Technical board breaking – Board breaking represents the biggest risk-reward in a demo team performance.  Complicated board breaking techniques with high levels of technical difficulty can score big points, but missed boards can equal big deductions.  It’s important to include technical board breaking in your performance to show off your advanced skills, however, many teams make the assumptions that more boards equates to bigger scores.  This isn’t necessarily true.  Judges typically weight technical difficulty over volume.  Higher break volumes also expose you to more missed boards.  Focus on a moderate volume of medium-high difficulty board breaks rather than kicking down the entire forest.  Higher scoring breaking techniques include high-flying obstacle breaks, acrobatic breaks, spinning breaks (e.g. 540, 720, or 900), and speed breaks (e.g. 10 tornado or spinning back hook kicks in a row).

Power breaking – Power breaking can add drama to a performance.  It can include breaks of multiple boards by hand, foot, elbow…or even head.  Be sure to practice power breaks with real boards many times in advance of competition.  If you’re not confident you can break all boards,  you probably shouldn’t do it.  Failure to break all boards can hurt your score.  Lack of confidence in the break can lead to injury, sometimes mid-performance.

One simple way to add power breaking to a performance is to double or triple-up the boards on some of your technical breaks.  This shows off your added power and gives an extra dramatic ‘explosion’ as you shatter the boards.

Synchronized Form – Unified form is an integral component of any winning demo team performance.  It’s a chance to display your creativity and team unity.  Judges look carefully to ensure all team members are moving in perfect unison, including small details such as timing, hand position, proper stances, and clean ‘snap’ of movements.  Form can be choreographed in a matter of days or weeks, but takes months of practice to perfect.  High performing teams practice form skills all year long, applying high attention to detail.  This includes training for flexibility, reviewing tape to identify small mistakes, and adjusting the form to ensure visual unity.  This could include details like changing the timing of a taller team member’s jumping kick to land at the same time as a shorter team member.  It’s this attention to detail that will set you apart from competition.

Traditional routines book-end the performance with synchronized form.  More modern routines could include short form elements throughout the performance.  Regardless of the approach, it’s important that forms flow seamlessly within the routine.  Choppy transitions with pauses for setup can negatively impact your score.  Make sure to thoroughly consider form start and end position of team members to ensure they’re not running all over the mat between segments.

Self-Defense – A fight scene between individuals or groups can add interest to your storyline and display advanced self-defense skills.  Creativity, speed, and realism contribute to a great self-defense element.  Look to incorporate dramatic moves and unique touches to wow the audience and judges.  Consider adding weapons, boards, costumes, and props to enhance the battle.  Be sure to include a ‘big ending’ with an unseen twist or complicated move.

Tricking & Acrobatics – New generations of martial arts students are bringing creative acrobatic and martial arts tricking elements to demo team performances.  These skill moves bring thrilling visuals to a performance and can score big points with more progressive judges.  When incorporating acrobatics into your performance, remember to maintain a martial arts focus.  Acrobatic moves alone don’t necessarily display taekwondo skill.  Leveraging these moves for practical purposes (e.g self defense or board breaking) better associate the move to the art of taekwondo.  And of course, always research the venue, floor type, and ceiling height before incorporating these elements.

Props – Rule #1 with props – check the rules…thoroughly.  Many tournaments implement restrictions on props or prohibit them altogether.  Know the rules in advance and include props in your choreography only as allowed.  Some of the more popular props include:

  • Poppers – ‘snap-pops’ glued to boards to create a louder breaking noise
  • Powder – applied to boards for more intense visual break
  • Roses – beautiful visual element to contrast/complement board breaks
  • Board holders – used for power breaks or technical holds (e.g. obstacle breaks)
  • Confetti – glued to boards with tissue paper for dramatic explosion
  • Banners – typically unrolled for finale
  • Costumes – to support your storyline, including costume changes
  • Ball or apple – commonly used for display of more precise breaking technique

Remember, judges are typically experienced in demo team competitions.  They appreciate how much effort it takes to prepare the theatrics of a performance.  Small creative details can really help your score.  As long as it’s not dangerous, the sky’s the limit for props.  Include creative props to display your preparation, creativity, and attention to detail.

Finale – Probably the most important element of your choreography, it’s important to end on a high note with your performance finale.  Remember, this is the last thing the judges will see before recording your score.  Your finale should be big yet emotional.  Save your most complicated form, technical break, and creative prop for the finale.  Risks are welcome.  It’s better to go for the big move and miss it than end on a flat note.  Judges will respect you for at least trying!