Monday, August 11, 2014

What I learned at the WTKO Training Camp, part 2

Continued from part 1.

2. Posture.

This one will take some thought from me in how it works with taiko.  For karate, it makes perfect sense.  The power comes from the body, not the limbs.  Any punch or kick you can deliver with the hands or feet will can be faster and stronger when using the body to initiate and power the technique.  I’ve seen this countless times in karate, but also in taiko, boxing, etc.

If the body (the core muscles) is to give that power, they need to be aligned properly.  Ubl-sensei gave a great demonstration of staying aligned and using the core muscles as he walked through someone, knocking them to the floor with minimal external motion.  He mentioned how we walk upright, but once we start learning technique, we add all kinds of motion that feel beneficial, but actually make us less effective.

When we lean forward to attack, our balance is off and the core muscles cannot connect properly.  Sure, it can hurt, but not as much.  I also see a lot of taiko players that hunch/lean forward to reach the drum in front of them.  Sometimes it’s due to bad posture and letting the shoulders slump, back curve, etc.  Other times it’s because they can’t/don’t get lower in their stance to prevent the need to lean.  And where do you take that?  You wouldn’t want to train to be more off-balance, you’d want to train to be more balanced and connected, right?

In taiko, we are providing entertainment.  There are movements and motions that make it visually appealing, but at times require us to not be upright.  There are also some styles that play at angles for different reasons.  How does posture work in these cases?  When I watch some people play at angles on purpose (and not from poor technique) I can see that they’re still using the body to generate power.  And for a song like Yatai-Bayashi, where you’re sitting in front of the drum, you HAVE to lean back in order to get a good striking angle.  But aside from a forced position that puts you at an angle, wouldn’t playing upright be better?  This is what I’m trying to figure out.

Because I play with SJT, where we take a long stance and emphasize lower body movement, staying upright and using my core is important to me.  Add to that training in karate with an emphasis on moving from the hips and center, and you have a definite bias towards staying upright.  I might lean back to make a motion or bend forward to create a shape, but I never feel like I can strike the drum with the same amount of power, ease, or efficiency.  It’s easy to sell this on a betta drum, because you can’t tell me leaning backwards/forwards/sideways makes striking straight down better.

What about on naname then?  The drum is at an angle, and it’s not “natural” to strike at an angle.  If it was, there’d be a lot more groups that played naname, and there wouldn’t be a need to have many workshops on it.  I’ve heard a philosophy that you should angle your body to match the angle of the drum, which means your arms would follow a much simpler path to the drum.  I’m not sure how I feel about that, because of my aforementioned bias.  However, even if I’m “right” that being upright makes for a stronger strike, it doesn’t mean a strike can’t be still very strong, relaxed, and entertaining to watch when someone does it from an angled position.

Definitely need to study this more!

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