Thursday, July 23, 2015

Isolating parts

Sometimes I tell students in the dojo that I can tell how well their kata (forms) are by just watching their feet.  Sometimes I can tell how confident a taiko player is by just watching their eyes.  Sometimes I can tell how powerful someone's strike (in either art) is weak by watching the hips or hara.  These are not the obvious things to look at, but the not-so-obvious things can say a lot!

How often do you think of what your feet are doing?  Are you pushing off with them?  Where are you making contact?   Do you ever lift up the toes and rock on the heel? Do you let the rear foot roll onto the side when you push your weight away from it?

What about your hips, or your hara (center)?  Are you holding the core muscles still and tight?  Are you using rotation and compression to power your movements?  Are you tilting to one side?  Is there any activation of this area when you do smaller motions, like playing shime?

Where are your eyes when you play?  Are you looking at the drum?  Are you looking at the audience?  What if there's no audience at a practice?  Do you make eye contact or avoid it?  Do you have shifty eyes (eyes that go from side to side)?

It's not that you *should* or *shouldn't* do some of these things, it's more that you should be aware of what you're doing and the effect they have on you and your performance.  Does your group want that look?  Do you want that result?  When is something a stylistic decision and when it is undesirable?

For example, you don't have to use your feet when you play taiko, but something like a letting your foot roll onto the side usually means bad bone/joint alignment that could cause some pain down the line.  Looking around as you play might not affect your technique, but it might make the audience think you're uncomfortable.  Often the best teacher in these cases is to see yourself play and make those notes to address later.

While it's possible to focus too much on the individual parts and miss out on the bigger picture, sometimes the best way to make progress is to look at the little things carefully and take note of what you see!

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