Thursday, April 25, 2013

The secret of relaxation

What's the secret of relaxation?  Tension.

If you’ve taken workshops from experienced taiko players, you’ve probably heard them tell you that you have to be relaxed when you play…that you have to get rid of tension…that you should “stay loose”.  Is that wrong?  Hmm.

Newer players are more prone to holding excess tension than experienced ones, but it’s there in just about everyone to some degree.  Until muscles are trained to do things efficiently, strength is used as a substitute because it’s simply the only option available.  That excess tension only slows us down, makes us more tired quicker, and often can be perceived by the audience.  I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s a good thing. 

My post today isn’t about how to get rid of this tension, but instead take a look at the idea that tension itself is “bad”.  So here are two ideas to contemplate:

- EXCESS tension is bad, but excess anything is usually bad!
- Relaxation should be the default mode, but not the only dynamic at work.

Imagine the best taiko show you’ve ever seen.  Now imagine it with no tension at all.  Yes, for those smart-asses out there (like me), you now picture drums that aren’t tacked now (no surface tension) and players lying down (no resisting gravity).  Ha ha.

Instead, imagine that there are no slow, deliberate motions, such as the lifting of the arms to create anticipation, or the ability to release that coiled tension into a deliberately sharp strike.  There are no sharp motions because it takes a moment of muscle “pulse” to tighten and change directions.  There’s no one playing to their limits because they would only play to a minimal level of effort.  There’s no stillness with presence, because that requires at least some conscious tension to remain looking “full” without slouching.

Almost all movement REQUIRES tension, save a small few.  The best martial artists I’ve seen have been able to focus their power into a precise moment of tension but then once that moment is over, the tension is gone.  And when I say moment, I mean moment.  Striking the taiko is much the same way.  For SJT, there is slight tension in the body as the body stretches from finger to toe, a moment of tension on the pull/drop, and a moment of tension to snap/control the bachi itself.  But that tension is NECESSARY to have precision and control.  Without it, the strike may hit in a less-opportune place, the bachi may bounce off at an angle, the sound may be lacking, etc.

While many people can benefit greatly from cultivating more relaxation, developing the awareness of when and how to use tension is the secret ingredient.

No comments:

Post a Comment