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Demonstration Things to Remember

Our demonstration at the University of Hawaii is this Sunday (July 12th). Here are some things I have been saying to our students as we prepare. Our dojo demonstrates very rarely -- only about 3 times in the last 12 years. So we are not very experienced at it. And honestly, we do not like to demonstrate because we prefer to concentrate on kata and body mechanics/dynamics.

Demonstration Things to Remember:

  • Arrive early.
  • Make sure your gi is clean and neat. Make sure your strings are neatly tied and the ties of your gi bottom are tucked in (not hanging out).
  • Do not wear any patches or labels on your gi.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the program so that you will know when you must get ready and perform.
  • You must be on your best behavior at all times -- not only when you are on stage.
  • If you are on stage in a group, and must observe another student perform, stand neatly and pay attention. Do not let your eyes wander, fix your gi, yawn, etc.
  • When you perform a kata, try your best.
  • If you make a mistake, just keep going. The audience will not know that you made a mistake and even students or instructors of other styles might not realize you made a mistake because their kata may differ. Also, if you stop or make a face when you make a mistake, this could disrupt other students who are performing. Making a face tells the audience that you made a mistake.
  • Bowing politely is very important. When you bow, do so neatly and completely. Don't "half" bow or start walking when you are on the way up from a bow.
  • When you leave the stage, do not turn your back to the audience.
  • It is good to practice hard so that you will do your kata properly during a demonstration. However, you should always practice hard whether there is a demonstration or not. You should not need a demonstration, testing, promotion, a visit by a senior instructor, etc. to try hard. Just try hard all the time.
  • Remember that other people performing may be junior to you or very senior to you. Each person performs at his or her level of ability. If you do better than someone else, don't feel good. If you do worse than someone else, don't feel badly. Just do your very best. The main thing is to try to improve each and every day.
  • You cannot let me down. If you do well, I am happy. If you make mistakes, I am happy and hope that you do not feel badly. The test of Karate is in daily life and in surprise attacks, not in demonstrations. Just try your best.
  • I mess up kata too. I think everyone does. For years, I would start off with Pinan Yondan and switch into Pinan Godan without realizing it. I gave a demonstration of Gojushiho at a friend's dojo. I ended up facing the wrong direction!
  • Observe other dojo's performance of kata so that you can get an idea of their method of moving. Even if you do not know the sequence of their kata, you can "catch" or "feel" their movement. In my experience, there are few styles that move in a more natural and relaxed manner than our Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu (and in Matsubayashi-Ryu generally).
  • Even if you are not performing in a demonstration, come out to help your dojo and fellow students. There are many things that need to be done.
  • Don't leave your valuables laying around. Sadly, wallets and even weapons such as sai are stolen at demonstrations and even tournaments.
  • Don't come to the demonstration if your are ill. You will just get sicker and could make other people ill too. Please call me if you will not be able to attend so that I can have another student take your place.
  • When you perform in a demonstration, you will be "amped" up and move faster than you think. So you have to hold back a little. This is especially true if you will use sai or nunchaku. I tore my rotator cuff during a sai demonstration. One of my senior firends also tore his rotator cuff using sai. So be especially careful with sai!
  • Do not move too close to the audience. If your kata moves forward too much, you might have to step in place or even back step. Practice this.
  • I believe that Chojun Miyagi said that a Karate instructor should be prepared at any time, without notice, to give an 8 hour Karate demonstration. Can you? Can you do all your system's kata and techniques, explain them, pair off the applications, and narrate? That's a pretty hard thing to do.
  • Remember that the audience, generally, does not know Karate. What impresses the audience may not be good Karate. And, in fact, many Karate students exaggerate or even change kata techniques to impress the audience. Don't do this. Do the kata correctly.
  • Remember that some really "impressive" people can't fight worth beans and some people with really ugly kata are tough as nails.
  • When I see a kata done really, really well, I am not impressed, I am frightened. I think, "I would not want to stand in front of that person."
  • Do not look at audience members in the eyes. Either look over their heads, between them, or don't focus your eyes on the people. If you look at someone in the eyes, they might make you laugh of lose your composure.
  • If you are going to kiai, do so strongly.
  • Do not wear any jewelry at all! Personally, I feel that it is OK to wear glasses.
  • Don't smile or look smug on the stage. Just look focused.
  • Don't rush. You will probably move faster than you intend. This will make it hard or impossible for you to "set" your movements (to have proper kime).
  • When you perform kata in a group, you have to follow the timing of the leader or senior. It is not a race. You don't get points for finishing first.
  • Remember that you represent your dojo and your Sensei. So always be on your best behavior.
  • Be aware that there may be senior Sensei and students in the audience, or the families of current or former Sensei. You might not even know that they are Karate people. So always be very polite.
  • If for any reason you have a problem during the demonstration, let your Sensei handle it, particularly if it involves other dojo.
  • Someone in the audience might be motivated or inspired by you. So try your best. You might be changing the course of someone's life!
  • Remember that no matter how perfect, strong or good you are, the audience will clap the most for the youngest child and the oldest person.
  • Have fun and learn from the experience.
  • Drive home safely.
  • After the demonstration, don't criticize other students or dojo. Just try to improve yourself. We are all trying to learn. A kind word can inspire and a cruel word can cause others to stumble.
I'm sure that there are many other issues. Again, I am not very experienced at demonstrations.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank my own students for their hard work preparing for the demonstration, and to all the members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai who will perform. I have been so focused and overwhelmed with the exhibit (Karate: From Okinawa to Hawaii) that it has been hard to focus on the demonstration.

I hope that you can come to the demonstration! It is open to the general public and free of charge.


Charles C. Goodin