For a martial artist a martial arts demonstration is a place to learn and evaluate movements and ideas. Seeing the power of other styles can lead to gateways of how to unlock more potential power within our own art. There is nothing quite as fulfilling as feeling connected with such a long historic brotherhood.
Because the arts were designed out of war the demonstrations and friendly competitions are a great way to appreciate other martial artists without having to kill each other. These arts were developed in a severe time that most societies to date have completely forgotten about. Martial arts masters had a status as respected as a doctor or police. Many of them were very wealthy because they often protected those who wanted to protect their money.
With the introduction of new technology martial artists were forgotten to the world. As my father often says, "They threw the baby out with the bath water." Leaving martial artists today in a world that teeters between gladiators and the circus.
Martial artists in a ring beating on other martial artists for the entertainment of a world that doesn't even want to understand them. Or worse the martial artists that have taken all of the nutrients out of their art in order to make it entertaining to the untrained eye. Ring fighting, no matter how good you are, will leave you eventually broken and empty. A martial artist who uses the art to dazzle people will never be quite as impressive as a true circus acrobat. Both are pathways that will leave both the practitioner as well as the art without meaning.
I'm not saying that demonstrations or competitions are bad. In fact they can be stepping stones that can help us find our direction. Still we have to look at what society sees us as, as a whole. Think about what kind of demonstration that Bruce Lee would do. He would do his best to share with an audience that doesn't understand, the power of martial arts. He would never show you a bunch of fancy meaningless moves because he cares for the art too much.
If you ask a doctor to perform for you, what do you think he would say? Of course doctors have demonstrations for other doctors to further and pass along knowledge just as true martial arts demonstrations. Yet a doctor performing for someone who doesn't understand medicine, is a waste of everyone's time. So should the medical industry suddenly try to find a way to make themselves more entertaining to the public? Should they put fireworks inside of arteries so they may gain a greater reaction from the crowd. A doctor cares about his duties and responsibilities. It should be the same for martial artist. The question is, "Do you know the purpose of your art?"
Some would say, "If you don't try to entertain people, then no one is going to want to see your art." I have two answers for this person. The first one is that someone who only seeks to be entertained would never become a martial artist anyway. They want to find something to fill the void in their own bored life. If I entertain a crowd of thousands, I may pull in ten or twenty good students. Students that came because they felt something within.
Secondly if I change my art for the purpose of entertainment then I will become an entertainer instead of a martial artist. Fighting people for the approval of others exposes the weakness within myself. Am I not confident enough to do my art for me?