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Martial artists need to be good actors and they need to be both stage actors and screen actors. To be a great sparring competitor, you should also be a great actor.

Stage actors

Since stage actors are so far from the audience, especially those in the last rows, they must exaggerate everything so they may be seen and heard by those in the back row. What would normally be a small gesture needs to become grandiose. What would normally be a whisper must be loud, and normal speech must be even louder.

When performing patterns, martial artists need to perform as though they were on a stage; they must perform for the spectators in the last row. Punches, kicks, and blocks must be quick and powerful, but they need to hesitate for a second at the impact point so the technique may be seen and appreciated by the judges and spectators. All movements, such as cambering for a punch, kick, or block must be done with full motion and full extension. Everything should be obvious to the most casual observer.

Screen actors

When sparring, martial artists also need to be actors, but they need to be screen actors. Since screen actors are always observed close up and larger than life, every small gesture or movement is obvious and thus is calculated to elicit a response in the observer. Since sounds are easily heard, every little sound, even the sounds of breathing, may be heard and analyzed by the audience.

When sparring, martial artists need to perform as though they were on a screen, where every movement and sound they make is obvious and is communicating something to the opponent and the judges. A slight gasp or cringe will alert the opponent to a tender spot on your body and cause him or her to concentrate attacks on the area. Unintended, slight movements or tics may telegraph your intention to attack and allow the opponent to respond a split-second faster.


Just as actors portray characters, emotions, or intentions that may be different from their own, martial artists must be able to deceive their opponents. By using slight movements or gestures, a good fighter will be able to make an opponent think one thing is happening when something else is happening. A good fighter will make the opponent react to an incoming low, left side attack when the actual attack is a high, right side attack. A good fighter can use small gestures or sounds to indicate a false injury to trick the opponent or hide an actual injury. A weak kiai may be used to indicate exhaustion and cause the opponent to weaken his or her guard, while a strong kiai can indicate strength even when you are exhausted.

Many times stage actors, who are used to large movements, find that they are unable to perform well on the screen, while screen actors, who are not used to exaggerated movements, find they are unable to perform well on the stage. However, martial artists must be able to perform both ways on the same day at a tournament.

To do this well requires a lot of training time and a lot of tournament time. When training in class or performing at a tournament, martial artists must keep the concept of acting on their minds so they may perfect its usage, remember to use it, and become better fighters. Actors are adept at convincing others that they are the type of person that is contrary to their real selves.

The following are some ways to use acting in your sparring.
  • Before attacking to one area, the convince the opponent that you are attacking to another area:
  • When kicking high, look low, drop the shoulders, use less footwork, and lower the stance to cause the opponent to lower his or her guard.
  • When kicking to the middle, look high, stand tall, raise your guard, and use more footwork to cause the opponent to raise his or her guard.
  • Set up your balance to appear that your attack will be toward the right, and then use an off-balance attack to the left.
  • When attacking with a punch, convince the opponent you are going to kick.
  • Act injured to draw attention away from an attack, such as favoring a leg as if it were hurting and then using it for a quick kick.
  • Overreact to a foul, such as a low kick, to draw judges' and referee's attention to you.
  • Act fierce when facing a weaker opponent to intimidate the opponent.
  • Act meek when facing a stronger opponent to cause him or her to become overconfident.
  • Act nonchalant and lackadaisical as if you do not care about winning, while inside you are determined to win.

Do not overact

If you appear to be acting, you will lose the respect of referee, judges, and your opponents.

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