Monday, November 3, 2014

Compare and contrast

After the workshop we had with Eitetsu Hayashi, I did a lot of thinking about his odaiko style and how different it was from what we tend to do in SJT.  It made me think about the instruction I've had in various things over the years, mostly within karate and taiko.

My training in Capoeira and Tae Kwon Do made doing Shotokan karate much easier in the long run.  I understood my body better, I was lighter on my feet, and being fluid was much easier of a concept to put into practice.  All of that helped with karate, both understanding how to make small adjustments as well as incorporating common principles into my performance.

I'm pretty damned sure that if I never practiced karate, I wouldn't have made it into SJT, which means I never would have continued playing taiko.  And so I urge you to learn things that are both similar and different from what you do now in order to become a stronger player.

For example, my taiko makes my karate stronger because I have different ways of approaching rhythm and pacing, as well as ki and intention.  I also have options in how I want to use my body and alignment for different purposes.  The arts are very similar.  Capoeira also made my karate stronger, despite the two arts being very dissimilar.  I learned how to use the same muscle groups in different ways, understand extremes in balance, and learned how to move with another person in harmony before I ever learned that skill in karate.

I'm not saying that if you only focus in one thing you'll never be as good as if you study other things, because there are artists out there that only study one thing.  But for most of us, who aren't the best of the best or able to practice just that one thing and nothing else, I highly recommend you take the opportunity to do something that's different to what you're used to.

If you're lucky enough to go to a taiko conference, are you signing up for the things you're already comfortable with or things you have some practice in but want more?  While there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that, what about the workshops that touch on things you're not familiar with?  Don't move a lot when you play?  A dance workshop will open your eyes. Uncomfortable soloing?  Take a soloing workshop.  Only know your group's style of playing?  Learn a song that another group is teaching.  Shy away from more complex rhythms?  Take one of my workshops!  Yeah I know, shameless plug.  But you see my point.

It's just as valuable to learn something that's similar to what you do as it is learning something very different.  That idea shouldn't just be limited to conferences, either.  A short session on African dance will challenge any taiko player, a session with a Korean drummer will be just as difficult (trust me on this).  Sometimes you'll be lucky to have opportunities presented to you but often you'll have to seek them out.

This idea is more than just about playing taiko in more than one group.  I see a lot of players who look the same in one group as they do in another, so while they're getting more playing time, they're not necessarily learning anything different aside from the repertoire.  This is about taking a look at what you're doing and finding things that will both accentuate and challenge your concepts and abilities in order to give you more: more breadth, more depth, and ultimately, more fun!

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