Callous Killer

Tonight’s taiko class did not discriminate between finger vs. palm callouses, left vs. right hand callouses, taiko vs. climbing vs. mountain bike callouses. It tried to blister them all.

Also tonight, we combined all the hitting and tapping and weight shifting and stepping and showy armsing and twirling and tossing. It was really hard and really fun.

I almost survived, until the penultimate measure of the night, when I smashed my knuckle into the edge of a taiko.

It swelled up right away, but hurts less now than the time I smashed my finger with the bachi.

Worth it. When we master this it’s gonna be awesome.

Flying Bachi

I have a new favorite taiko tape: Nexcare to the rescue! This stuff is amazing, and I was sooo glad to have it tonight, because even the climbing callouses on my fingers threatened to come off.

We continued with the multi-blister drumming and footwork. In the second half of the second hour, we added bachi twirling: inside back-to-front, outside back-to-front, clockwise helicopter, counterclockwise helicopter. One handed helicopter while the other hand strikes.

After that, we drummed and tossed the bachi, switching hands in midair.

After that, we toss twirled the bachi, a half twirl in our right hand, followed by a fully airborne twirl with the left hand while the right hand swung its now-caught bachi under it.

This is going to require some practice at home.

Dance Dance Drum Master

We had another three blister class tonight. This time, I re-blistered two callouses and gained a new blister in a spot I didn’t think would suffer from blisters. Everyone was hurting by our break after the first hour.

In the second hour, we started in on… footwork! Up until now we’ve been drumming in a wide stable stance, but now there’s steps and dons and rim taps and tsu-kus and pauses and third beats and full beats and half beats all mixed together.

It’s really fun. I had a huge grin on my face for the last few run throughs.

Three-Blister Class

We got the kitchen sink at taiko class tonight. Sensei had so much he wanted to run us through he skipped right over the usual warmup into a pattern. We did everything tonight: big hits, light taps, rim taps, showy arms, three counts, and full sequences all in one go.

Tonight was a three blister class. Record setting!

Looks like I have a new rating system for taiko class.

Flowy Taps

Wowowow, so much new stuff in taiko class today:

– rim taps
– light drum taps
– hitting a three count within each beat
– arms

The light drum taps aren’t totally new. We saw them once or twice back in February, but I didn’t know how to hold the bachi back then to do it quickly and effectively. Now that I’ve got the don grip down, I can understand shifting my grip toward my index fingers for the taps.

There’s a name for the taps, but I can’t remember it. Yet.

I had tons of fun with the don-tap and do-ko-tap combos. But then it got better! We added showy arms! All of a sudden it’s not just rhythm and form and strength, it’s finer control and some flair as well.

Things are definitely more complex now. I’m loving it!

Placement

So as not to repeat or worsen last week’s finger injury, I made bachi placement my primary focus last night. My upright form mostly held, but when things got hard, I caught myself starting to lean in again. Just a bit.

Studying myself studying my learning is fun.

Upright

Time for a taiko update!

Some of my classmates take video during class, and upon studying last week’s clips I noticed I was leaning forward while playing.

The desired body position is to keep your upper body upright, so I worked on this Tuesday. I felt tall and strong! Sensei seemed pleased, and a couple classmates commented on the improvement.

The problem with tweaking little things when you’re a beginner is you use up all your bandwidth on the thing you’re tweaking. I spent the class thinking about upper body and moving my arms from the shoulder. As I tired, bachi placement got sloppy, and toward the end of class I struck the end of my left ring finger, hard.

I’ve struck my hands and fingers before. It’s not fun.

This strike was REALLY not fun. It throbbed, and blood started oozing from the cuticle.

Swinging your arms when your finger is bleeding only leads to more bleeding, so I stopped playing for the night. In a way, it was good, because I got to hang out in the back and really focus on the patterns we were learning.

That night, I woke up to a throbbing swollen fingertip. In my sleepy state, I wondered if my finger would explode.

It’s a lot better today, just internally bloody looking. The top of the finger where I struck it is tender, but I’m able to grasp things with it now without too much discomfort.

I have a correction to make regarding the stance being like “shooting a puck” from my post a couple weeks back. Yes, there’s a weight shift, but it’s not nearly as pronounced as when shooting a puck. And, of course, you don’t lean your body into it.

Taiko

I have been remiss in updating you on all my activities.

With my Tuesdays free of hockey, I finally had a chance to start taking taiko lessons. Starting this February, I’ve been banging on drums for two hours every Tuesday night.

But it’s so much more. Taiko combines my love of rhythm, technique, athleticism, and teamwork.

Every week has been a learning experience. Every week I’ve seen improvement.

I literally have a list of things to work on and keep in mind when I drum. I realized I needed to write it down, so why not here? I did that for hockey, and I found it incredibly useful.

So here goes, my chu-daiko* to the left list:

Stance (it’s kind of like shooting a puck)
– legs wide
– get low
– shift weight to the right on the don upswing
– shift weight back to the left before don strike
– don’t lift up on the weight shift back to the left

Arms
– don is a hard hit, but it comes from the momentum of the weight shift
– the don upswing comes from the shoulders, not elbows or wrists
– raise the bachi in a smooth motion, don’t stab at the air
– bend elbows on the downswing
– imagine throwing the bachi at the drum head on the don
– even fast dokos don’t use the wrists
– wrists not too open, not too closed (still trying to get this right, no idea how to explain it here)
– don’t flail, every swing is controlled

General
– don’t bounce to keep time, even if you really like bouncing
– don’t lean forward when striking

I feel like I forgot some things, but I’ll remember on Tuesday. Now that I have a place to write this down, I’ll probably start posting more.

I also have a list of aches and pains and minor injuries. Remember when I started playing hockey and had the dumbest injuries from things like holding the stick? I have the dumbest injuries from swinging the bachi: tennis elbow, achy wrists, and blisters, blisters, blisters.

I trust I’ll have arms and hands of steel by the end of the year.

* Chu-daiko is the medium sized drum, and we’re currently learning how to play it primarily from the side.