Odaiko New England

Remembering What it Takes to Start from Scratch

Saturday night we performed for Zenshinkan Dojo, an Aikido Dojo in Worcester, to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Close to 100 members were gathered to recognize two decades of hard work. People got up and told passionate stories of commitment, personal transformation, friendships, and people working tirelessly on behalf of the group.  And they talked about love.

We didn't always have a dojo, but we had each other.

ONE in the late 1990's: We didn't always have a dojo, but we had each other.

It made me remember our roots and our 15-year history as a taiko group— the days where we didn’t have a dojo, the days when we didn’t have drums and we drummed on tires wrapped with duct tape. It’s incredible to realize just how much people can get done when our goals are in line and we work together.

As the martial artists told stories of what Aikido meant to them, I thought of the many times I had tried and failed or tried and succeeded to get through difficult pieces. I find playing taiko to be extremely difficult.  In fact, it continues to be one of the most challenging things I do. Playing taiko requires so much concentration — whether it be the rhythm, timing, kata, kiai, emotion, or the connection you make with fellow players or the audience — each piece takes an enormous amount of effort to get right. Which means that you have to get it wrong a lot before you get it right. There is no way that I could persist in an activity where I failed so much if it weren’t for the people and support I have felt through Odaiko New England. I understood exactly what the martial artists meant when they talked about love. When you watch someone persist and challenge themselves to do something difficult, you can’t help but love them.

One of our final songs was Mahora. It’s a physically demanding piece and I knew that as martial artists they would appreciate it. As I introduced it, I could hear them gulp when I said it was a endurance piece that required stamina and concentration and took ten minutes to play. At the end we got a standing ovation. If anyone understood what it took to play that song, they did.

The six of us: A little disheveled and sweaty after our performance.

Saturday night: A little disheveled and sweaty after our performance. (Beth, Cat, Joy, Karen, Shigeru, and Kristen) Photograph courtesy of Zenshinkan Dojo

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