An interesting question. And many of the assumptions could be applied to
other types of instructional videos as well.

-- Logan --

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Guy Windsor <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wed, May 24, 2017 at 8:56 AM
Subject: Advice wanted: Are online martial arts courses ethical?


I posted this on my blog today, and am sending it out to everyone on this
list (not just those who signed up for blog updates), because it's a
serious question and I need as many responses as I can get...

Are online courses ethical?

I take ethics very seriously, to the point of writing a short book on them.
As you may know I have recently begun offering online courses
in addition to the free videos on my wiki
and the books that I write. When I emailed my list about the Medieval Dagger
course, I got this reply:

I’m sorry Guy but this kind of breaks my heart. Having come over from EMA
and seen the damage internet dojos have done there. I honestly can’t
believe we are doing the same thing. Nobody can learn empty hand arts via
video and adding weapons into the mix is just frankly dangerous. Surely you
aren’t recommending people train unsupervised with weapons.

Obviously I disagree with the premise that you can’t learn martial arts
from a video (or a book!), and nobody has criticised my books in the same
way (at least not to my face), so I replied:

I perfectly understand your concern, which is why it’s taken me 15 years to
come around to the idea. But the simple fact is that my books have gotten
hundreds of people started in their training, and my online (free) videos
too; I don’t see any moral difference between this kind of course and the
books I write. And this way I can actually keep track of the people using
my material and assist them more directly. Do you object to my youtube
channel too? I learned unsupervised with weapons back in the ’90s, working
from old books- how is this any different?
If HEMA is possible (the recreation of historical martial arts from
historical sources), then learning it from videos must also be possible.
The danger lies primarily in mistaking watching a video (or reading a book)
for training- in failing to actually get up and do it in practice.
Am I missing something?

To which he replied:

Yes I do object to all forms of internet martial arts teaching. I’m fine
with it as a marketing and promotional tool to spread the word about the
art/club but it should never be a teaching tool for martial arts
(especially weapons arts). The difference is that you are profiting from
something you know is inherently unsafe. This is a very clear and moral
distinction. While you may be providing a superior product it sets
precedence that will allow less reputable and unscrupulous people say well
if Guy Windsor does it why not me? This is exactly what happened in Eastern
Martial Arts. Of course you are not breaking any laws and I expect that I
will be completely ignored but I didn’t want it to go unchallenged. The
economic narrative of the times we live is the only one people seem to
listen to these days.
I wish you well.

This is a clear and damning accusation so I thought I’d run my thinking
past you, my readers, and get your take on it. I’ve already run it past a
couple of my friends who I can trust to tell me if I’m wrong, and they
agree with me, but casting the net a bit wider seems like a sensible idea
on an issue this serious.

The assumptions I see here are:

1) that you can’t learn martial arts from video, so selling such videos is

2) that it’s irresponsible to communicate weapons skills except in person

3) that while I may be able to break assumptions one and two, it recklessly
opens the door to ‘less reputable and unscrupulous people’ doing the same.

4) that ‘I know [that my online courses] are inherently unsafe’.

5) that it is unethical to profit from these videos, though apparently
giving them away would be ok.

I reject assumption 1 “that you can’t learn martial arts from video, so
selling such videos is fraudulent” because it closes the door to anything
other than direct, personal transmission of martial arts. Which means that
this person, as a member of a HEMA club, is being at least inconsistent,
because the HEMA arts he practises are derived from books, which are *harder
*to learn martial arts from than videos. Who wouldn’t give their
non-sword-arm to watch video of their historical master performing their
art? And there is just no way to recreate HEMA without at least the
instructor training ‘unsupervised’ by a qualified person, because somebody
must be learning from a historical source for the “H” in HEMA to make sense.

Assumption 2 “that it’s irresponsible to communicate weapons skills except
in person” is based on the idea that it’s inherently safer to be taught by
an instructor in person. This might be true some of the time, but I know
from experience that it is not true all of the time. Most of the worst
injuries I’ve ever seen have occurred during properly supervised training
of one sort or another (usually tournaments). And I’ve never heard of
anyone injuring themselves working from any of my books or videos- or
anyone else’s for that matter. Sure, a competent instructor will tend to
run safe classes- but will also push students further out of their comfort
zones too. And accidents can happen in even the best-run classes.

Assumption 3 “that while I may be able to break assumptions one and two, it
recklessly opens the door to ‘less reputable and unscrupulous people’ doing
the same”, makes me somehow responsible for other people’s behaviour over
which I have no control. That makes no sense, and I reject that out of
hand. Of course I’m obliged to set an example, but as I think the courses I
create offer good training, that’s the example I think I’m setting. Am I

Assumption 4, “that I know [that my online courses] are inherently unsafe”
is simply false. I do not believe for one second that my courses are
unsafe. If they were, I wouldn’t do them. If we start to get injuries on
the courses, I’ll change them or pull them offline. But we won’t, at least
not at any greater rate, and probably at a lesser rate, than injuries would
occur with no guidance. Because let’s face it: people will train these arts
with or without my help, and my courses emphasise safety above all other
considerations. You can check this for yourself with any of my free
courses: Knee Maintenance
Arm Maintenance
and the Beginner’s Longsword

Assumption 5, “that it is unethical to profit from these videos”, though
apparently giving them away would be ok, is also simply false. It is
demonstrably *safer* to charge for the videos. It dramatically reduces the
number of people using them (about 20 times as many people have signed up
for my free knee maintenance course, than have paid to join any one of my
other courses), and the payment selects those people for seriousness-
nobody is going to pay for a course like these and then just dick around
dangerously. In addition, it means I can put the safety guidelines at the
very beginning, and exhort all enrollees to watch/read them. This is vastly
safer in principle than the weapons training videos I’ve had up for free on
the internet for the last 7 years or so (and yet, no reported accidents
there either).

But this is a matter of safety, and ethics, so I’m not inclined to just
take my own opinion as gospel. What do you think? I’ve put together a short
for you to let me know. Please be honest: I will take nothing personally,
and I will keep your answers 100% confidential. And please note, I’ll be
checking this form regularly, but I might not see your comments on social
media, so if you want me to take your opinion into account, please use the
form or the comments below.

And please do share this post – it’s really important that I get the
opinions of people outside my usual fan base. The link is here:



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