Nik Bärtsch is one of the central figures of the Zurich based, swiss minimal rhythmic music scene. His band Ronin plays every Monday night at Exil. Friends and I have been going there regularly for our dose of Ritual Zen Funk. These concerts each have been wonderful experiences.
A couple of weeks ago, Nik announced a Winter Workshop, a long weekend in Tessin. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough attendees, so it had to be shortened to just one Saturday. That was yesterday, and I had the pleasure to take part in a long and intensive movement and rhythm workshop in the Kokoro Dojo where Nik and Andrea led a very small group (just two of us).
The day started with warm-up/stretching and then a sitting meditation. Aferwards there was intense work on finding and using the body center for standing and moving. We investigated how to use the center and the hips to affect (rhythmical) movements - for example walking or shaking a shaker. These execercises went on for several (long) minutes each. While it might sound boring to walk around for a couple of minutes, it was an experience that led me to understand my body quite a bit better. And the act of lifting an arm and start to feel, realize and understand how the bodys center of gravity changes and what it does to counteract the desire to fall over (and how to conciscously work with ones center to have better posture).
Later we worked with the jō, the wooden staff used as a weapon in Aikido. It has been over 7 years since I stopped practicing Aikido, but my body stil remembered how to hold and handle the jō.
After the lunch break, we continued to work on movement and rhythm. While shaking a shaker doesn’t seem to be that difficult, it gets substantially more complicated when you have to use the other hand for something different - like throwing and catching balls. Again, working on an exercise like that for (seemingly) many minutes at a time could seem boring, but it was a great experience, especially when suddenly the two unrelated movements started to become totally independent and the throwing didn’t interrupt the rhytmically shaking. Of course, Nik had to up the ante and we had to do the same, while standing on a balancing soft ball. It was already difficult to keep the balance on this without anything else going on, so shaking and throwing balls at the same time led to much hilarity.
A further exercise took the shaking / throwing / catching balls and combined it with one of the exercises that we did with the jō. One participant was surrounded by the others who “attacked” (i.e. threw their ball) at random time.
The day ended with Shihatsu, stretching and another meditiation and a reflection on the day.
It’s difficult to put in words what I learned and experienced. Some of the takeaways and great moments were “so small” - like being able to do things concurrently or just to be aware of the way I walk - that they hardly seem worth mentioning. Still I have the feeling that my body and me were able to learn a lot and that these learnings are going to make a difference in both general posture and posture while playing.
Overall: A wonderful experience and one I will hopefully be able to repeat again soon. Thanks Nik & Andrea for the workshop and the hospitality.