I feel very fortunate that I am a student with Global Martial Arts University (GMAU). I feel that they are hands-down one of the most reputable and honest martial arts schools that I have come across. The instructors provide an exceptional level of knowledge and support. The students provide a high level of camaraderie, knowledge sharing, and constructive criticism. To me, it is just like being in an actual school.
I came across the Global Martial arts University (GMAU) site during a search for Okinawan Bo information that I could use for a local 'brick & mortar' school that I was trying to learn Okinawan Kobudo from. Sensei Michael Hodge's information and videos were a wonderful source of information. I know what most people say that learning online isn't a real way to actually learn a martial art. However, I feel that they would be wrong. In fact, I ended up doing a trial of the Ultimate Bo course and found it to be above and beyond the level of training that I was receiving at the local school. I then signed up for the full Ultimate Bo course. I also discovered that GMAU offers several other online courses such as Shotokan Karate and Krav Maga.
I had taken a local Krav Maga course locally but due to work schedules and family schedules I wasn't able to maintain anything consistently. I went through a couple of the online class videos and lessons that Sensei South and Sensei Koppel led and was duly impressed as well as worn out. I have also signed up for the Krav Maga course as well.
So here are my thoughts on GMAU and their online courses. The instructors for the GMAU courses are thorough in their explanation, demonstration, and in-depth analysis of the techniques and movements for the information taught. They offer lessons for the different belts/levels, as well as full classes that you participate in as if you are there. They also offer extra video sessions that delve into topics that students ask about as an added bonus. Having the videos for the lessons, classes, and extra sessions is great because you can always go back and review them when needed. All of this is available from the student portal.
The student portal contains all the training links, a training journal to track your learning progress and hours, as well as a VERY active discussion board, a Student Locator (to find students close to your area to train with), and Assignments & Testing areas for each level.
In order to test for each belt/level a video is required to be made, showing various angles for each of the requirements for the level. At first I was pretty nervous doing this and was actually my own worst critic. The GMAU instructors reviewed the submitted videos and provided a very technical video review, pointing out not only what I could improve on (as well as demonstrating it), but also pointed out what I did correctly. What is even greater and something that I respect quite a bit is that for the Level 6 (Krav Maga) and Black Belt (Ultimate Bo) you travel to the main location and test in person.
It is important to remember that for the online courses to work (like anything), you have to be self-motivated to want to learn! You need to have that drive that pushes you to the next level! I was lucky that I found a training partner that is close enough that we can train several times per week going through the classes and then even able to take time to slow down and work through some techniques that we want to examine more closely. At most brick & mortar schools you wouldn't be able to do that without private lessons or being at the mercy of the instructor's pace. Also the course message boards are a great way to get and provide feedback as well as exchanging training ideas and knowledge. I myself have posted several videos for peer review and was pleasantly surprised with the amount of feedback that I received, with some things that I didn't notice that helped me improve my techniques. The instructor's for both of the courses that I am enrolled in also are very quick to respond to questions and comments.
My goal is to receive my Level 6 in Krav Maga and then take the instructor's course as well as getting my Black Belt in Ultimate Bo and taking the instructor's course as well in that. I then plan to see about offering the courses here in my area, in conjunction with GMAU, combining an online experience with a brick & mortar location.