Bouncy Helicopter

Another week, another adjustment, from another classmate. This is four different classmates now in as many weeks, and I am overflowing with gratitude.

This week, another tweak to my chu-daiko showy arms on the song we’re working on. I think I’ve now adjusted my timing and punch; today’s feedback was a refinement of that. When I strike, I need to stop the bounce of the bachi, THEN do a sharp lift, instead of using the energy of the bounce to initiate the lift. Definitely more work, but way more controlled, and a showier show.

In o-daiko news, this past Sunday sensei introduced a new move: striking from a sideways stance, with our right arm doing a swoop down to up to helicopter into the next strike.

The left arm does something too, but we didn’t get that far. :)

I’m not yet at the point where I feel experienced enough to start helping newer students, but my veteran classmates are setting a good example for the day I’m ready.

Samurai Blender Arms

I went to get a massage today. According to my massage therapist, my body is all messed up in all the places I feel distress when I play o-daiko.

One of my classmates was saying that after playing for almost a year, he’s still adjusting every week, trying new things and feeling differently sore afterward. Still settling in, like a house.

Got a good tip today from sensei: we should be hitting in an upward direction, not parallel to the ground. That got the arm extension on the backswing wheel going real good.

Learned a new showy arm sequence today that I’m still trying to master. I thought about how to describe it, and I’ve settled on “samurai blender arms”.

Interestingly, class got easier as we progressed. Was I warmed up? Was I accustomed to the pain? Tonight’s class was definitely not easy. I played so hard my shins sweat. Yeah, I know, weird, and TMI.

Punch!

We’re learning a couple new songs in chu-daiko class this year. One of them is full of showy arm movements, with lots of locking.

At last week’s class, one of my classmates gave me some feedback to adjust my showy arms. Despite my locking, my timing was off. “It’s like a punch,” she said. We discussed some more, and she explained that the entire song was about really fast movements.

Ohhh!! Punch, not flow. Sensei doesn’t always explain these things to us, so I’m really glad my classmate did.

My last two taiko posts were about feedback as well. This is from three different people, all solid veterans in our group.

I love this so much.

Stance

At my first o-daiko class in March, I remember standing with my right leg really far behind me, and my hip flexor hating me for it.

I watched a bunch of videos, studied other people’s stances, and realized I could try putting my right foot farther out to the side, but more forward.

This created an unintended consequence: My body ended up too close to the drum, and I had to lean back a lot to keep my farms far away enough to strike at an angle. My lower back hated me instead.

Last Sunday, one of my classmates (a different one from the one who commented on my wrists) noticed my exaggerated lean, and suggested I try placing my right foot farther back to create more distance between my body and the drum. It reminded me that foot placement wasn’t binary, and that I should continue to explore.

Today I placed my right foot somewhere between day one and last Sunday. I felt great! My arms ended up where they needed to be, my hip flexor whined but didn’t hate, and my lower back stopped screaming from the lean.

I am so grateful for my classmates, that they notice the little things, and care enough to give me feedback.

Tweaking

I’m still trying find an o-daiko position that works for me. How far apart do I stand? How far back do I put my right foot? How much do I arch my back? Not comfortable yet. Far from it.

Some adjustments and reminders from sensei this past Sunday:

  • sink down for power
  • the bachi strike in a semi-open flying V (not parallel like in chu-daiko)
  • my hands are a good several inches from the daiko when the bachi contacts the drum face
  • strike the middle of the drum face or higher

My classmate had a helpful comment during the break. I’m so busy trying to figure out big things like stance and arm motion that I haven’t paid any attention to my wrist. I think a lot about my wrist in chu-daiko; when I move I want everything to flow.

In o-daiko, I’m probably still doing awkward stabby motions. I really have no idea. All I know is, I’m not flowing… yet. I’m super grateful for the feedback.

This week’s class incorporated acoustic modulation by striking different parts of the drum face. Again, this is a lot for me to process. But I get it, and it’s an interesting challenge.

Also, more showy arms! And more yelling. Some of the yelling is part of the piece. There’s also just straight up AHHHHHH!!! because omigosh my arms feel like they’re going to fall off.

Sideways

At o-daiko class today, we did a new pattern where instead of stretching up on the backswing, we extended our right arm out and to the side, low, and then swung the bachi back up for a strike whilst crossing our left arm to the right and leaning our body left to make space. This was followed by a series of left and right arm crossover strikes, followed by a hard left handed strike while stabbing 45 degrees behind us with our right arm parallel to the ground, followed by a conversion back to a series of hard overhead strikes.

I swear, it was way less confusing than described. But there are a lot of fine movements in there that I know I’m not doing yet, because when you’re concerned about not smashing your left hand with a giant bachi, you’re probably not leaning your body as far as you should be.

I *think* I’m getting better at being low and leaned back and not letting my arms drop too much even when they’re really really tired.

Right now they’re really really tired.

This means they’re gonna be really really strong someday, right?

Right??

O-Daiko

I’ve known this for a few weeks, but because I was sooo excited about it and never imagined I’d get to do it, I didn’t want to talk about it until it became reality.

Now it’s reality: I was invited to join the o-daiko class this year. Tonight was my first class.

That doesn’t sound like sooo excited, but maybe that’s because I’ve been excited beyond words.

So how did it go?

I knew going into it that this would be hard, but this class was HARD. The stance (right hip flexor and right foot), the back arch, the arms up in the air the entire time. I used my water bottle to roll out my hip flexor during the break. And my left shoulder? Very obviously not as strong as the right.

There is going to be a lot of rolling and massage in my future.

Because the class was mostly returning students, we went pretty fast. Sensei spent the first half hour tweaking our form, and after that we launched right into segments of one of our main pieces. We even did showy arms and foot adjustments and opposite stance tonight.

I guess he thinks we can handle it.

I guess I think he’s right. We’ve got this.

Before I go, one more first: I broke my first bachi! An o-daiko bachi at my first o-daiko class. I felt it split in my hand as I hit. I looked at the pieces in my hand, then showed sensei. He gave a big smile, which I interpreted as, “Heck yeah!!”

I don’t know why I’m so thrilled about this. Probably because I’m little and don’t manage to hulk smash things very often. It took me years to break my first hockey stick.

I got to keep the bachi as a souvenir, so I decided to document it. For posterity!

Update: 2019-03-11 @ 9:37 AM

Some notes on technique, so I don’t forget.

– Stance is something like a diagonal warrior.
– Front foot is close to the base of the daiko stand.
– Upper body leaned back.
– Chin down. Look at the bottom of the daiko, not the middle.
– Straight arm up, bachi behind back, extend to strike.
– Never drop elbow.
– Sink down on the strikes, drive into the face of the daiko.

Parallel Parallel Parallel

After doing some left vs. right air drumming in front of a mirror last week, my other-side-of-the-daiko derpy arms were less derpy last night. Deliberate practice FTW!

I also have a new mantra when drumming really fast, from either side: Parallel-parallel-parallel-parallel-parallel!!! I want my bachi moving parallel to each other, and in line with the angle of the daiko.

Unrelated to arms, a stance breakthrough! I finally realized that getting my feet wide wasn’t enough; I need to consider the angle of my ankles, knees, and hips as well. (Or, if you prefer, my shin and my thighs.) I finally realized that sensei’s stance during our warmup stretches is how he stands when he demos during class. I tried this out during the class and it made a huge difference in being able to maintain a wide, low stance with my upper body straight.

I’m happy I have bandwidth for fine tuning now.

Flip it Good

In today’s installment of, “We’re learning WHAT??!?” we played the chu-daiko from the other side. Same form as from our usual side, except its mirror image.

It felt fine, right up until we had to play at speed. Holy Derpy Arms!! Gonna have to practice this one at home.

Shinnenkai

It’s been almost a year since I started taiko. I went from knowing nothing to learning about equipment, terminology, form, and technique.

I got to know the chu-daiko, and the various ways to strike it: don, do-ko, tsu-ku, ka-ra…

I got to shout, usually “So-re!”

I got to tap my sticks together, often over my head all showy and stuff.

From there we progressed to tossing, twirling, stepping, striking a pose, never missing a beat.

There were many blisters and bruises along the way. At one point, I smacked my fingernail so hard it turned purple and I thought it was going to fall off.

Later in the year, I was introduced to shime-daiko and its completely different technique. I felt a bit like a little monkey playing a drum.

Every year, our group has a recital at the end of January. I was excited when the drum assignments came out; I’d made the front row! At the same time, a little voice in my head yelled, “Holy crap!”

Still, I’d worked really hard to learn our two songs and execute with solid form. I’d cleared my schedule and attended almost every class. It felt good to see that practice and dedication pay off.

Last Sunday was our recital. I was part of the stage crew, and learned a ton about show logistics. I also got to watch our guests perform from backstage, something I’ve never done before. I loved it!

Both songs went well. I didn’t drop my bachi doing the fancy moves and no one noticed my couple little screwups. I’m pretty sure we all screwed up, so no big deal. Overall, our songs sounded like songs. :)

My friend Alissa was kind enough to take video, but for reasons I’m not entirely clear about I’m not supposed to share them with the internet. So here are a couple stills.

This first one’s from our chu-daiko piece, Bondaiko Midareuchi. We’re yelling “So-re!” whilst striking a pose at the start:

And this second one’s from a piece I played shime-daiko on, Agari Yatai, to close out the show:

February is going to be a slow month at class, when we go back to basics for the new students who join. I’m looking forward to it, because it’ll be a chance for me to refine my form.

So-re!