Monday, June 23, 2014

Tension at the Dentist

Unusual post title, right?

So last week I went in for my teeth cleaning and although I wasn’t worried it was going to hurt, they’re never fun.  I know some people fall asleep in the chair, but no one can say having their teeth worked on is “comfortable”.

As I was lying there, hands folded across my stomach, I noticed that I was holding tension in different places.   One time it would be my thumbs pressing together, another time in my right calf muscle, another time across all of my toes.  Rarely would I feel when it started, most of the time it was only after I’d been holding that tension for some length of time.

It’s pretty obvious why there was tension; it’s not a big surprise that I was at times uncomfortable or they found a sensitive spot.  But what was interesting to me was the tension crept in whilst I was unaware and stayed there for who knows how long until I made myself relax there.  And it kept happening, over and over.  It’s not I was getting as stiff as a plank, but it was tension I didn’t want nor need.

You bet this relates to taiko.  When it comes to getting fluidity and being efficient and getting the best sound out of the drum, relaxation is the key.  The stiffer you are, the tighter you are, and the harder you have to work at things.

It’s not easy to be in the moment, playing through patterns and movements and kiai then having to think “am I holding tension in my left quadriceps?”  That’s not something you can do without practice and there are better ways to build up to that point, rather than forcing it.  Still, there are times when you can take inventory of where tension is creeping in.  Maybe you’re playing ji, maybe it’s a part in the back that’s not too involved, maybe you’re by yourself and have the luxury of time – take a mental accounting of your muscles.  Is your chest tight?  Why?   Are your forearms tense?  No need for that unless you’re at your limit of ability.  What about your butt?  No seriously, are you clenching it?  Why on earth for?  Your calves, are they so stiff that you have no pliability off the floor?  And if you don’t use a lot of footwork in your style, are your toes being tensed?  Poor toes.

Your body is a connected system and tension in one part causes tension in other parts – or at the very least, hampers your overall ability. Think of dancers or martial artists or other taiko players that really inspire you.  Are they tight or fluid?  Struggling or effortless?

It’s easy to spot the obvious signs of tension – muscle fatigue, slow techniques, even discomfort.  Finding tension when it’s subtle, when it creeps in, that’s much harder but just as valuable.   As always, awareness is the key to progress!

No comments:

Post a Comment