IntroMartial arts demonstrations display the power, skill, and grace of martial arts techniques as performed by the demonstrators. They show that anyone regardless of sex, age, size, or weight may learn and become proficient in the martial arts. Demonstrations are a necessary and practical means of showing off the skills of martial artists to the public, to encourage them to consider studying the martial arts. The best demonstrations are well planned, organized, and managed events.
The initiator for a demonstration may be an organization that requests one for a specific function or it may be you approaching an organization ask to give one for a specific reason. Whichever the case, both need to be planned well in advance.
PLANNINGTo plan a demonstration:
- Select a leader. This person directs the planning of the demonstration and its execution. The leader controls the flow of the demonstration, ensuring each person is ready to perform on time. The leader must be able to read a crowd’s interest level and make program changes at a moment's notice if the crowd becomes bored.
- Select appropriate members. If the crowd is the general public, then a higher proportion of adult members would give a better impression than a group of younger members. You need to capture their attention and hold it. This means a lot of intense action with a very professional presentation, for which you will have to practice. If you are demonstrating to a school, then a higher proportion of children will obtain far better results. Children would far rather watch their peers and liken themselves to them than to watch adults whom they feel they could not emulate because of their physical size and strength.
- Consider the venue. For example, if the demonstration is to take place on a stage, consider how many students will fit on it. A large stage with too few people will give the impression of a small unimpressive team. On the other hand, too small a stage for many students will look congested and impede the natural flow of the demonstration. If the venue is outdoors, consider the terrain. A smooth surface is obviously better than a rough one and will enable the student to perform better. Also, consider the weather conditions. Few people will stand in a cold and windy environment unless they are keenly interested in what is taking place. Direct your group into the sun so that the crowd is not continually squinting or shielding their eyes.
- Choose the announcer. The announcer may make or break a good demonstration. The announcer should have a natural ability to talk to a crowd, including good voice control, and able to hold the crowd's attention. The announcer should be able to maintain an upbeat presentation even when things are not going according to plan.
- Length. The length of the demonstration is very important since one that it is too long or too short will cause the crowd to lose interest. Review carefully the content of what your presentation. Patterns are interesting, but they slow the tempo and may lose the crowd's interest if overdone. The demonstration needs a time structure, but it should be flexible. The leader should read the crowd and adapt the time spent on each area of the demonstration according to the crowd's interest. For best results, try for a 20-30-minute demonstration. The aim is to build and maintain excitement.
- Flexibility. The program should demonstrate the degree of flexibility one may attain in the martial arts. This may be shown during the warm-up at the start of the demonstration. Have a variety of students with different skills and ages perform this aspect of the program.
- Patterns. Patterns should be a part of the program since they are such a large part of most martial arts, but their use should be limited so crowd excitement is not stifled. As stated earlier, the content needs to be dynamic and exciting to hold the crowd's attention. Select two or three patterns according to the ranks of the performers. Show a beginning pattern, an intermediate pattern, and an advanced pattern, but disperse them throughout the program, so that the crowd's attention is focused on something different every few minutes. Since the crowd has no appreciation of the technical aspects of the martial arts, ensure each pattern is performed powerfully. A technically perfect but weak pattern is often worse than the opposite. Possibly, add a team pattern.
- One-step routines. Ensure one-steps are well choreographed and well-rehearsed since this is one area that mistakes are highly visible. Select students who can show power and focus and, especially in the case of senior black belts, good aerial techniques. Perform in slow motion first and then in fast motion.
- Breaking. It is better to attempt and succeed in breaking one board than to attempt two and fail. Crowds want to see boards break. Sometimes half-boards may be used to ensure breaks are accomplished. Mix breaks throughout the program to maintain crowd excitement. Use different types of breaking materials using hand and foot techniques.
- Self-defense. We all know that some techniques are crowd pleasers but are practically useless in a self-defense situation. These are the techniques to use in a demonstration. Use large motion techniques with lots of action. The attacks should be attacks that you would likely face in the street. Techniques should not look rehearsed and should look painful.
- Skits. Skits are a crowd pleaser and are enjoyable for team members to perform. Skits should not have too many things happening at once; therefore, limit the action to one “good guy" and two or three “bad guys.” Use some type of highly visible clothing to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. Skits should be fast, well-choreographed, and well-rehearsed.
- Focus. To demonstrate the physical and mental control used by martial artists, include a demonstration using of precise control in punching and kicking by stopping full-power techniques just short of the target.
- Free-sparring. Use a variety of skilled students to demonstrate sparring so it does not look fake and amateurish. Good focus, technique, the flow of movements, and lots of action are important to maintain crowd interest.
- Promotion. Use all available means to promote the demonstration to ensure a large crowd.
- Marketing. Have handouts describing your school and plenty of students and staff that may answer questions and interact with the crowd. Have announcer do short advertisements about the school at various times.