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Thoughts on Demonstrations

Our Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai gave a demonstration at the University of Hawaii on July 12th. I was very grateful to all the dojo and members who came out. It helped me very much, as the University had requested the demonstration in connection with my exhibit (Karate: From Okinawa to Hawaii) at the Hamilton Library.

I was in an awkward position -- I generally do not like demonstrations but here I was coordinating one. My own dojo also participated.

My line of Shorin-Ryu here in Hawaii has never participated in tournaments and only participated in demonstrations rarely. It is not that we are secretive, we just like to practice. Our focus is on individual progress, not performing in a group. I always say that it is not natural for people of different sizes, builds, levels, etc. to move at the same time.

Also, I feel that an audience is generally a poor judge of Karate. People applaud for and enjoy certain things. If you yell loud and jump around, some people are impressed. But if you are controlled and hide your power generation/transfer, an audience might think you are weak. An audience is just not properly trained to properly evaluate a Karate performance.

But after our demonstration, I have to say that I have come to appreciate demonstrations more.

First, some of the students in our dojo tried really, really hard to prepare. I could see their progress in just a few weeks. This showed me that some students will work extra hard for an event. If that is what it takes for some students, then an event is a good thing. Of course, I feel that students should work hard whether there is an event or not.

Second, demonstrations are a good way to introduce the public to Karate. Who knows? A young person in the audience might be inspired to begin training.

Also, I found that some students in the audience who might have practiced in commercial/competition based systems, might begin to have a better appreciation for traditional systems. If we do not demonstrate traditional ways, how will anyone ever see it?

For myself, I do enjoy watching students and seniors in other arts perform their kata and techniques. I can learn more about my own system by seeing how it compares to others -- how do they generate and transfer power, how do they breathe, how do they move, how do they focus, etc.

There is a young boy in our dojo He is actually our youngest student. When I announced that we would be participating in a demonstration he promptly volunteered to perform a pretty difficult kata. I respected his confidence and "go for broke" attitude. At the demonstration, he performed the kata by himself in front of over 200 people. He did great! If he can apply the same hard work and attitude in school and his daily life, then that is really something.

So my attitude about demonstrations is changing, a little.

And as I have experienced in a past demonstration, it is hard to do a kata when you are the emcee. Before, I found it physically difficult. Now that I have learned to move in a more relaxed manner, it is still hard for me to switch gears from introducing/narrating to moving. I will have to work on that.


Charles C. Goodin