How to do an Aikido Demonstration
A friend and I train at an Aikido club based at Abertay University Dundee. We have both been training regularly for a little over two years.
Unfortunately the club is pretty small and there are very few regular attendees.
It is coming up to the universities start of term and we are the only members of the club available to demonstrate Aikido to the freshers at the sports fair. Our sensei is unfortunately working.
My question is:
In short, I'd just like to know the best way for a couple of begineers like us to perform a demonstration which will inspire people to take up the art.
Our club is in dire need of some new regular attendees. We are in debt to the university and desperatly need more members so we can afford to keep our training hall. This is a shame as our Senseis Aikido is clearly incredible, and he devotes much unpaid time and energy in teaching us.
Perhaps you could get some help from someone. Are your dojo affiliated with some sort of organisation that could perhaps send a substitute sensei ? Maybe one or two of your sensei's old dojo-friends could help out ?
I have myself tried to put on a Kendo-demostration based on 3. 4. and 5. kyu's and it never really had that 'thing' that made it appealing to the spectators. Basically it is very hard to 'fake' proficiency, and therefore virutally impossible to explain what Aikido COULD become, when one is not yet there.
I think the best thing you could do is to be true to what you already know and to show what you've got. Do the techniques that you feel confident about and drop the fancy 'high fall' stuff if your'e not up to it. After all honesty is a very important principle in Aikido.
I had a talk with my sensei about a similar subject yesterday. My question was how much practice one should have to open a dojo, and he basically said, that as long as you don't pretend to be more than you are, and as long as you don't put yourself on a piedestal and claim that you 'know the way' then people who are honestly interested in the art will be ready to follow you on the path towards learning Aikido, but if you claim to be a competent instructor they might follow you for a while, but when they one day sees your shortcommings they wil be dissapointed and perhaps loose interst.
I understand that you want new students very badly - but I suggest you focus upon getting new student who actually WANT to learn Aikido instead of those 'I just want the quick four weeks black belt / killer machine course' kind of students. I think it is unfortunate to try to 'sell' aikido to potential students - as far as I know it is very rare that a demonstration is followed by a massive sign up of new students. It is far better to show what Aikido is to you, and perhaps you will mannage to tickle somebodys couriousity and this will eventually grow into a desire to learn more about the art. Those are the kind of students you want on a more long term basis.
Although I realise that you must be present at the sports fair, perhaps the best thing to do would be to let the demonstration wait until your sensei can join you. You don't neccesarily have to let your dojo's terms follow the university term. At the fair you could make some kind of display - perhaps a video of your sensei doing some techniques and a few plates with pictures, text and an announcement of the comming demonstration. Then you can concentrate on handing out pamphlets that people can read at home and you can dedicate your time to talking to those who looks seriously interested thereby getting your key points acrosse much better.
Just a few thoughts - hope they do some good
I undertand your situation very well. Before I came to Japan, I was one of the instructors in the University College London Aikido Club and we were always worried about potential students. But we always had enough to run the club. As for demonstrations, we did what we could: the basic techniques like shiho-nage and irimi-nage, from attacks which were as focussed as possible. I have always found that when you are on the stage, the adrenalin flows and you can sometimes do things which you never consciously learned in your training.
Anyway please feel free to contact me via my private e-mail address and I can perhaps give you more concrete suggestions.
P A Goldsbury
PS While I was writing this, Jacob already sent his post and I agree with his main sentiments. If your sensei cannot attend, then you have to do what you can. Thus your demonstration should be 'authentic' and should show what aikido means to you, as students.
I once had to do this sort of a demonstration at a university, although I had the advantage of doing it with a 3rd Dan sensei. I don't know about your University's sports fair, but our demonstration only had to be about three minutes long. So we did a quick talk on what Ki is (unbendable arm, etc.), then talked about how it works in Aikido, and the whole using your opponent's energy bit, and how it helps in everyday life with your attitude and so on. Then we only did about thirty seconds of actual demonstration, and then it was over.
I agree totally that you should do what you feel comfortable with and be honest about your ability. You might end up looking silly if you try to wow them more than you are able to. And definitely mention that you have an excellent teacher, because that's undoubtedly your best asset. I bet there will be a certain number of people who will be curious enough to come, and people with the right mindset.
how to demonstrate Aikido
I have demonstrated Aikido a couple of times. Well, I think that it is best for you guys to just practice. I mean, you should just practice if front of the people, in the same way you usually train.
That way, people will get a good idea on your Aikido class.
After all, you may want to make people feel like they want to join your class right?
I think it is a good way.
good luck, and please tell us how it all ended.
(take it easy and with a smile) ;)
I agree with ze'ev and the others that your demonstration should reflect as closely as possible your normal training and your authentic skill level. That's the rule for our organization, so that there should be no 'special' preparation for a demo; you should be able to perform your aikido 'as is' even against an unexpected attack, much less an anticipated demonstration. If you are still wearing your white belts or at least non-black belts then the general public will probably understand and appreciate your honesty.
However, I also think back to what first attracted me to aikido, and I think it was mainly due to its unique philosophical attitude and its clear articulation of martial principles that were absolutely in agreement with its philosophy. I'd trained in taekwondo before and aikido cleared up a lot of question marks I'd had. I think it'd be great if you could coordinate your explanation of the philosophical aspects of aikido along with the physical aspects. What would be good about this is that you wouldn't necessarily need to even demonstrate techniques like shihonage, kotegaeshi, etc. An unexperienced onlooker seeing aikido technique will just see people grabbing wrists and arms and people flying and falling and won't have much idea of what is happening beyond the 'wow, how do they do that' response, which isn't very educational.
For example, you could talk about aikido's emphasis on natural movement and posture and the power of that movement and then demonstrate this by calling on members of the audience to try out 'unbendable arm'. One neat trick I also saw was having one person lying belly down on the mat with their arms wrapped around a standing person's foot to try to keep them from walking away. As long as the standing person is concerned with the foot being held he'll have trouble moving, but instructed to completely ignore the hold, the person on the mat will be dragged along with no problem at all.
Then you could talk about how aikido does not clash with the force of an attack but how it meets that attack at the point of least resistance by either irimi or tenkan and unbalances the other person at the very moment of contact. Again, you wouldn't want to show technique, just show how the power of the attack is dissipated and the center of the attacker displaced.
After this is made clear, then you could finally demonstrate that technique is executed against an opponent who is already unbalanced and compromised and in itself is almost superficial to what comes before. I think this would do a much better job of communicating to a spectator what aikido is really about even more than black belts in hakama doing spectacular breakfalls.
Anyway, this is all just a suggestion and I hope you have a really successful demonstration whatever you eventually decide on doing. Good Luck!
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