The Intro’s Not A Part

I discovered last Sunday that “all parts of Yatai” meant part 1, part 2, and the solo.

It didn’t mean the intro, which I played for the first time that night from video memory.

Thank goodness for video… and intense studying.

Month of Intense Studying

A couple months ago, sensei asked if I would be interested in joining the performance team. Wowowow yes!!! Except I didn’t know entire parts of any of the performance songs.

A couple weeks ago, we finished working through a section of a song in o-daiko class. “Now we’ve done all parts of Yatai.”

Last week, I received an email requesting availability for a performance at a Japanese Culture Festival in early October. Yes! Except I don’t know any performance songs well enough?

This week, we received our songs and assignments. I’m playing o-daiko (with solo parts) for the song I just finished learning (still a giant jumble of beats in my head) and holding down first drum for the song my chu-daiko class learned last year (omgdontmessthisup).

After a few minutes of “Ahhhhh!!!”, I told Aaron about it.

Me: minor freak out
Me: followed by a month of intense studying
Aaron: Sensei thinks you can handle it
Me: that’s a good point
Me: i feel better
Me: thanks
Me: still going to do a month of intense studying

… and all the other things I have scheduled this month. Ready, steady, GO!

Hulk Smash Happy Dance

Two things from o-daiko class last night.

Thing one: I realized partway through our right-right-left-left slow-fast repeat-repeat-repeat-faster drill that the secret to hitting hard isn’t just a full backswing and a throw-and-extend into the drum face. It’s using our core.

Oh. Duh.

Seriously. Duh.

Have I not been playing sports my entire life? How do I not know to start with this in everything I do?

Thing two: I finally bought my own set of o-daiko bachi. They feel solid and powerful! After hitting with it for less than an hour, I cracked the tip.

It’s not quite as spectacular as the one I split in two at my first class, but I can at least claim full responsibility for this one.

I’m quite enjoying my giant bachi smashing track record right now.

Imaginary Stabbing

Sensei decided it was time to teach the hard part of the song we’re working on in Tuesday class. It involves striking the drum, striking a bunch of poses, waltzing from one side of the drum to the other, stabbing imaginary people while striking the drum, swooping our arms in the air and striking a pose, sometimes in combination, not in this order, to the beat, in one continuous sequence.

Head asplodey fun!

Ow, My Arms

First o-daiko class in a month! It took me a little while to remember some basics: not throwing my body forward, left arm all the way back. The first hour of drills were straight pain. But once we got into hour two and started playing an actual piece, everything got better. O-daiko is fun! I’m glad sensei’s summer is over… just in time for my own travel. D’oh.

Full Helicopter

There were only 4 of us at middle-of-the-long-weekend o-daiko class last night, which meant we got no rotation breaks. No rotation = Learn lots of stuff!

My sideways stance right arm helicopter with left arm tail spin is functional now. I can definitely refine my form some more, but I’m happy I no longer look at the move with amused bewilderment.

I’m also much better at this series of moves, which I shall henceforth refer to as the Benihana double chop. Because it’s that fancy.

In the middle of class, I discovered we’re learning not one, but two songs right now. This, after sensei spent 9 minutes teaching us a set of phrases that took an hour to teach in Tuesday class. Turns out there’s an o-daiko part of that song. I would have been so confused if we hadn’t already learned it on chu-daiko.

I’m dialing my stance in some more. I realized after many demos that my rear leg doesn’t have to be straight like in a yoga warrior. This gives me a lot more movement to play with and eases the intense hip flexor stretch.

Monday morning status: Tired but not can’t-lift-my-arms exhausted like when I first started. Progress!

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.