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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Philosophy » All Eyes On You

All Eyes On You

By and large, most people don’t like standing in front of a group and speaking. Stage fright, and it’s very normal. To get over this fear really requires jumping in feet first and getting in front of people. Public speaking (or performing) is one of the characteristics of being a good leader. Martial arts, like Kenpo, are a good way to help overcome the fear of speaking in front of (and ultimately leading) large groups.

Demonstrations help build confidence for performing and speaking in public.

Demonstrations help build confidence for performing and speaking in public.

In our school one of the ways we help build confidence in public speaking is having each student lead a portion of the class warm ups. Everyone takes a turn, running up to the front, announces which exercise (jumping jacks, push ups, etc.) we’re going to do with how many repetitions, and then lead the group through the workout. The process repeats until everyone has a turn. In this trusted environment they get their feet wet standing in front, leading, but without the fear of being heckled. As a result over time, the students have become more comfortable standing in front of a group of people.

Teaching in martial arts helps build confidence as well. The teaching doesn’t have to be the whole class all at once, but in small groups. For Kenpo karate, it can be as easy as having a student work with a few other students to review a technique. The small group is focused on a simple, singular task. As the student becomes more adept at leading larger groups, they can “graduate” to teaching whole classes and speaking longer. The goal is to build confidence, so they should focus on topics they’re already comfortable with so they’re aren’t fearful of the subject in addition to who they’re speaking in front of. The more repetitions teaching, the more adept at public speaking they’ll be.

Karate tournaments and demonstrations are other excellent opportunities to work on getting over stage fright. Tournaments require a unique focus of concentration while performing your form or while sparring. The concentration can almost entirely block out the audience, judges, and even sounds. Martial arts demonstrations involving technique work or a choreographed routine with a partner can be similar to tournament competition with the relief of a friend to work with. Once you get going in your demo, you can block out everything else. Either scenario helps to build confidence for being and performing in front of a crowd.

The more you practice in front of an audience, the easier it becomes. This isn’t to imply you’ll ever make a living as a public speaker (though you never know . . . ). But it should help reduce the fear enough such that speaking to large groups should no longer induce the fight or flight feeling.

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Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

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