Monday, December 14, 2015


I was watching taiko videos on YouTube, as I'm wont to do, and became really aware of how much excess shoulder motion a lot of North American taiko players have.  Looking at both karate and taiko, I find that almost every motion/action is done best when informed by the center of the body - the hara - and wonder why the shoulders get so involved when some people play.

I've written a post about posture here and the hara here, but this touches on something more specific than either of those posts.

Playing taiko requires using the arms quite a bit, and it's easy to feel like the shoulders are the connection between the arms and the body.  People often throw their shoulders into their hits or lean towards the drum, either on purpose or subconsciously when they play.  There's a lot of excess tension from the grip through the biceps when this happens, and all the focus seems to be solely in those few muscles.  I see this a lot, probably more than any other single problem in taiko.  Is it really a problem?  Well, I think it dampens everything, from the visual impact to the quality of the strike.  So...yes!

But if the hara is given the job of generating power, of connecting the body, it can lead to ease of motion, an upright posture, and less tension overall.  Not saying it's as simple as willing it to happen, but looking at most martial arts and many movement-oriented arts, the center is the key.  Terms like "centerline" and "posture" come up again and again in these arts, as well as phrases like "dropping your weight" and "extend from the center".  You rarely, if ever hear people saying "move from the shoulders" or "hunch forward for more power."

I'm thinking most of you reading this aren't disagreeing with me, but sometimes it's easy to understand something but not recognize when you do it yourself.  How is your posture when you play?  How do you know?  Video is excellent for this, but sometimes you need more than one angle.  For example, a camera directly in front of you while you play shime might not show any lean in your body, but from the side, it tells a totally different story.

Good posture not only saves wear and tear on your body, it makes your techniques better.  And even if you have good posture already, examining the things you're already doing well now makes you a stronger player!

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