watch it right away, you will only see the mistakes you already knew you were making. Later, however, you will see all sorts of things you were unaware of. I have one friend who films himself once a year and waits until the next year’s video session to watch what he did a year ago. They key is to really step outside yourself and see the person on the film as a stranger. The more you can do this, the fewer excuses you will make for the mistakes you see.

In filming myself I have noticed issues with my stance and posture that felt completely natural when I was training. I have noticed tension in my face as well as issues with my breathing. I have seen obvious differences between focused and unfocused techniques. Who knows what you will find.  My guess is that, if you have had the benefit of an instructors feedback in the past, that voice will echo in your head as you watch yourself.

Lastly, don’t show the video to anyone else. Don’t post the video on youtube. But, after you have watched it, I do suggest you store it to watch again in the future. Being able to look back over the years allows you to see if you are still struggling with the same issues, over and over,  or if you have moved on to new challenges. Remember that it unlikely that anyone will be filming you defend your life in that dark alley we all worry about. The films you make are not acting screen tests but opportunities for you to critique your own fundamental techniques. And, even if someone does pull out a phone to record the action, in the end, it is better to win the fight than to win the oscar.

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