Does your school do public demos?

I recently posted on my Facebook page – with pride, amazement, and a good bit of concern – that 53 students from my dojo would be participating in an upcoming demo at a local school. (The final number was 48 — ranging in age from 4-and-a-half to fifty-something — and the performance went fine, thank you.)

The post prompted my colleague Michael Hornback from Hero Academy in Florida to ask for more details about our dojo demos:

I’d love to hear what you do before, during, and after your demo… Who’s the audience? What’s your purpose for the demo? – that kind of thing.

Let me put those questions to all you instructors out there on the world wide web. Does your dojo put on public demonstrations? What are your goals for these demos, and how do you carry them out? Does it work? – for example, if recruitment is one of your goals, have your demos gained you some new students? What was it about the demo that drew them in?

As for Redwood Dojo, our demos are for the purposes of community spirit, dojo spirit, and student pride in accomplishment. We perform two or three times per year: at the annual school fair for the elementary school adjacent to the dojo (many of our members come from that school community); at the annual open house for the community center that houses our dojo; and, in a new tradition, we hold an annual in-house demo and party for dojo members, their families and friends.

Our demos are open to any member who wishes to participate, regardless of rank or ability; in other words, we don’t have an elite “demo team.” And there’s minimal rehearsal outside regular class time. To pull this off, we select drills and activities from each group’s regular training curriculum, and make sure each performer is doing things at which he or she can excel. Older kids, adults and teens can be more creative — if they take responsibility for their own preparation.

Based on who signs up to be in the demo, I impose a structure and order on the events. This has on occasion meant staying up late the night before writing names on vinyl spots to be placed on the floor to get the younger kids lined up! Teens and adults help with the kids’ demos, either playing a role in the performance or organizing them on or off stage, in addition to performing their own demos.

While recruitment has not been a major purpose for us, I do of course introduce the performance by talking about the history of our dojo, what we teach, and why it is valuable. At the community center open house, we pass out flyers, and make sure more flyers are available inside the center (that demo is outside in the park).

Recruitment is an area where we could stand to improve, so I look forward to hearing more about what the rest of you do. So let me repeat the questions:

Does your dojo do public demonstrations? When and where?

What are your purposes or goals? How do you achieve them?

Do you have any advice for the rest of us?

Please post!

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4 Comments on “Does your school do public demos?”


  1. We have done dozens of demos over the years. Do not feel it is that great of a recruitment tool, but it does show the community what we are about. We do it as more of a service to provide entertainment at school fetes when they request it. Has not accounted for much in the way of new enrollments.

    I think it is a good idea, like you say, to have varying levels of students performing, not just the elites. It helps kids to better relate to becoming a martial artist. Like your post Didi.

  2. Michele Says:

    It has been a while since our dojo participated in a demo. We have been getting more requests for lecture/mentoring programs.

    We invite all students to participate. We schedule extra practice sessions. It is a great way to build dojo community. We have not had much success with new enrollments from a demo. The demonstrations were usually at a church, school, shopping mall or community event.

    I like the idea of an in-house demo!

  3. Glenda Riddell Says:

    Our club do put on a couple of demos each year. We also have an elite demo group who train especially for this purpose. However our normal students are given the opportunity to perform if they want. My little ones love the opportunity to show others what they have learnt. They do their patterns and jumping over kicking shields and then punching a pad.. all add to the fun of the day. The little ones 3 – 6years are not on for long and then the older groups take over,we usually do school and community fetes. And we have gained new students especially young children because either the child or the adult have been impressed by the presentation.

    • redwoodojo Says:

      Glenda – Thanks for visiting and sharing your club’s experience with demos. – Yes, the young ones do love to show their skills!
      A couple of questions, if you wouldn’t mind writing a little more:
      How often does your elite demo team practice? …and, if non-demo-team members want to perform, how do you prepare them or incorporate them into the demo team’s performance?


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