Monday, June 25, 2012


We all have our strengths and weaknesses, which often create habits.

In karate, getting into a habit can often lead to getting hurt.  I don't mean injury, which is serious, I mean getting hit more often and/or harder than you'd like to be.  For instance, if I notice my opponent always lifts his arms before kicking, I can choose to beat him to the attack or easily evade and set myself up for a counter attack.  If I know a person always moves to the left when I kick, I can fake the kick, get them to move, and then launch my real attack.  Sometimes people will tell you the habits they're able to read on you, but it's not guaranteed.  You tend to either learn to get better or you get used to getting hit.

In taiko, habits don't usually lead to getting hit (I hope not, anyways) but they can limit you and make you get "stuck".  Some habits are beneficial (such as having a pattern you can always return to if you get off in a solo) or even fall under personal "style" (doing a move no one else does), but even these can limit you.

I've done a lot of drills with SJT where I make people solo in a certain way, which usually makes it impossible to do their habits.  Without fail, there are certain drills that make people's brain hurt, not because of the complexity but because they keep wanting to play the way they're stuck in.

One example is having people solo with only one bachi/one hand.  Can't play those riffs you're used to now!  Another fun one is only allowing a certain amount of notes - say 4 to 8 - for the entire solo.  Makes you be very thoughtful what you play!

When you solo, whether it's in a song or on your own, what are your habits?  What's hard for you to stop doing?  Sometimes people try to be too clever, playing complicated patterns for the sake of playing complicated patterns.  This makes it hard for them to build a foundation to then make those patterns groove later on.  Other people get stuck playing loud, without any sense of dynamics, so playing with texture becomes very difficult for them.  Another person may do something as minor as rock their foot up or move their lips while they solo, and it takes brainpower to stop themselves from doing it.

In terms of the good habits, there's a line you can cross when they start to limit you.  I have a reputation of being rather "out there" in my syncopation when I let loose, but I have made myself aware of the fact that I do it and am able to rein it in.  In the process I've learned to appreciate the downbeat and appreciate simplicity.  Someone who can't stop playing syncopation, or a lot of notes - or both - becomes a sort of broken record and limits their own range of abilities.

The first step is awareness.  What are your habits?
The second step is to identify which ones define you, and which limit you.
The third is to fix the ones that limit you.  Why let them?

Habits are comfortable, but so is a straightjacket after you've worn it long enough...

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