Not long ago, Jerry suggested that:
I think the point is overstated. Modern approaches to teaching recognize that people learn best in different ways. Effective teaching and learning incorporates auditory, visual and kinetic methods. Simply put, some people learn best through their ears, some through their eyes, some through touch or movement. I happen to be very visual. Perhaps one reason I have connected with Aikido is that it is very visual. In fact, I have learned a lot of Aikido through books, through the internet, and via YouTube.
Books offer insight into Aikido that is extremely helpful in understanding its history, culture, and practice which is often remote to Westerners. Still photographs and drawings help communicate and clarify techniques that can be confusing and blurry on the mat. I refer regularly to books written by the former Doshu and the current Doshu that focus on basic techniques. I have returned to the mat many times with a slight adjustment or new-found insight in mind that is energizing.
Even more, I’ve found videos incredibly helpful for remembering techniques that were demonstrated in a seminar and for learning new techniques. I return to the NY Aikikai’s 30th Anniversary video regularly for insight and inspiration. That video features many shihans who are no longer with us and it is now an invaluable source for their teaching. Not long ago, I learned the 31 jo kata from an excellent instruction video on YouTube. My knowledge of jo technique over 17 years made this easier to do than perhaps for a beginner, but even a beginner, especially one who is a visual learner, could get good after-class reinforcement through this video. The 31, in particular, is hard to remember once you leave the mat.
While nothing can replace on-the-mat training, especially with shihan instruction, I think it’s important to recognize and embrace visual methods of teaching and learning Aikido that can take place off the mat.