Another Taiko Blog and KODO: Behind the Scenes Video

KODO: Behind the Scenes

It has taken me twice as long to eat my meals in the past few days. I'm not eating more, probably I'm eating less. Why is it taking me so long? Because I am using my left hand to eat. (I'm right-handed, by the way). Using a fork and spoon with your non-dominant hand is one thing, trying to use chopsticks with it is another story. For many westerners, using your dominant hand to eat meals with chopsticks is challenging enough. I am also trying to brush my teeth with my left hand. I'm starting to get used to it, but at first, even as I brushed with my left hand, I couldn't keep from moving my right hand in a brushing motion. It must have been amusing to watch my spastic tooth-brushing ritual.

Using your left hand isn't a new idea. I've heard of many athletes doing the same thing in order to strengthen the non-dominant side of their body. That's what I'm trying to do as well. For taiko beginners, it is always painfully obvious that one of their hands/arms is stronger than the other. Over the past few years, I've watched several new people join the taiko groups I'm in, and almost without fail, during the first lesson, the instructor will say something like, "You're right-handed, aren't you. Your left hand is too weak."

Having one hand stronger than the other usually causes uneven beats, speeding up or slowing down and asymmetrical form when playing. There are several ways to even out your hand and arm strength. One is to practice exercises and etudes starting with your non-dominant hand (as I mentioned in a previous post about practicing shime taiko.) But using your non-dominant hand for everyday activities, like teeth brushing and eating with chopsticks, is another way to work towards becoming ambidextrous.

Although it is not the first time I've heard of this method of training, I was reminded of it in this excellent video about what it is like to be an apprentice with the Kodo Drummers on Sado Island. Apparently, one of the first tasks for new apprentices is to make their own pair of chopsticks and make their own pair of bachi (drum sticks). Then they must eat only using their non-dominant hand. If they can't do it, they go hungry until they learn how.

With a job and a family of four, many of the KODO training techniques are not feasible. After all, they are on a remote island cut off from family, friends, technology and all they have to think about is taiko. But using my non-dominant hand to eat with and brush my teeth, well, that's something I can do without too much trouble. I have found that I don't asks for seconds as often, though, just because it can be so tiring to eat that way.

Well, you probably want to see the video. Here it is. KODO Apprentice Video. Sorry, I can't embed it, so you'll have to go to YouTube to watch it. It is worth the time, though.

Another Taiko Blog

Where did I find this interesting video? I found it at the TAIKOHANA Blog. The owner of the TaikoHana blog wrote to me a week or so ago asking if I knew of any places to practice taiko in Fukuoka. (See my answer to her question here: Where to Practice Taiko in Japan.) I discovered that she also kept a blog about taiko and read through it in one sitting. Perhaps I found it interesting because her story is similar to ours in some ways. At any rate, in the interest of providing all those English speaking taiko enthusiasts out there more reading material, I thought I would recommend it to you.

Marie Ayabe is the writer of the blog. Marie was born and raised in Hawaii. She began learning taiko in the summer of 2007 at the Taiko Center of the Pacific. She enjoyed it so much that she decided to start a group at her college, which is called AIKO. This fall she will go to Japan as a JET teacher and hopes to continue her taiko studies there. She hopes to eventually be able to perform with a professional group and teach taiko to other people as well.

She will probably be busy getting ready for her move to Japan this summer, but once she gets settled in, I imagine she will have lots of interesting posts about her own taiko journey. So please check out her blog:
TaikoHana Blog


Carrie said...

Just wanted to mention that it's not just about an imbalance of strength, but also very much about an imbalance of coordination and dexterity.

Gambatte--it gets easier!

Shandi P said...

My husband is in St. Louis Osuwa Taiko and I shared your non-dominant hand exercise ideas and the video. Thanks! I look forward to reading more of your blog.