With our competition season in full swing, demonstration season fast approaching and upcoming gradings on the horizon, I want to focus on a relevant topic that needs some exploring: performing Kung Fu for others.
I feel like many of you at our Academy practice Kung Fu for your own personal journey and often the thought of having to perform in front of others can be confusing and even terrifying. I remember chatting with one of our adult students following a performance of the Short Dragon in our annual tournament. In his profession, this guy was a veteran school teacher and successful business owner – no stranger to being in the spotlight. However, he expressed how nerve wracking it was having to demonstrate his form. Once through it, he was exuberant with how much he learned about the art and himself: a humbling and educational endeavour.
Kung Fu practitioners come to realize (or already know) that subjecting ourselves to adversity is what makes us develop.
So often students tell me that they can perform technique or forms proficiently on their own, but as soon as we ask to see it, something happens, and they cannot replicate the performance. My advice is that this phenomenon is simply feedback that they need to train more to develop sureness in the face of pressure. The prospect of performing crystallizes your training. My teacher would tell us that after a thousand repetitions, we were just starting to grasp our forms.
It’s common knowledge that public speaking is a major fear. Kung Fu is a language of its own and it goes without saying that “speaking” in public is adrenalin inducing. I believe there is great value in testing yourself to see how you cope with this extra hormone in your bloodstream. The consequences of not effectively managing the stress of performing are much more forgiving than the consequences of not managing the stress of a real combative encounter. I can also say that with continued exposure, you become more relaxed and your confidence improves—which, like many benefits of Kung Fu, has carryover into other areas of your life.
Prior to starting my Kung Fu journey, I was a shy kid. I credit the gradual and repeated experience of demonstrating my Kung Fu to giving me the confidence I feel today. Initially my development was through gradings and competitions, then progressed to demonstration team performances and assisting with classes. I eventually moved on to leading the demonstration team and instructing classes. These experiences gave me the requisite poise for presentations in university and in my former career in business.
Regardless of your age, I encourage you to challenge yourself; take a risk and push the boundaries of your comfort zone by embracing opportunities to perform. The downside is as big as you want to make it in your mind, but the upside is positively transformative and will stay with you for a lifetime.