Learning martial arts at home requires discipline and a curriculum of sound basics. You can teach yourself the essentials with a mirror, a time commitment and realistic goals. Absorbing the fundamentals of physical conditioning, flexibility, stances and strikes lays a solid foundation that can be built upon when seeking out long-term direction and understanding. As you progress as a student, practicing at home will lead to noticeable improvements in skill over time.
Before you begin exercising, punching and kicking, focus on flexibility. Learning to stretch properly before working out will reduce injury and allow you to exert greater range of motion as you progress. Stretch your arms so that punching practice doesn't pull your rotator cuff or strain your elbow. Stretch your legs so that learning kicks doesn't pull your hamstrings or strain your groin adductor muscles. Use twisting stretches for your core so that working out doesn't strain your lower back. Ongoing attention to being pliable can keep you healthy and help you have a lasting experience as a martial artist. Particular attention to legs is recommended. Warm ups should include at least three different lower body stretches held for a minimum of 25 seconds each.
Get in Shape
One of the main reasons people are attracted to martial arts is self-defense. The ability to outrun an attacker is second only to the physical endurance to fight off an assailant. Being in good shape is tantamount to learning to defend yourself. Adopt a daily workout regimen that targets your cardiovascular system and the three major muscle areas of legs, core and upper body. Jog on Monday, do pushups, squats and leg lifts on Tuesday. Jump rope on Wednesday and lift weights on Thursday. Rotate between cardiovascular and muscle training from day to day and vary the specific exercises from one session to the next.
Learn to Stand
Your stance as a martial artist determines the adequacy of your defense as well as the effectiveness of your strikes. Never face an attacker or an opponent square-on. Doing so provides them with the largest target your body can be. Turn your body to the side to make it a smaller target. If you are right-handed, your main fighting stance will be with your right leg back. Feet should be a shoulder-width-and-a-half apart. You knees should always be bent and weight shifted forward onto your toes.
Learn to Visualize and to Strike
Once you find your stance, simply bounce up and down, back and forth and side to side. Replace rigidity with fluidity and use the mirror to make sure you maintain a side position with your hands up by your face at all times. Visualize an attacker coming at you with strikes. Practice blocking, ducking and evading these imaginary assaults, followed by counter strikes of your own. From your fighting stance, practice punches off the rear and front hands 100 times each, then switch sides and repeat. Do the same with kicks off both legs, switch sides and repeat. Hand and foot striking drills should be done every day. Practice jabs, crosses hooks and uppercuts with your hands. Practice front kicks, round kicks and side kicks with your legs.
As you master the basics and get into shape, you will want to hone in on the specifics of your martial art style of choice. If karate or taekwondo are for you, then you will want to acquire a bag for punching and kicking practice. A training partner with similar interests is key for practicing the techniques and take downs inherent in judo, jiu jitsu and Krav Maga. Working with a partner will eventually lend itself to sparring, which is absolutely essential for learning to be effective in any martial art. Instructional videos and training manuals should be referenced often, and should come from recognized, authoritative sources.
Nothing can replace the hands-on learning of martial arts from an accredited professional. If you are living in a rural area or can not afford classes, teaching yourself at home is a viable alternative and is better than not training at all. Do not expect to be Jackie Chan after a couple of weeks in front of the mirror. Proficiency takes years of training. Developing the habit of learning martial arts at home will serve you well in the long run, as you examine things you pick up from the outside world under the microscope of your own time.