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#1 2006-01-25 13:41:05

Alex
Member
From: Barcelona - Spain
Registered: 2005-10-17
Posts: 138

Keeping fit

Hello everybody,

What a great place this forum is! smile

Anyway, to the point. Being Shakuhachi such a physical experience I was wondering if any of you have heard of any exercise routine to improve the blowing. Maybe it's a bit nonsense and that strength can only be achieved through regular practice but when I blow I have the feeling that if I had some more strength here or there it would make things easier.

Maybe with a bit more of strength is easier to relax. It happens with the guitar (which I've been playing for some years now), I think when you are a begginer you tense the whole arm because your finger muscles don't have the required strength to press the strings appropiately. Well, that's only my theory but I've read about the necesity of relaxing the neck muscles while blowing and I think it must be easier if you have some stronger support somewhere else in your body.

Maybe running or swimming helps to have a stronger breath, or stretching helps to keep muscles relaxed, I don't know.   

I read Watazumido practiced martial arts and kept a very strict physical routine, and I guess it had an impact on his playing.

Well, I just wanted to raise the topic of the importance of the body in playing Shakuhachi, because from what I've heard (and briefly experienced) the instrument does not end where the bamboo finishes, the body and the flute make the instrument. Anyway, hope you have some experiences to share, not only words of grand masters but some direct personal experiences too.

Salud para todos!

Alex


"An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he's "at" somewhere. You always have to realise that you are constantly in the state of becoming. And as long as you can stay in that realm, you'll sort of be all right"
Bob Dylan

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#2 2006-01-25 16:14:32

Seth
Member
From: Scarsdale, NY
Registered: 2005-10-24
Posts: 270

Re: Keeping fit

Hey Alex,

In my experience there is a very clear connection to my sound and my current level of physical fitness.  This is not surprising as it is often observed that a musician is one part artist and one part athelete. 

In particular deep breathing pranayama yoga exercises clearly get my lungs nicely expanded prior to practice.  I have also found that a good set of hindu push ups are fantastic for getting quickly warmed up.

(For those curious as to what hindu push ups are, just do a google search...it is a little complicated...  In a phrase I could describe them as a full motion push up.  It is a very efficient exercise)

Seth

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#3 2006-01-25 19:52:06

Yungflutes
Flutemaker/Performer
From: New York City
Registered: 2005-10-08
Posts: 1061
Website

Re: Keeping fit

yes!

Seth wrote:

In particular deep breathing pranayama yoga exercises clearly get my lungs nicely expanded prior to practice.

Seth hit it right on the head with Pranayama. I make my meditation connection with the shakuhachi through the yogic breath. I realized when studying Dokyoku in Japan that playing a phrase without running out of air requires not only a quick but full lung inhalation.  I made the connection to yoga one day when I took a Hatha Yoga class. Sometime near the end of class, the teacher guided us into using a three part breath. The idea is to bring air into the abdomen first, then the rib cage, and finally the chest (or throat). When exhaling, the duration should be longer than the inhalation.  I've taken other yoga classes and there are variations on this method so I adapted my own version to my shakuhachi playing. This not only helped me play better and with deeper awareness in the ma, but the regulated breathing was great for stress relief and clarity.

For meditative playing (which is different from playing actual shakuhachi music), I use the formal yogic breath and blow just one tone. I try to only focus on the breathing but be mindful of the tone. This does not mean I'm striving for a certain tone, just mindful of what's there. This does wonders for me.

Breath deeply, Perry


"A hot dog is not an animal." - Jet Yung

My Blog/Website on the art of shakuhachi...and parenting.
How to make an Urban Shakuhachi (PVC)

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#4 2006-01-26 12:59:25

Alex
Member
From: Barcelona - Spain
Registered: 2005-10-17
Posts: 138

Re: Keeping fit

Hi there!

Hindu push ups? Yogic breath? Jesus! Thereís a whole world out there! smile I am going to do some research about those things but I guess it would be difficult to do them without appropriate training (i.e. with an instructor). But I'll try anyway.

Breathing exercises must be great, I'm sure they must have an impact on blowing and the advantage is that you can do the exercises anywhere. I also liked the idea of warming up the body before playing, never thought about it but it makes so much sense.

I would like to design a short routine for myself for keeping fit mentally (through meditation mainly) and physically (through a number of exercises), and my idea is to use Shakuhachi as an aid to be aware of my progress. I started doing this yoga exercise "sun salutation" for stretching and get my blood moving when I get up, and from what I could briefly read Hindu push ups look like something I'd like to include in my morning routine. And it would be great to do some breathing exercises just before blowing.

Do you know of good sources to get material on those things? Preferably the Internet. I was doing some research about Hindu push-ups and I could only find a book linked with combat training (from what I read they were used by Hindu wrestlers so I guess it makes sense).

I heard Koga senseiís book on advance techniques for Shakuhachi focuses on physical (and psychological) aspects of playing Shakuhachi, has anybody read it? By the way, thereís something I donít understand about it, it seems to deal with very basic things (breathing, positioning, philosophy behind Shakuhachi and so on), so why is it recommended for players approaching master level? I guess beginners could get a lot out of it as well. Just wondering.

Anyway, if anybody has anything else to say about body and Shakuhachi please donít keep it for yourselves!!

Ah, that sound...

Alex


"An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he's "at" somewhere. You always have to realise that you are constantly in the state of becoming. And as long as you can stay in that realm, you'll sort of be all right"
Bob Dylan

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#5 2006-01-26 13:52:37

kyoreiflutes
Member
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: 2005-10-27
Posts: 364
Website

Re: Keeping fit

I reccomend Yoga as well. Even if you did a basic set of Sun Salutaions, you'd be better prepared for playing, and it's an excellent start to yourYoga practice. It's short, and gets you into it nicely if you're a beginner.

I'm using Baron Baptiste's stuff right now, and it's pretty good. I got a little box set recently, with 3 different "flows", two 20-minutes ones, and one 75-minute one. It also has cards of all the poses you'll need, a small book, etc.

I got it on Amazon. Search for "The Yoga Bootcamp Box" and the book "Journey Into Power : How to Sculpt Your Ideal Body, Free Your True Self, and Transform Your Life With Yoga". They're both pretty good. The book doesn't have a cd, though, although I found it better to learn the poses a bit first before I got into Flow.

Good luck!

-E


"The Universe does not play favorites, and is not fair by its very Nature; Humans, however, are uniquely capable of making the world they live in fair to all."    - D.E. Lloyd

"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."    -John Donne

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#6 2006-01-27 03:56:12

Alex
Member
From: Barcelona - Spain
Registered: 2005-10-17
Posts: 138

Re: Keeping fit

Hey Eddie, thanks for the reccomendation about Yoga book. I've been thinking about starting Yoga for some time and I guess it's about time I start. My problem is that there seem to be many types and it's a bit confusing. But I guess the point is starting and leave the uncertainties for some other time!

I've never tried surf but I can perfectly picture what you say (Sigwada??). I guess both require a lot of focus and you only get that amazing feeling of flowing (with the water or with the sound) when all the different elements are in perfect tune. Nice image to picture while playing by the way.

Salud!


"An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he's "at" somewhere. You always have to realise that you are constantly in the state of becoming. And as long as you can stay in that realm, you'll sort of be all right"
Bob Dylan

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#7 2006-02-12 17:17:18

chikuzen
Dai Shihan/Dokyoku
From: Cleveland Heights,OH 44118
Registered: 2005-10-24
Posts: 402
Website

Re: Keeping fit

It's no secret that in the case of playing shakuhachi you are the instrument (and the instrument becomes part of you). You need to take care of the body and find out what works well for you. Hints from others can help a great deal. But also, if you question whether running will help then you should run and see. The same for doing Yoga and other stretching exercises. I try many things, for example: since my son has gone to college and I have room, time & space in the house I have acquired a Yoga ball for "crunches", a stationary bicyle and a jump rope that I use for stretching. From 6pm I start with 10' on the bicycle, 10'stretching and 10' on the yoga ball, then I play for 30'. I repeat this until 11pm five nights a week (usually). The amount of energy released from the exercising is amazing. I'm still exploring this along with sitting meditation in the mornings (since I can't really move). I'm also now working on a dvd of exercises with several professionals in different fields (Chiropractic, Yogic, Therapeutic muscle work) which I plan on publishing in the near future. Think of shaku as a totally "energtic" activity: the sound is energy, you are energy, etc. Shakuhachi demands that you practice expansive types of energy like Ro, Tsu, Re, Chi & Ri and contractual types of energy as meris and Daimeries. You must create a body (instrument) that produces these kinds of enegies i.e. resultant sounds or sound qualities. This energy will come from your body and mind depending on how you work them. Thus, after a while of doing meris and daimeris you need to do something exspansive for your muscles, i.e. stretch them, move them, get the Ki flowing through them and the relationship of your chakras energies back into balance and then start again. Try anything. Being "active" in the process of your playing means trying something consciously. It's not a only a passive activity where you do what your teacher does or imitate somebody. You'll only have confidence if you try it and start to answer questions yourself. This means coming up with personal defintions of "health ", "a healthy body", "muscles"(what are they, really), "a healthy sound","sound", etc. Most of this that makes any sense and that is effective will come from your own experience. Thus, you will build "confidence". Of course, you should have confidence in your Sensei. The characters for Sensei mean "before" or "previous" and to "have lived", meaning, they have breathed more breathes with a shakuhachi in their hands than you have, thus: experience. They are "guiders" and "coaches" for you.
Michael Chikuzen Gould

Last edited by chikuzen (2006-02-12 17:21:37)


Michael Chikuzen Gould

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#8 2006-02-12 19:04:46

jumbuk
Member
From: South-eastern Australia
Registered: 2005-12-15
Posts: 85

Re: Keeping fit

Riley Lee has a DVD on breathing exercises that may appeal to some.  I have heard good things about his breathing workshops.


... as if nothing is happening.  And it is!

Paul Mitchell, Jumbuktu 2006

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#9 2006-02-17 05:10:37

Alex
Member
From: Barcelona - Spain
Registered: 2005-10-17
Posts: 138

Re: Keeping fit

Hello all,

First of all, apologies for not replying earlier, itís been really hectic these days.

Well, to the point. Thanks Michael for that explanation. I guess I've been trying to look for concrete answers from others when I have to look for my own ones. It's great anyway to hear what other people are doing to get ideas, but I completely agree that at the end I have to look for what works best for me. I'm just a beginner with Shakuhachi and I guess I haven't learned yet two key things for learning it: being patient and learning to live with uncertainty.

Itís always easier to look for ready made answers than to be willing to explore through trial and error. I think itís a common problem among people like me though, who donít have the time to be trying different things through several hours of practice a day; we look for shortcuts instead, for ways to make our limited practice time as efficient as it can. And that impatience that haunts me! But I guess it takes some time to get used to the idea of being learning something that you will only harvest the results after a number of years struggling (which I donít think is exclusive of Shakuhachi, take violin or sitar as examples).

Well, all your answers really help me to understand a bit more, and I think when learning something completely new, the philosophy behind it is fundamental, maybe even more than the mechanics of it. So thank you so much to all for helping me advance my understanding of this complex and wonderful experience.

Salud y alegrŪa para todos

Alex

P.S: By the way, thanks jumbuk for the tip on that DVD, it looks really interesting!


"An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he's "at" somewhere. You always have to realise that you are constantly in the state of becoming. And as long as you can stay in that realm, you'll sort of be all right"
Bob Dylan

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#10 2006-02-17 10:58:26

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Keeping fit

One small note:

The struggle IS the results...

eB


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#11 2006-02-17 19:48:34

chikuzen
Dai Shihan/Dokyoku
From: Cleveland Heights,OH 44118
Registered: 2005-10-24
Posts: 402
Website

Re: Keeping fit

Alex, addressing this simply, I think there are advantages to having only an hour or two of practice a day: You do focus in better sometimes than you might if you have all day. Depends on the quality of your practice.  Nevertheless, approaching your 'dilemma' of not wanting to wait many years to become a "good"player from a different viewpoint: nobody has to wait years, monthes or days to have a very valuable and fulling experience playing shakuhachi. From a spiritual viewpoint, you may have experiences from day one. You are a spiritual being and therefore in whatever you do you have the potential to tap into that part of yourself and become conscious of it. As a matter of fact, as I listen to most people's "confessions" of how they got into shakuhachi, it seems apparent that they had quite an experience at the begining and spend the rest of their playing days 'chasing that experience', so to speak. I believe shakuhachi has connected many people to a part of themslves that they want to use again and again, so, they keep playing. If you play 15 years you will become better technically for sure, but it doesn't mean your experience will be better. There's nothing happening in only the fact that you can suddenly play a song. Like Ed just said, along the way is where eveything's happening. From day one. I think shakuhachi is difficult enough to demand a high degree of concentration and uses the connection of your spiritual and physical bodies so that it demands energy yet creates energy. High degree of focus and high level of energy leads to interesting experiences! Look at what happens during meditation! Same thing. I'm betting that on the road to acquiring these tecniques that will enable you to play songs at the level you want to, you'll reap many unexpected rewards. Not suddenly after playing a long time.

Last edited by chikuzen (2006-02-17 19:49:54)


Michael Chikuzen Gould

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#12 2006-02-20 10:29:49

Alex
Member
From: Barcelona - Spain
Registered: 2005-10-17
Posts: 138

Re: Keeping fit

Hey guys!

Yes, I totally understand what you say about the process and not the goal. I read many things about the Bamboo way and I guess that's the idea behind it, the aim is not the final goal at the end of it but to enjoy the walking, and to learn from every step of it. I have to keep that in mind as I tend to forget it (must be my brain that is still in the process of re-wiring!)

Regarding practice time, I'm lucky if I manage to practice half an hour a day! But I'm sure, as Chizuken mentioned that if I manage to be focused during that half an hour I will get a lot out of it. I have to remember that as well, it's so easy to just play what you know already and leave the painful parts "for some other day"...

Got a lot of reflection to do, I must interiorise these concepts to make sure they donít slip from my mind again. Itís just so easy to get distracted!

Thanks again for all your help and support

Salud!

Alex


"An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he's "at" somewhere. You always have to realise that you are constantly in the state of becoming. And as long as you can stay in that realm, you'll sort of be all right"
Bob Dylan

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#13 2006-05-04 06:37:55

alkro
Member
From: Frankfurt/Germany
Registered: 2006-04-29
Posts: 4

Re: Keeping fit

Hi all,
I find swimming as a perfect exersise for breathing training and stammina. Freestyle or crawl like some are calling it will  strengthen you overall ability to take very deep breath and release it in a very controlled manner. I swimm 3x a week for one hour at the time, which is about one mile and a quarter, but I think half the amount will do just fine. Long distance swimming is almost like meditation, your breathing gets calm and controlled,  your mind gets free from all the worries and trouble around you and your over all level of fitness sky rockets.
Another good way of breath controll is to learn to play the didgeridoo. Once you master circular breathing you will be astonished how much it will help your ability playing the Shakuhachi.

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#14 2006-05-04 09:51:49

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
Website

Re: Keeping fit

alkro wrote:

Hi all,
I find swimming as a perfect exersise for breathing training and stammina. Freestyle or crawl like some are calling it will  strengthen you overall ability to take very deep breath and release it in a very controlled manner. I swimm 3x a week for one hour at the time, which is about one mile and a quarter, but I think half the amount will do just fine. Long distance swimming is almost like meditation, your breathing gets calm and controlled,  your mind gets free from all the worries and trouble around you and your over all level of fitness sky rockets.
Another good way of breath controll is to learn to play the didgeridoo. Once you master circular breathing you will be astonished how much it will help your ability playing the Shakuhachi.

John Singer says swimming is also very good for relieving hand problems caused by shakuhachi. He said that once he started swimming regularly his hand problems went away.

Could you elaborate on how knowing circular breathing improves shakuhachi playing?


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#15 2006-05-04 20:11:06

Moran from Planet X
Member
From: Here to There
Registered: 2005-10-11
Posts: 1524
Website

Re: Keeping fit

jumbuk wrote:

Riley Lee has a DVD on breathing exercises that may appeal to some.  I have heard good things about his breathing workshops.

Do you have a specific url on Riley's site for the DVD? I can't seem to find it. Thanks! --C.

Last edited by Chris Moran (2006-05-04 21:00:18)


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I am all out of bubblegum." óRowdy Piper, They Live!

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#16 2006-05-04 22:39:31

jumbuk
Member
From: South-eastern Australia
Registered: 2005-12-15
Posts: 85

Re: Keeping fit

Chris Moran wrote:

jumbuk wrote:

Riley Lee has a DVD on breathing exercises that may appeal to some.  I have heard good things about his breathing workshops.

Do you have a specific url on Riley's site for the DVD? I can't seem to find it. Thanks! --C.

You can find it on Amazon at:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00062 … &n=130

It looks a bit new-agey, can't comment on the actual content, but I have heard it is useful.


... as if nothing is happening.  And it is!

Paul Mitchell, Jumbuktu 2006

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#17 2006-05-04 22:41:44

Michael Howard
Member
From: Kingston WA
Registered: 2006-03-22
Posts: 44
Website

Re: Keeping fit

Aside from yoga various types of kinetic exercise and abdominal crunches, my diet is so important for. Low carbs, high protein, lots of FRESH fruits and veggies as well as blending your own juices strengthen the body, replenish cells and give you bundles of energy reserves for playing. It was recently recommended to me to explore the world of acupuncture in conjunction with taking live herbs, have any of you explored acupuncture?


The Tao is (like) the emptiness of a vessel; and in our employment of it we must be on our guard against all fulness. How deep and unfathomable it is, as if it were the Honoured Ancestor of all things!

www.kolbeflutes.com       http://www.myspace.com/bushidoshakuhachi

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#18 2006-05-05 02:55:10

alkro
Member
From: Frankfurt/Germany
Registered: 2006-04-29
Posts: 4

Re: Keeping fit

Tairaku wrote:

alkro wrote:

Hi all,
I find swimming as a perfect exersise for breathing training and stammina. Freestyle or crawl like some are calling it will  strengthen you overall ability to take very deep breath and release it in a very controlled manner. I swimm 3x a week for one hour at the time, which is about one mile and a quarter, but I think half the amount will do just fine. Long distance swimming is almost like meditation, your breathing gets calm and controlled,  your mind gets free from all the worries and trouble around you and your over all level of fitness sky rockets.
Another good way of breath controll is to learn to play the didgeridoo. Once you master circular breathing you will be astonished how much it will help your ability playing the Shakuhachi.

John Singer says swimming is also very good for relieving hand problems caused by shakuhachi. He said that once he started swimming regularly his hand problems went away.



Could you elaborate on how knowing circular breathing improves shakuhachi playing?

I find it a very good to try to play long notes with circular breathing, it helps me to ventilate my lungs better while playing and I also use my lungs AND my diaframe while playing. It is quite a challange to circular breath RO on a long flute, and still get a nice even sound.... ;-). Basically, for me it is a good exersise to get a good controlled airflow while playing.

Swimming also had other very positive "side effect" on my body. Since I started swimming regularly I have not had a single migrane attack. I used to have them frequently, but swimming eliminated them.
I also had problems with my ellbow, I think it is called "tennis ellbow" and it went away as well. I think it is the low impact exersise in a non gravity inviroment which is so good for the body.

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#19 2006-09-07 22:13:15

pablo63
Member
Registered: 2006-08-29
Posts: 25

Re: Keeping fit

Have been a member of the 'Art of Living Foundation' for only 2 years and have been practicing this sudarshan kriya (yoga of breath).  Perhaps that was why I was drawn to shakuhachi. In the one week (today) since my first lesson, also the same day I first recieved a note on this flute, my abs have felt like I've been doing crunches, my posture (chronic back & neck pain has been there for years) has straightend out considerably & I have more energy. ps... & my dog sits & listens to me play unlike the western style flute I have been a student of for 3 years.  Must be something to it...

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#20 2007-04-11 13:12:40

shinkage ryu
Member
From: Virginia
Registered: 2007-04-11
Posts: 19

Re: Keeping fit

I personally Begin to blow from the lung until a tone is made and then I slowy "push" the air out from the diaphragm.  This helps me sustain notes for much longer.  It is a very relaxed way to play as well.  Much more subtle and much less movement involved when playing this way.


ďWhat sort of person are you, really, inside and what lies concealed there?Ēóthe shakuhachi will undoubtedly supply the answer"
       
              (taken from: "Take No Kokoro" by by Kurahashi Yodo Sensei)

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#21 2007-04-12 00:59:46

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
Website

Re: Keeping fit

If you go on ebay or amazon there are lung exercisers that you blow into to develop your lungpower. I haven't tried it but I'm thinking about it because they're small and obviously don't make noise like a shakuhachi so it might be useful in certain circumstances like a hotel room in the middle of the night. Has anybody tried one and what's your impression?


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#22 2007-04-16 19:11:22

dstone
Member
From: Vancouver, Canada
Registered: 2006-01-11
Posts: 552
Website

Re: Keeping fit

Tairaku wrote:

If you go on ebay or amazon there are lung exercisers that you blow into to develop your lungpower. ...  Has anybody tried one and what's your impression?

I don't know anything about those lung exerciser contraptions, but here's another (quiet) lung-support suggestion...  wild mushrooms.  Specifically, supplementing with Reishi and Cordyceps have, apparently, traditionally helped Russian and Chinese atheletes and mountain guides develop greater lung potential.  Or so the marketing says -- do your own research, as with anything.  I supplement from time to time with tinctures or powdered versions of those mushrooms, not for lungs, but for general health or during times I feel extra run down or vulnerable to illness.  Panacea or placebo or poison?  Possibly.  As with any shrooms... choose sources very wisely.

-Darren.


When it is rainy, I am in the rain. When it is windy, I am in the wind.  - Mitsuo Aida

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#23 2007-04-17 14:45:11

Requiem Of The Forsaken
Member
From: Hobart, Tas
Registered: 2007-04-17
Posts: 8
Website

Re: Keeping fit

This may be the best place to ask this..

I'm an asthmatic and I can keep it under control, but I'm having issues holding air long enough to play for extended periods of time, being VERY new to the Shakuhachi, my sensei has told me that this ability will come in time, a fact I respect, however I'd like to help the process, if that's even possible? Anyone else have asthma? Or know of better ways to strengthen myself?

I've taken on board what shinkage ryu has said regarding the breathing technique.


"Let's be friends! ...If not, there's a waiting list."
"A student visited his master and said: "Master, this morning I played really well, it sounded fantastic, the best I've ever played!" The master simply replied: "Don't worry, it'll pass." - Tairaku

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#24 2007-04-17 17:35:29

caffeind
Member
From: Tokyo
Registered: 2006-04-13
Posts: 148

Re: Keeping fit

Ive had asthma for most of my life. Im on 400 gram Pulmicort. If I go without using it for a week I can be totally debilitated. I know of at least one very well known player who is also an asthmatic. It shouldnt affect your playing in any way if its properly managed. Shakuhachi playing might even help if the Buteko method works for you. Being new to the instrument would most likely be the reason you are having difficulty with long notes.

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#25 2007-04-17 21:11:58

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
Website

Re: Keeping fit

caffeind wrote:

Being new to the instrument would most likely be the reason you are having difficulty with long notes.

Yes. I had asthma and between acupunture and shakuhachi it went away. Now I only get occasional excercised induced asthma during intense workouts or in the cold. But the ability to play long phrases is something that definitely takes time to develop. The same rules that apply to any other kind of exertion and control apply here. Step by step. Blowing long tones helps strength. Then practicing music helps you develop the control to get to the end of a phrase while gradually releasing the breath. I am currently working on a piece that only has 13 breaths but lasts for 5 minutes. That is intense!


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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