You can find just about anything online including hacking tutorials. Share your gems with the crowd.
I would say definitely learn as much programming as you can stomach. You can always find a tool that will suit your purpose, but being able to understand what's going in the background and writing your own is much more important. Don't become reliant on tools, learn how to do it manually first.
There are safe ways to practice your craft. There are quite a few "emulation" sites out there that will allow you to hack anything and everything without causing any damage. They too have been mentioned many times on the forums. Hackthissite.org and Overthewire.org are two examples.
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