Monday, May 27, 2013

Body Awareness

I’ve had a lot of conversations about how you can tell if someone is talented or not.  If it’s an art I’m not familiar with, like painting or jazz, then I can only go with what I like.  But when I watch a martial artist or taiko player, it’s much easier for me to spot someone’s ability.

There are a lot of different areas people can be good in, but for taiko, generally the first thing I’ll notice is how a player moves, even if they’re mostly stationary.  It’s generally easy to tell a veteran from a novice because of confidence, but even a veteran can look awkward, without body awareness.

Body awareness is simply that.  Where are the different parts of your body and what are they doing at any given moment?  It’s like a mirror for your mind.  Can you “see” your stance?  If you’re playing betta, can you “see” tension in your shoulders as you play?  If you’re on naname, can you “see” the path of your arms?  If you're playing something mobile, are your limbs coordinated?

If you think your “inner mirror” can see things pretty well, test yourself in a real mirror to make sure you’re right.  Hold poses with your eyes closed then check yourself in the mirror.   Do repetitive motions while videotaping yourself from different angles then look carefully.  While this isn’t necessarily fun to do, if you think your body is doing the right things but it isn’t, you could be looking really awkward when you play. 

If you’re sure you’re doing well by yourself, you still need to check in with the rest of the group.  When you play, do you stand out in a awkwardly because your shapes aren’t the same?  What happens to your kata when you solo, do you lose the fundamentals?  Have your rehearsals or performances taped and compare yourself to others.

If you find that your “inner mirror” isn’t capable of giving you a true sense of what you look like, then use a real one to help out.  Set a pose up in the mirror, hold it, close your eyes, reset your body, pose, then look in the mirror again.  Or look in the mirror while moving repetitively, close your eyes, keep going, then look after a time.  Find things like this that you can use to help you remember how things should not only look but how they should feel.

Some people’s “inner mirror” overshadows an actual mirror sometimes, to where they’re looking right at themselves and don’t see how they’re making the wrong shape or sticking out.  That’s a subject too complicated for a simple blog post to address.  I chalk it up to having too much to process and some things get left aside.

Also, don’t fall into the trap of something that feels comfortable being the “right” way.  If you’re learning a song or form or style, what feels comfortable to you may very well not be the right thing to do.

Having body awareness is having power over oneself.  You can’t change what you can’t “see”.  It’s not an easy skill to learn, but there are few skills worth as much as attention.

I’ll end with a sort of checklist about things you can go over in your “inner mirror”


  • Connection to the floor 
  • Weight distribution
  • Center of gravity
  • Knee position
  • Posture
  • Degree of torso rotation
  • Shoulder tension
  • Shoulder angle
  • Arm position
  • Wrist angle
  • Hand position
  • Neck tension
  • Direction of face
  • Gaze


  • Parts of feet in contact to the floor
  • Weight distribution
  • Balance
  • Ergonomics of knees/ankles
  • Posture
  • Rotation of torso/hara
  • How movement is generated (where from?)
  • Shoulder tension
  • Paths of arms (during and after strike)
  • Angle of strike to drum
  • Position of hands on strike
  • Bachi reaction/recoil after hit
  • Position of shoulders
  • Head motion
  • Gaze

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