A few months ago, my son and I began taking weekly drumming lessons. The intention was to spend some quality time together doing something fun and different. Outside of the beloved recorder (flutophone for you East Coasters) I never learned to play an instrument in my youth. I have always felt music and playing an instrument are incredibly valuable activities for personal growth and expression.
The first handful of lessons quickly made evident this wasn’t going to be easy…at least not for me. I will credit my study and training in the Filipino martial arts, especially that in Kali, helped tremendously as swinging sticks was not totally foreign to me. Coordinating both hands and feet while mentally keeping time and tempo was a real challenge.
The parallels between music and the martial arts are frightening numerous. The focus and emphasis on basics being paramount. Basic sticking develops foundational skills from which everything builds. When in doubt, go back to the basics. Every beat structure or fill is rooted in the basics.
Many weapons arts use basic patterns as tools to develop fundamental movements. As those patterns become learned variations are introduced. Over time those variations become so numerous that the pattern essentially disappears, and an almost random flowing ensues. One of the mantras expressed is learn the pattern, to know the pattern, to forget the pattern.
Drumming is the same. Drumming begins with ridged patterns (rudiments) then incorporates variations. Over time, with practice, those rudiments and variations become a flowing movement. To a novice ear it’s an intricate weave of sounds that feels random yet perfect at the same time; it’s music. To the trained ear it’s just a paradiddle rudiment with a flam lead and doubles on the end.
What I soon realized was how much I missed being a student. Having that awkward feeling of learning a completely new skill. An activity that challenges you physically and mentally. It brought a smile to my face. That smile was soon replaced by complete frustration and wanting to throw the sticks across the room…that’s another conversation. I become enamored enough I ended up scheduling a second lesson for myself.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m always learning. One of the beauties of the martial arts is there is ALWAYS something new to learn and someone to learn from. What I’m talking about is learning something completely different, something outside of your wheelhouse. Something that almost humiliates you in the beginning as if to say don’t think you’re going to come in here and just figure this out with a half-assed effort.
The martial arts have always stressed the importance of maintaining a white belt’s mentality. Meaning one should approach training with a blank slate (or an empty cup) and a willingness to learn (to fill the cup). Learning something new has countless benefits beyond the skill itself. Research indicates learning forces the brain to create new neural connections potentially staving off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s; the more challenging the better. Learning reinvigorates us and stimulates growth mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
Mastery of a skill is great. When is comes to overall health and wellness, the task of learning a new skill may be even better. Been thinking about a new hobby or trying to learn an instrument? Do it! Don’t wait. Schedule a lesson or even find something on YouTube and go at it. I am willing to bet if nothing else your mood and energy will pick up. I look forward to my weekly drumming lesson where an inanimate piece of equipment and two sticks completely humble me every time…it’s great!
Shout out to my instructor Jason Clinton over at Gruv Studio!!!
Everyday Is Training Day – Reap What You Sow