Monday, March 31, 2014

Lower body

SJT is known for our use of our lower body.  However, I'm not sure if most people realize that it's not movement for movement's sake, it actually generates a lot of our power and disperses the workload throughout the body.

I see far too many taiko players who hold their lower bodies stiff and/or who do so much with their arms/hands without letting the lower body contribute.  Sometimes it looks painful how much is going on "up top" with so little given to "down below".

Now I know that some groups and some styles don't use a lot of lower body activation.  If it's a purposeful aesthetic, I can understand.  I just think most people don't have those parameters set in their group but don't get a chance to really explore what the lower body can do for them.

Today we rehearsed our touring program, leaving next week.  I'm playing every song without a single break (aside from the intermission), with a lot of ending parts and physical effort.  I consider myself in pretty good shape, but if I didn't use my lower body throughout - from shime to odaiko - I would be a gasping mess by the end, and probably in some pain.

It's hard to talk about what you can do with the lower body without showing, without demonstrating.  Words aren't sufficient.  However, you can start by thinking about what your lower body does (or doesn't do) normally:
  • Are you on the balls or heels of your feet?
  • Are you flat-footed or able to push off when needed?
  • Do your legs remain still when you play or are they letting you shift your weight?
  • Do your knees bend inwards; do your thighs collapse in?
  • Can you shift your weight from side to side easily?
These realizations won't magically make you able to use your lower body more, but if you're not aware of what you're doing, you can't get any better.  It's one thing to move when the choreography says so, but when you're not given specifics, I think you can only benefit from exploring ways to let your lower body move.

I don't know how many people will eventually read this post, but I really hope some of you take this idea to heart and experiment with what's available to you.  Whether it's through self-exploration or workshops taught by others, your body will thank you for it!

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