Karate and taiko: good for turning on the right side of your brain. Not. Good for whole-brain exercise.

In a post about turning on your right brain, one of Martha Beck’s suggestions is to learn new moves. I immediately thought that practitioners of karate and Japanese drum players therefore must have the right sides of their brains permanently turned to on.

However, when learning new moves in karate, say a new kata, I doubt whether it turns on only the right side of my brain. I find that it’s more of a pushing and stretching of both sides of my brain to actually try and work together. Although I must admit that sometimes moves on one side of the body are much easier than doing the same moves on the other side.

It’s the same with taiko (the playing of Japanese drums). Especially in the beginning:
Take the plain and simple don do ko rhythm. Boem boem-boem.
We get taught the “right way”: Right hand, right hand-left hand. So the first Boem is with the right hand, the first boem of the boem-boem is also with the right hand and the second boem of the boem-boem is with the left hand. With me?

We spend like a month or even longer (okay, I may be exaggerating for special effects, here, but bear with me) to perfect our right-handed Boem boem-boem.

Then, surprise-surprise, we get taught another “right way”: now starting with the left hand, which is quite frustrating to left-handed players after having gone through the trouble of learning how to NOT play with their naturally leading left hand first!

After a month (or even longer) of perfecting now both ways of playing Boem boem-boem, we find out that there is still another way of doing it: The Swing. You start with the right hand leading, but then switch to the left hand. [Actually, The Switch might have been a more appropriate name.]

Long story, short: Try to learn some new moves to turn on the right side of your brain. Chances are good, though, that you’ll end up exercising both sides of your brain. A win-win situation, if you ask me.


Tamashii Daiko and Riverdance used in the same sentence? How you learn from Taiko to expect anything.

Wow! There’s just nothing like receiving compliments, is there? Tamashii Daiko performed at the centennial celebrations of the Taiwanese Consulate in South Africa. And may I say this, as a member of the group: We were simply SENSATIONAL!

One guy compared our accuracy with that of Riverdance. Check this out if you’re living in an alternate universe and have no idea what I’m talking about. Now if that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is.

Nervous energy abounded. We set up so that everybody that was anybody (important from the organising side, that is) could see where the drums should be and then they were moved to the side for the speeches. A variety of people came to offer help to move the drums. Each of them got a calm description and explanation of what were to be done. [The word ‘calm’ should indicate to you that this was not done by me.]

We were there, of course, L-O-O-O-O-NG before the guests arrived. This could be considered a good thing: we did not feel rushed; we knew where everything was and how we were going to do things. But it could also be considered a bad thing: L-O-O-O-O-TS of waiting = ample time for building panic and getting second thoughts…

But once the first note hit the Odaiko we were in the zone. OK, I admit this is my own personal experience and evaluation. When Stephan’s drum rolled of the stand, I’m pretty sure he must have felt not quite “in the zone”, but he recovered quickly and didn’t miss that many beats [not the best of puns, I know].

Not only does Taiko take us to interesting places, it also teaches us to deal with whatever is thrown at us! [Maybe I should rephrase: “whatever is thrown at us” conjures up images of rotten tomatoes.] It teaches us to deal with whatever comes our way. Let’s try again: What I’m trying to say is that we learn to adapt to circumstances. To go with the flow. To change according to the surroundings. As the saying goes: The only certainty in life is uncertainty.

To be able to adapt to uncertainty is a valuable life skill to have.

Bet you didn’t have this on your imaginary list of “Advantages of Taiko”.

What do tiles, tyres and tekkies have in common?

As there is probably just a few people who have an inkling of the answer, let me put you out of your misery. Bachis, of course.

Say what?

Tamashii Daiko has been practising Japanese drumming on tiles, tyres and tekkies because our usual practice space became unavailable and our leader is visiting family and learning new stuff to teach us (:-D). Lindie kindly offered her garage, but as she wanted to remain on speaking terms with her neighbours we opted for less noisy “drums”. Amanda kept us on track:

I believe our brains are like jungles. When we learn something new, we start cutting a pathway through the jungle. But the jungle being the jungle, quickly starts to grow back across the pathway. When we practise something, we prune and cut the branches back before the pathway is totally reclaimed by the jungle. So even though we did not drum on real drums, we managed to keep the regrowth at bay. [Of course, we explored some new pathways as well – don doko 1-2-3, clack-clack!]

We are looking forward to practising with drums again, though! Hitting tiles, tyres and tekkies are a bit like having an argument with someone who doesn’t argue back. Sometimes you want the noise and vibrations and passion and sore muscles that come from jumping yokatas and long arms and deep stances…

Hit and run Taiko in Gordon’s Bay

Tamashii Daiko had a phenomenal evening Friday night. We performed at three venues in Gordon’s Bay as part of the Winter Wonderland Festival – our “hit and run” series :-). We played and then packed up all nine drums and stands to move to the next place. People came from their houses, crossed the street and those driving past stopped to watch us. It was very cold, but we surely warmed things up!

I am starting to get used to performing now and really like informal settings as on Friday – I don’t feel as scared of making a mistake to mess up the visual and auditory impact of a performance. And maybe the darkness played a role too.

But there’s just something about making music together. Of course it helps that I don’t find my mind being totally blank about what part of the piece we’re playing at that moment, with no idea of what comes next. I’ve started to feel it in my bones, I suspect, although I still miss a beat or two sometimes when my mind starts wandering and I’m not totally focussed on playing. I have to admit to also missing a beat or two when the tempo starts to go beyond my skill level, but I hope I am keeping my cool and acting as if I’m supposed to do exactly what I am doing at that specific point in time :-D.

The children in the audience were quite amazing. Children don’t hide their excitement, some even started clapping their hands as soon as we started playing, smiling. And when they heard we would be playing at another venue as well, it was the children that got their parents to take them there as well.

Playing the Japanese drums is great fun, but playing to an appreciative audience is totally invigorating! Yes-say!

Tamashii Daiko at Gordon’s Bay Winter Wonderland Festival

Here I am with a hectic week filled with karate (at the Blue Rock dojo – with an extra session on Thursday as part of the library’s holiday programme), taiko, socialising and now the downstairs toilet looking for some attention…

We, that is Tamashii Daiko (South Africa :-D), are performing at the Gordon’s Bay Winter Wonderland Festival this Friday and maybe on Saturday, weather permitting. You’ll catch us at Antonio’s, roundabout 19:00 and thereafter at the square across from Al Forno’s and then somewhere between the fairy lights in the path way along the sea. But I’m pretty sure you’ll hear us, even if you can’t see us.

We’ll be doing a new number. The name has a lot of “sh’s” in it and it means “for the beginner”, which we intermediates, of course, take totally in our stride… if only I can remember which way to move in our little “snake”-like dance!

If you’re in the vicinity, come check us out!

Recurring patterns are a recurring pattern

We had an interesting recurring pattern/rhytm in the step class yesterday: STOMP-2-3 STOMP-2-STOMP-4-5. Much harder to explain than I anticipated…
Let’s break it down:
Say you start with the right foot: STOMP means bringing down hard/transferring all your weight to that foot on top of the step (on the left side of the step, so you’re moving on the diagonal).
-2 means giving a step with your left foot on the ground (not on the step).
-3 means giving a step with your right foot on the ground, placing yourself just right for the next movement, which is:

STOMPing now with the left foot on the right side of the step twice, which means that you need to give one step in between on the ground with your right foot, and then 2 steps on the ground again to take you back to the single STOMP-part.

It’s much easier when you see it, hear it and experience it yourself, but I’m sure you get the “sense” of what I mean :-).

In any case. On my way home from step, I had this recurring Taiko rhythm in my head: 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4.
Use both hands and alternate: hit the table/steering wheel/what ever for each number. The bold numbers mean you hit harder.

I realise you’re busy, so let me cut to the chase: The STOMP-2-STOMP part sounds the same as the 1-2-3-4 part.

Noticing this similarity, made me aware of how big a role recurring patterns have in my life at the moment. Karate: consists of programming your body with recurring patterns of blocks and punches and kicks. Obesity: a manifestation of recurring patterns of eating in order to escape. Vocal training warming up exercises: recurring patterns of notes.

Incidently, the research proposal is progressing quite nicely… of course, corpus translation studies is the environment to investigate …. (you guessed it!) …. RECURRING PATTERNS!

Taiko isn’t called a martial art for no reason – a tribute to The Tantrum

It was very exciting news when we heard that Ursula started a new class. The more the merrier, yes. But it also meant that we (Carol, Lindie, Stephan and I) have acquired “intermediate” status. Bachi five, everyone!

People tend to think that playing the drums is not that difficult. And sometimes – but only rarely – it is true. After all, how difficult can it be? If you can count to eight, you fulfil one of the basic requirements for most pieces (at beginner level in any case – I can’t speak for the intermediate level yet. I’ve only just begun. 🙂 ).

But counting to eight becomes a complex matter when each player is starting at a different time, playing another rhythm at a louder/softer intensity…

Oh, and when you start feeling the vibrations: Anyone who has ever played Kazan would know what I’m talking about. There’s this one part: We affectionately call it The Tantrum. It goes like this:

1-2-3-BAM!-5-BAM! 1-2-3-BAM!-5-BAM! 1-2-3-BAM!-5-BAM!  BAM! BAM! BAM!

 When you stand with drums on both sides, playing with the left hand on the left drum and the right hand on the right drum, and two other players are throwing that tantrum on that same drums… Boy, you can feel it! And it can blast your ability to count clear out of your head!

Until recently I felt rather smug about not having blisters on my hands like the others. Somehow I managed to not get any. But our hot weather and the intensity of our sessions now in preparation for the Summer Party on the 19th is taking its toll. 😉

I also found out that it can actually be quite dangerous to be a Taiko player. Bachis sometimes fly through the air so that, in addition to the counting etc., you also have to be able to duck rather quickly in the right direction…

It’s not called a martial art for no reason!

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