Learning Karate Online: A Comparison of Three Popular Programs

We live in a time when you can acquire knowledge and develop skills in a wide-range of areas through virtual learning. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many gyms and martial arts schools have limited capacity, significantly reduced hours of operation, or closed down completely. In recent years, online learning and workout options for conditioning and training in martial arts from home have gained in popularity. These resources are not only useful during this time of social distancing, but also viable options for long-term training. In this article, I will share information about several top options available for learning karate over the internet.

So, How Do You Decide On A “Learn From Home” Program?

There are a number of important things to consider when looking at options for training in the martial arts from home. Having utilized several programs like this myself, I have a good sense about what is important to make suggestions for others to consider. In writing this post, I focused on factual information about the programs I examined, not my personal opinion of them. It is my hope that this blog post will raise awareness about several top options for learning karate at home. Even if you are not considering one of these, a close examination of the important features to consider when you find other options. In other words, think of this blog a s a “template” for scrutinizing these types of programs yourself.

GMAU Shotokan Karate Homepage

GMAU Shotokan Karate


From the GMAU website: At the Global Martial Arts University (GMAU), we believe everyone should have access to the training they need to protect and better themselves. That’s why we built a better, proven way to learn martial arts. Your choice of style in the convenience of your home, across your devices. Achieve real rank at your own pace with one-on-one instructor feedback. All at the fraction of the cost of practicing at a traditional studio. GMAU started as a DVD-based learn from home martial arts program and is now a global leader in online martial arts instruction. The company offers training in: Shotokan Karate, Taekwondo, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Bojutsu, Nuchaku, and a 12-Week fitness boot camp called Combat Strong. GMAU serves thousands students across its programs, from more than 50 different countries. GMAU Shotokan Karate belt ranks are accredited and certified by the Global Martial Arts Association.

How The Program Works

GMAU has multiple instructors for the Shotokan program, including 5th Dan, 4th Dan, 3rd Dan, and two 1st Dan Sensei. The program provides clearly outlined syllabi for each rank level. The program utilizes pre-recorded lessons (over 100) and follow along classes (more than 90) to deliver instruction on all kihon, kata, and kumite required for each rank. These are supplemented with additional fitness or technique specific instructionals found in the student program portal. In addition, Live classes are offered and other short lessons are regularly added each month and can be accessed anytime by GMAU students. At each rank level, students are required to complete written or video recorded assignments to check progress. After completing the number of required practice hours (varies by rank) students can submit recorded videos to their instructor to test for the next belt rank. Instructors evaluate test submissions and provide detailed feedback to students by video. Students will re-test (usually only select portions) until they meet the standards to progress to the next belt.

” I cannot say enough good things about Global Martial Arts University. I had always wanted to study Shotokan Karate, and through life’s twists and turns, never had the opportunity. Two years ago, after moving to Texas and discovering that there were no local dojo’s that I could attend that would fit my schedule, I started searching online. I came across Global Martial Arts University and couldn’t have been happier. Not only am I able to train and earn real rank through GMAU, but I can train anywhere, anytime, on my own schedule! Not to mention that the guidance and one on one instruction from Sensei John and Sensei Michael, is something that is rare to find at ANY dojo. “

GMAU Shotokan Karate Student Testimonial


The usual program cost for GMAU Shotokan Karate is $39.95/month. There are biannual or three-installment options that reduce the overall cost of the program. There are additional, one-time, assignment fees ($15) and rank testing fees ($60) for each rank level. If a student is required to re-submit an assignment or test they are not charged. GMAU regularly offers promotional rates for new students and reduced rates for existing students to join additional programs. There is a 60-day money back guarantee. All GMAU programs (except for the Combat Strong 12-week fitness boot camp) allow interested individuals to sign up for a “Beginner’s Course”, allowing them to try out most of the introductory level (e.g., white belt) for no cost. In addition, there are many classes and lessons available to anyone who can access YouTube, Facebook or Instagram.

Additional Features

GMAU students can communicate directly with their instructor through the student portal. There is also a message board in the student portal that can be used to interact with other students in a limited way (e.g., comment on another student’s written assignment, congratulate on progress). GMAU also has a private facebook community group where students and instructors can communicate freely. GMAU also provides blog posts (like this one) and has a tremendous amount of content freely available to anyone through YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. The parent organization, Global Martial Arts Association, also hosts an annual international online tournament competition open to anyone who registers.

Shotokan Karate Online Homepage

Shotokan Karate Online


From the Shotokan Karate Online website: “My name is Linden Huckle and I am the founder of ShotokanKarateOnline.com, which has been created as a resource for Shotokan Karateka all over the world. We are not interested in the political side of karate and everyone is welcome on our website, irrespective of grade, association and whether or not someone practices karate at a Dojo, or in their own home! We will have tutorials in everything Shotokan, from Kihon (basics), to Kumite (sparring), Kata (form), lesson plans, history, philosophy, health, fitness, events and much more.” It is unclear how many students Shotokan Karate Online serves. It certainly ranks highly Google searches. Shotokan Karate Online provides electronic certificates (hardcopy mailed to the student upon request). Belt rank accreditation / certification is unclear.

How The Program Works

Shotokan Karate Online has one primary 6th Dan Sensei who is assisted by a 4th Dan Instructor. The program provides a student training guide for each rank level. The program utilizes pre-recorded lessons (how many is unclear) where the primary Sensei or his assistant demonstrate techniques or kata. Typically, the Head Instructor teaches while the Assistant Instructor demonstrates. Blog posts on the website provide additional details and tips for techniques and kata with new tutorials added regularly. According to the site, the program will soon begin offering live Zoom classes. Students submit recorded videos (typically 3 months between gradings and after the individual feels comfortable testing) to their instructor to test for the next belt rank. There is no information regarding how students are evaluated or pass rates.

” I was just looking for some kata videos to help me train on my own at home when I came across yours. I live in Italy so am a bit far from you but I THANK you immensely for uploading your videos and sharing them with the world. They explain basics that every karateka should know in detail.”

Shotokan Karate Online Student Testimonial


The usual program cost for Shotokan Karate Online is $49.95/month. There are no other obvious costs that a student may incur. The site mentions a “inner circle” level of membership but it is unclear if that requires additional payment. There company also offers reduced promotional rates for new students during the year. There is a 30-day money back guarantee. Interested individuals can sign up for a “Trial Course”, allowing them to sample the program for no cost. In addition, there are classes and lessons available to anyone who can access YouTube or Facebook. Shotokan Karate Online has an Instagram account, however, currently there is no content available.

Additional Features

Shotokan Karate Online students can communicate directly with their instructor via email. As previously stated, the site includes informational blogs posts that delve deeper into the details of individual kihon, kata or other related topics. The YouTube site has a significant amount of content. The Instagram page currently has no content.

Udemy Wado Ryu Karate


From Wikipedia: Udemy, Inc. is an American massive open online course (MOOC) provider aimed at professional adults and students. Courses are offered across a breadth of categories, including business and entrepreneurship, academics, the arts, health and fitness, language, music, and technology. As of January 2020, the platform has more than 35 million students and 57,000 instructors teaching courses in over 65 languages. According to their website, Udemy Wado Ryu serves 337 students in their two Wado Ryu programs. “Part 1” of the karate program is for white through orange belt. “Part 2” covers green belt to black belt material. Udemy Wado Ryu Karate provides certificates of completion. Belt rank accreditation / certification is unclear.

How The Program Works

The Udemy Wado Ryu program has a single 3rd Dan Instructor. The program utilizes pre-recorded lessons (23 “lectures” / 5 hours 40 minutes of instruction, according to the website) where the Head Instructor discusses content or uses a voice-over method to describe what another individual is doing. Students submit recorded videos (upon completion of learning modules and after the individual feels comfortable testing) to their instructor to test for the next belt rank. There is no information regarding how students are evaluated or pass rates.

” This course has been really fun, great for cardio, and when COVID hit, I didn’t have a way to train. I have boxing and kick boxing equipment so this course helped me keep some sanity during COVID lock down.”

Udemy Wado Ryu Karate Student Testimonial


The Udemy Wado Ryu program cost is $29.95/month. Udemy often runs reduced cost promotionals on select courses from time to time. There is a 30-day money back guarantee for any Udemy course. There are no trial course options, however, all Udemy courses offer previews of select lessons. This Udemy course does not offer additional content via social media outlets.

Additional Features

Udemy Wado Ryu Karate students can communicate directly with their instructor through the site and with other students (and instructor) via a “Q&A Forum” on the site. There is no YouTube, Facebook or Instagram presence for the program.

Program Comparison Chart

Final Thoughts

In doing your own research, and choosing the program that is right for you, it is important to consider program features such as cost, requirements for advancement, the quality of instructors and instruction, trialability, and the ability to interact with other students and instructors. Having said that, some of those things may, or may not, matter to you. For example, some may want to train and advance and have their rank recognized and accredited. Others use these platforms to get them through time when they are traveling, under pandemic restrictions, or just for extra practice on their own and therefore rank accreditation may not matter to them. Ultimately, you need to decide WHY you are looking for such an option and WHAT you want to get out of the experience. To me, those are the two biggest questions to ask yourself.

Cost is a common consideration (by most of us) when comparing choices that involve a monetary commitment. Features such as social media presence may or may not matter to you. So now you have the basic information you need to know how to evaluate options like these and I have provided you detail on three top “learn karate from home” internet programs. I do hope you find this blog post educational and helpful and I wish you well as you search for a program that is right for you!

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