Thursday, December 29, 2011


Wow. I didn't plan the last post of 2011 to be my 300th post, but there it is!

This format hasn't changed much since I started, and I'm okay with that. I know it's not the slickest blog out there; there's a lot I could add to make it more visually appealing or more up-to-date with technology, but neither is really a priority for me.

I rarely get responses from people on the blog itself, which is a shame, but having people come up to me and tell me they get a lot of out it is a huge reward for me. It wasn't the reason I started blogging, but knowing that people find it useful, interesting, and thought-provoking makes me enjoy pushing myself to come up with new topics.

The other thing that I've gained from doing this regularly is that my critical eyes and ears are much more honed. Whether I turn them inwards or out, I find that I look deeper, listen more closely. I find that I hold myself more accountable for both me and my readers because of it.

Here are some fun facts on the blog since its inception in February 2009:
  • The average time a person spends on the site is 2 minutes and 13 seconds.
  • Vistors from 108 countries have visited my blog, the "big three" being the US, Canadia, and the UK. (Yes, Canadia, it's where Canadians come from.)
  • The most popular post I've done was The tall whisperer. This post was read six times more than the next popular post, Question Everything: Kiai (part 1).
So what's in store for the next 300 posts? Probably more of the same, yay! However, if any of you have suggestions for what you'd like to see me talk about, features you'd like to have added, let me know! You can post on here (anonymously if you like), or email me directly. Even though this blog is for my amusement, I really enjoy being able to help people with specific questions or issues.

As I end the big three-double-ought, I want to list a few of my favorite posts. If you're new to the site or didn't scroll back through the archives, these posts either give a good sense of where I'm coming from or tackle some meaty topics in-depth. Thanks for continuing the journey with me!

- What the @%#&!* is taiko?

- Surprise?
- Failure *is* an option.

- Do simple things well.

- Taiko don't care. (my personal favorite)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Question Everything: Everything

Going to wind the year down with a blog about what I'm all about. I began the Question Everything line of posts to tackle specific subjects that were often taken for granted, but I wanted to get even more at the heart of my personality with this one.

As a black belt teaching groups of students unsupervised, I found I had to know the techniques I was teaching down to fine details. As a taiko player, I found in order to get past stagnation, I had to re-examine my motions. Some breakthroughs came about in the weirdest places, like watching reality TV shows that had nothing to do with either art. Other times, I would make some pretty interesting observations watching other people try things out.

So what I want to ask you in this post is, how do you do what it is you do?

Try looking at one of your songs, something you know how to play really well. How do you extend your arm before a strike? Is it ergonomic? Does it look straight (if it's supposed to be)? When you execute the strike, is your hara activated? Are you mostly using your arms and shoulders instead? Does the strike follow an efficient path? Before contact with the drum, is the bachi cocked back? Where on the drum did you hit?

And that's the easy stuff.

How much do your feet contribute to your strike? Are they simply holding you up or are they contributing to the generation of power? Are you breathing with the strike or holding it in? When you move your feet, where is your center? Are you moving your foot to the spot it needs to be or initiating the movement in your body first? Does the bachi in your hand have weight or is it simply an extension of your arm? If put into a pose once, how consistent can you replicate it? Where are the "smart points" of your muscle memory"?

There is a point where micro-analyzing your form will lead to confusion. "Analysis leads to paralysis," they say. As true at that may be, if you truly broke down all your fine movements and understood how you're doing them, then you'd be so much further along in your development than you were before.

How can you change for the better before you understand what you're doing now? Ask those questions of yourself and see where you grow from it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


If you were told you had to learn a song by a certain date, would you try harder to learn it than if there was no deadline?

In talking with the senior black belt at karate, he mentioned how in years past everyone would test at each belt test they were eligible for. Right now, people still wait until they're eligible, but then wait until they feel "ready". Sure, not everyone would pass, but it made everyone push a lot harder during that time because they knew there was a test they felt obligated to attend. Testing more often was also a sign of respect in showing sensei that they believed in his teaching style.

As I usually do, I tried to apply this logic to taiko. It may not be as easy to learn a song or a part of a song as learn the requirements for the next belt level, but what would happen if you set a date to learn something by, especially if you told your sensei/sempai/peers to make you accountable? Would that be an effective motivator? If so, why not do it?

Take something you've wanted to achieve. Pick an appropriate time, say 3-6 months. Tell people in the group that you trust to hold you accountable. See what happens! And let me know how it works out!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Aim higher.

I was watching an episode of "The Next Iron Chef" (not on purpose because the US version is painful to watch). One of the judges, while critiquing a dish, said this: "It's better to fail interestingly than to succeed moderately."

Would you rather write a piece with high aspirations that pushes you artistically but doesn't work out, or write a piece that gets played but doesn't bring anything new to the table?

Would you rather solo in relative safety, knowing you'll be solid and have no mistakes, if that lack of risk meant little growth? Or would you rather risk a few weaker sections and a mis-hit here and there if it meant you might find a spark?

It's easy to say we should always try the harder path, that risking big will lead to big rewards. Personally I tend to take a riskier path in my solos (not prescribing most of them, trying out weird things) and I've had a fair share of mishaps, but over the years I remember more of the times when something went right then when I messed up. I do remember some of the mistakes, but I can laugh at them now. Someone has to!

It's the successes that inspire me to keep trying, keep risking, and keep growing. My point here is don't always set your sights for what you know you can accomplish. Aim higher!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fall Tour 2011: Almost done!

We're in Memphis for four days, and these last two are pretty packed. We had a casual week in Nashville (Nash Vegas as some locals call it) but it's now from one extreme to the other.

We loaded into the theater at 8:00 am today, had a workshop in the afternoon and a full 2-hour concert at 6:00 pm. Tomorrow morning we have two 1-hour family/school shows, a workshop on stage, then a 6-hour drive to Athens, TN. The two days after are pretty much a repeat: all-day tech, concert at night, school shows the following morning. Crunch time!

It's been a great tour with an abundance of good food, cold weather, great theaters, plane delays, and it's nearing its end. I have some family coming to the last concert in Athens, and if schedule permits I'll try to meet up with them for breakfast the morning before we leave. I may post once more about tour on my return home, but then quickly resume my regular posting schedule.

I've got a big blog milestone coming up, so be on the lookout for that in a few weeks! Until then, wish us luck that we make it home without any delays!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fall Tour 2011: Halfway through

We're out in Nashville now, having just started our residence at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC). We have four "family" shows and a couple of clinics/workshops in the span of four days, which is a really light schedule that allows us a lot of free time this week.

TPAC is really impressive, having multiple stages and shows going on at the same time. There's even a museum! The facilities are top-notch and it feels like we're being pampered. I haven't even mentioned the stage, which is huge and it's great being able to stretch out, so to speak.

Today we had our first of the four performances with just under 1100 kids with teachers and parents included in the mix. After the hour-long show, we had about 40 kids from one school up on stage for another hour, with a hands-on workshop. After dinner we watched the tape of the concert, which led to much amusement and anything we felt needed adjusting was very small indeed. A good show!

We have a lot of free time the next few days and we're already swimming in BBQ and meat and cheese, so finding new eats has become a priority. The fried Oreos, which I posted on Facebook, were a bit excessive, but what the heck!

We're left with a week to go and the last few days will be rather busy, but I'll try to post at least once more before I head back home. If you're finding this all rather boring, check back on the 19th when regular posts resume! Probably. :)