Thursday, November 17, 2016


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How much are you comfortable moving your feet while you play?  Now, how much do you think that enables/prevents you from utilizing power or doing more things in your solos?

At our last practice, we did a workshop exchange with a local dance studio, The Get Down.  They taught us a short routine made up of different dance steps, then we taught them some taiko basics, then we had a bit of a jam/improv session.  It was a ton of fun to not just move differently, but to be encouraged to move in different ways than we're used to.

Now, SJT's style is not everyone's style.  We do a lot of lower body focus and foot activation to help us do what we do.  But even if that's not something you do when you play, having skilled feet and legs is extremely useful in playing taiko.

The more comfortable you are with balance, alignment, and shifting weight, the more you can relax while you play, even in a stationary stance.  Take a group like KODO, where you might see deep stances held for a long time.  You think they're not light on their feet?  You think they don't focus on staying relaxed?  I would go as far as to say that one of the reasons they can be so strong in their stances is because they focus on their lower body technique, including footwork.

Almost all really good taiko players I can think of are comfortable moving around, but the great ones - in my opinion - are also nimble and/or light on their feet.  Factor in age and flexibility, and you can see that most of those who have been playing for decades have this aspect even if they don't jump and spin and bounce around.

I've done martial arts for almost as long as I've done taiko.  It's been in different styles here and there, mostly karate.  The ability to move what I want, when I want it is something that benefits me to no end in taiko.  But it's more than just learning a new skill, it's also about comfort.

Most soloists prefer to stay behind their drum.  It's safe.  Some people dare to branch out and move around or away from the drum, but it doesn't always look natural - or even comfortable.  It's hard to practice moving around when you don't know what to do, when you only do it during your solo.  Just knowing where you *can* step, knowing how your feet *can* move, that's a potential huge boost to confidence.

And there's really only one way to do it...and that's to do it.  I recommend a basic martial art, boxing, or dance class, something that makes you use your feet in a different way.  It doesn't have to be a huge commitment, something once a month is still better than nothing never a month, right?

There's a wealth of skills out there that we as taiko players can really benefit from.  They're not always going to come to us, so we have to not just make the effort to go to them, but to be aware of them in the first place!

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