Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Kodo One Earth Tour 2016: Mystery, 15/02/2015

I went to watch Kodo play live at the Barbican Centre in London back in mid-February.  I have been following Kodo for nearly three years.  For years I have been amazed by Japanese taiko music, but never found the chance to get into this area of Japanese culture.  I've not listen to much else since.  Kodo tour every year and they send a part of their group to tour different parts of the world, before coming back to Japan to tour Japan.  Europe seems to be visited once every two years.  I last saw them perform in Brighton 2014.  Listening to a recording is definitely not the same as experiencing them perform live.  Whilst you can say that about any act, Kodo is best experienced live.  You experience the energy and the music is like nothing you could experience before.  Kodo play with such artistic flair and power.  The beats are precise and the sound has to be heard as words simply cannot describe.

Watching videos on YouTube and DVD or past performances.  It is clear that Kodo was just about drumming with Japanese folk music, song and dance.  It has generally been quite conservative. The current artistic director Tamasaburo Bando changed that.  The last 3-4 years have been a time of change.  Younger members get a say and female performers now play a more prominent part.  Taiko drumming remains to be their soul, but there have been more emphasis on stage performances, with more singing and dancing.  I had my doubts about the Mystery tour concept, but I ended up loving every moment.  The Mystery tour really introduces Japanese musical culture as never before.  It was intelligent, witty, charming and inspirational.  It was very Japanese in how they repackage and reinvent,  so bring new dimension to a much loved Japanese tradition.

There are many professional taiko groups in Japan and thousands of amateur groups.  Some are better than others.  But you got to love their spirit and enthusiasm.  Taiko drumming is enjoyed by people found and old.  Kids come back from school and play taiko drums.  Taiko drumming has followers all over the world.  This is an art form that will live on for a long time.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

BTOCC, Oxford, 24th April 2016

Today, I competed at the British Open.  This year, it was held at a much later date than usual.  It is the fifth time I have entered.  My experiences and successes so far have been mixed in the years I have competed.  In the first year of competition, I came home empty handed.  However, every year I have competed, I have taken home a medal, either silver or bronze.  Sometimes, I have earn't it, other times I got it by default.  Early experiences of competition were painful and looking back, I have changed so much.  Your first medal is always special, but the rest, I have not seen in the same light.  All I can say is that I came home with something.  It is painful when you see others go up again and again to collect medals, you you have only come up once.  Hardly the stuff of legends.  Being Chinese and sucking in Chinese martial arts is very embarrassing.  I decided two years ago to change my approach to training.  A friend of mine told me that my forms were nice to look at, but they were not martial.  The painful truth hit hard, but motivated me to work harder on everything.  I took a year out of learning the sword, to find time to get the basics right.  I had to find my identity and I don't intend to come last.  I have a number of silver and bronze medals.  I now need to collect gold medals and I want to come home with more than one medal.  Starting with the European Open 2015, it happened.

Things have not been great over the last six to eight months.  I still have the motivation to go further and train harder.  I train hard every weekend and every day, if time permits.  It has seemed a long time. Now I just want to do my forms and move on.  This year, I have made a number a changes to my forms.  However, as somebody who is well known for weapons, especially the spear.  I came last or out of the medals.  Sometimes, it is luck or lack of.  What is disheartening is when you see poor performances being awarded good marks.  But I will not give up and I will prepare for next year.

Success came in double gold for Men's Open Internal hand forms and Mens's Open Tai Chi hand forms.  This was not expected as my hand forms have usually been the weakest and I've not forgotten the shame and embarrassment of not even getting decent points.  So it is good to know that my hand form was well received.

To me, this year has been a mixed bag.  I would have wanted more medals, but silver and bronze will only make up the numbers.  So in a way, coming home with two golds in core categories is far better than gold in peripheral categories.  I got what I wanted, but the feeling is strange.  Part of me feels very annoyed that I didn't do well with my spear.  I have invested a lot of effort in my spear work.  I would have liked a gold in spear.  I'll get it, but it will not be this year.

After all that, I can relax and focus on other things…