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A frequent subject of questions on this site is how to train martial arts without any instruction. How difficult is it to find martial arts instruction?

I live in the US. In my experience, in most small towns there is martial arts instruction available. What is available changes; you have more choices in cities, but even in small towns in Maine in the winter there is karate, and most high schools have wrestling or at least gridiron football (not a martial art, but still much closer than some question askers seem to have), which would at least teach you strength and tackling.

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There are three types of people asking these questions:

  1. those who have watched too many movies or cartoons and have blended fantasy with reality
  2. those who have previous experience but must train solo due to personal circumstances (i.e. job, location)
  3. those who have never trained and are genuinely clueless about how to start

For questions fitting category #1 my personal opinion is the same whether I speak as a mod or as a normal member: these types of questions are no good for the community and should be closed and/or deleted as soon as possible.

For questions in category #2 the onus is on the OP to provide specific detail so that the question can be reasonably answered. If the question is well intentioned but still too vague then it gets lumped in the previous category until it is edited into shape.

For the remaining category we should also limit our help. Of course we would like to help and provide guidance, but this site follows a Q&A format which isn't suited to ongoing discussion and encouragement or continued expansion of the original question. The ideal solution for this is for the members to pick one of the better instances of this type of question, and then collaboratively create a canonical answer for it that future duplicates can be linked to (an existing answer can be used for this purpose, it doesn't have to be a new answer). Having a well written canonical answer helps to eliminate repetition and also helps illustrate to new members the quality we prefer on this site.

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If you're not particular about what you train in, or the situation, yeah, it's easy to find martial arts instruction. Those people never ask that question because their needs are well met.

Otherwise:

If you have previous training, and no instructors/schools about, you can get some limited benefit by solo training (forms, conditioning) or by getting partners to do live drills with and some additional training ideas from video/references. These questions are usually people who haven't had to think about what training without a school or community looks like, and/or what resources are available to them.

If people have no previous training, then they can get some forms and conditioning training, which is of limited value but for some folks, that's fine. As long as it's made absolutely clear to them they will not learn combative value, I don't see anything wrong if people decide they want to learn some forms or do some cardio on their own. (Of course, there's the usual risks of long term cartilage & tendon damage for doing some things wrong, but with a bad instructor or school people do that anyway...)

However, people who have no background in doing resisted training (sparring, active drills, etc.) and want to learn something... well, their only option is to get an instructor or someone who knows enough to practice with.

While I'm generally in agreement with slugster's assessment of the people who ask this question, I don't the group of people confused by media should be deleted - they should have a canonical answer as well. There's a massive amount of misinformation out there, and a canonical answer helps attend to that.

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If you plan on a particular art, you may have a much more difficult time than if you are flexible about it. You can practically swing a cat and find a Karate or Tae-Kwan-Do school (finding a quality one might be more difficult). Kung Fu, there's generally just a handful of them for a midsized town. Capoeira, you're lucky if you have two to choose from. Krav Maga generally only shows up in larger towns. And, of course, if you're looking for a particular flavor of the martial art, you're probably going to have to cast further out.

I grew up in a small town. There was all of one place to take classes, offering Chuck Norris Tang-Soo-Do. Now, there are more varied offerings, but most of it is still Karate, TKD, or some mix thereof. Lots of MMA places, but looking at the pages, it looks like some of them are just plain gyms that offer a kickboxing class.

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