Monday, January 16, 2017

Question Everything: Giving it 100%

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When we're new to taiko, most of us focus on striking harder, being louder.  We use more muscle, more energy, more effort in making that happen.  But at what point does playing harder stop being useful?  Can you keep building strength and momentum and have that equal a louder, or better sound with no end?

Sometimes there's focus on really strong ki, through kiai.  We try to kiai louder, push our bodies forward harder, show it on our face with more expression, etc.  But at what point can we physically not make more noise?  At what point does it harm the body?  At what point are you using too much effort and actually restricting or dampening the energy output?

I view learning technique through the lens of the kind of gauge pictured above.  It's easy for people to think that the "best" technique is when it's at 100.  But at 100, are you being efficient with your energy, your motions?  Are you being relaxed enough to last through a performance?  And even if you can push 100 and last long enough, could you pull back, be more efficient, and utilize nuance, skill?

Being at 100 is, in my opinion, somewhat brutish.  And where do you go from there?  How can you improve on technique at 100%?  "Wait," you may be thinking, "if I'm at 100 with a technique, isn't that the best I can do?"  No, there never is a best, and that's the point.  Instead of thinking doing MORE of a technique, it's better to think of doing BETTER at it.

Here's a good example:

Most of you probably don't practice punching very often.  That's fine.  Put your dukes up, so to speak, and throw a punch, then pull it back.  Whee!  Ok, that's your baseline.  Now squeeze your fist really hard, really really hard.  Harder!  Now punch and pull back.  Did that feel better?  Stronger?  I bet it didn't.  In fact, it probably felt uncomfortable!

So there's an example of a technique where doing something at 100 is detrimental to the execution.  Can you see how that applies to playing a drill, or a song?  It might be where being at 80 is better for keeping relaxed, or 60 is good for the time being because the focus isn't on you (and shouldn't be for that moment).  Knowing where to dial it up (or down) to as well as when is a valuable, difficult skill.

So the next time you play a given song, should you have the faculties to do so, take mental stock of where you are.  What number is your ki at?  Your intention and effort at?  Your volume at?  Can you adjust it slightly?  How does it feel when you do?

When someone says "give it 110%!"  I think they should try to kiai at 110% and see what happens.  :D

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