Monday, June 22, 2015

Cheating the game

At the dojo, we have the students run around, do pushups/situps/burpees/etc.  One of the drills we do is a tapping drill where you try to touch your partner's shoulders, or knees, or both.  Get in, touch, get out. The idea of the drill is for people to develop skills for sparring later on, which involve a similar sense of timing, distance, posture, etc.

One of my partners, an advanced student, went into the shoulder tapping like each tap on my shoulder would get her a cookie.  Whap whap whap whap whap whap - with no sense of defense or worry about getting touched back.  This is like going into a fight where you and your opponent just punch each other in the face until one falls down.

The second round was touching knees and they took a wide stance facing me and leaned forward.  There was no way to touch their knees without being touched in return, but this is like a basketball player hanging off the hoop and putting their hand over the opening.  No one will ever score, so it's brilliant, right?  Well no, that just screws over everyone.  No one gets points, no one has fun, no one gets better.

That's "breaking the game".  It's not quite cheating, but it straddles that line.  It makes the person doing it feel clever, but ruins it for everyone else.  On some rare occasions, this can lead to some amazing discoveries, but for the most part...not so much.  I could have been creative and knelt on the floor, ensuring no one could touch my knees, but does that teach me anything or am I just showing off how clever I am?

How does this relate to taiko?  Not as directly, but there are some things people do to cheat - mostly cheat themselves.

When drilling or performing, do you hold back or pace yourself?  Why?  Do you want to feel better when others are struggling later or are you maybe saving energy so you can look good when other people are tired?  It's not that you need to go all-out from the first hit, but since you're not pushing yourself, you're limiting how much better you can be.

It's harder to "cheat" in taiko than in an art with a direct competitive drill, but the idea of doing things to get around the system benefit no one and seem like such a waste of time.  Doing things 100% by the book can be stifling, doing things way outside the box can be daunting, but trying to play a different game than everyone else - when you're doing kumidaiko - might very well leave you at a disadvantage!

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