Thursday, November 15, 2012

20 Precepts, part 4 (Release mind)

The founder of Shotokan karate, Gichin Funakoshi, created the “20 precepts of karate-do.”  This is a list of 20 different philosophies, some specific and others general.  For this series, I will be looking at the ones that can apply to taiko and taiko training.
Today’s precept: “Always be ready to release your mind.”

This one is pretty easy to talk about, especially since it mirrors a concept that SJT brings up often in workshops and school programs.  “Beginner’s Mind” is the philosophy that no matter how long you’ve been doing something – playing a song, practicing a drill, etc. – you can still learn something from it.  It could be 4 days or 40 years, the odds are there’s still more to learn.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played Renshu or done oroshi/straight beat as a drill.  I admit there were times early on when I thought, “why are we doing this again?  I already know how to do it!”  But that was my failing.  During the “simpler” stuff is the best time to work on the body mechanics: feet, knees, hips, posture, engagement, etc.  If you can’t do a simple drill well, the more complex stuff is just going to highlight the things you have trouble with.

It shouldn’t be about “what am I making mistakes on?” but rather “what can I do better?”  A mindset to improve will serve you better than the one to critique here.

There may be a few individuals out there that have mastered a particular drill to the point where they really may not have anything to learn from it.  But damn that’s rare!  Still, assuming that it is possible, it’s still ONE drill out of a countless amount.  Perfected don doko?  How about don tsuku?  Perfected a kata in its entirety?  What about the next one?

It’s not that you should always have your mind “empty”, because sometimes you want to come into a situation knowing things – like at a performance, or rehearsing for a performance, or teaching students, etc.  But being aware of how easy you are able to “release your mind” and have the beginner’s mindset will tell you a lot about how far you’ll go as an artist.

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