View Full Version : Budo and Guitars- my 12 month journey

John Lindsey
12th April 2003, 19:09
This month marks my one 1 year anniversary at playing the guitar. It is something I always wanted to do, but never really got around to it. Last year I was watching my daughter perform in her school band (she plays the flute) and I decided to get a guitar and go for it.

I started out with a cheap Stratocaster electric guitar. I didnít know what to expect at all. Well, the first 3 months were pure hell at times. I averaged about 1 to 2 hours of practice a day. My fingers hurt like hell and I felt so uncoordinated. Chords were hard to play, and barre chords were utterly impossible. But, I never once thought of quiting. The more I played, the more I was drawn into the magic surrounding music and guitars.

During this time I traveled to Japan for my annual visit to train with my teacher. I didnít want to go away for 4 weeks and not play guitar, so I bought a nice Ovation acoustic to take with me. Wow! That was the first time I really played around with an acoustic and it was like gasoline hitting a fire. While I love electric guitars, there is something about a good acoustic that seems to have a greater range of musical expression, if that makes sense. When Tanemura Sensei greeted me at the airport, he noticed my guitar case and smiled. He told me that it was good that I was learning how to play the guitar. Not only does it relate to budo in many ways, but it makes people feel good when you play it. Being a beginner, I was worried that he might ask me to play something later! I knew he would not feel very good after hearing meÖ

While in Japan, I tried to learn a song called ďGreensleevesĒ which I have always loved. One day while playing guitar in Japan, I hear the same song being played over a loudspeaker! I am not sure if it was from one of those advertisement vans that drive around with loudspeakers, or whatever, but it was a funny situation. I tried to play with the song, but I was too slow and thinking too much about what I was doing. I knew how to play the song, but I really hadnít learned the song. It was not a natural part of me yet.

The first song I really learned well was on an acoustic and was called ďEpiphanyĒ by Staind (it was a hit last year). A simple song with only a few chords in an alternate tuning, but it sounded so beautiful.

Looking back on the past year, I can say that the study of martial arts and music have many common traits. The most obvious one is perseverance and self-study. To get good, you have to put the time and the sweat into both. Going to a few classes a week is ok, but if you want to excel, it has to be through your willpower and dedication. You have to really want it, and it also means that you have to make it a priority in your life.

After about 6 months, I was able to comfortably play all of the open chords and switch between them without sounding bad. But, my timing was not very good and they didnít flow very well. It reminded me of my early days as a kid doing judo. I could do the throws, but putting them all together without thinking was difficult.

Well, itís been a year now and I am still a beginner. I can play some songs, but more importantly I am starting to play without thinking about it. I can listen to a song and pick out the strumming pattern and some of the chords. I sit down and improvise with different chord patterns till I come up with something that sounds good. I know I have many years of practice in front of me, but I have reached a point where playing the guitar has become very enjoyable, almost like a form of musical meditation (or maybe musical medication?).

My martial art training has not suffered at all during this time, because I make time for both. In some ways, there has been a beneficial synergy with the two. As a martial arts instructor, I have a better understanding of how being a beginner feels and that I had forgotten how hard martial arts were 20 years ago when I started.

Anyone else have similar experiences with music and martial arts?

R Erman
12th April 2003, 23:07
Good Afternoon John,

I too find a lot in common between martial arts and music. Often when trying to discuss the meaning of the universe I make allusions between martial arts, religion, and music(guitar specifically). I also find it a form of meditation.

I've been 'playing'(at) guitar for about ten years, and I'm still a beginner as well. I play accoustic and also own an Ovation(Inicidently Greensleeves was one of my first songs as well and I still play around with it adding in little additions here and there).

I've long since moved past wanting to play the electric(most of the time). Unfortunately, when I first started I wanted to be the next Ven Halen, Satriani, Vai so I played more scales and runs than really focussing on chords and rhythm--to my detriment, so my 'strumming' still suffers a bit--but I can play some cool diminished riffs and some Al Di Meola-ish stuff:) Just don't ask what key I'm in unless it's A minor or D, D, the peoples key. One of my favorites to play is an accoustic piece by Joe Satriani called 'Tears in the Rain'. It has some of those parapalegic-spider-chords(that's what your hand looks like when fingering them) and if you try to name the chords they have lots of 'add 2', or 'diminished 5ths' in them.

Mostly, I play fingerstyle now. But I occaisonally have fits to pick up the pick and work on popular stuff(been working on a song by Tantric recently).

That's my spiel for now,

Keep picking and grinning:)

Mike Williams
19th April 2003, 13:05
Glad you're enjoying the journey John!

I've been playing guitar for years, but only recently started MA (3 years or so) - but I've noticed a lot of similarities in the learning process.

I mainly play acoustic (with occasional forays onto the electric). About a year ago I bought a mandolin as a new challenge. I've just finished a week of (residential) intensive tuition on the mandolin under an amazing teacher - the musical equivalent of visiting your hombu dojo, I guess.

Finding the time for picking and training does require some effort - but I couldn't imagine life without both.



Don Cunningham
19th April 2003, 13:35
A couple of years ago, I bought a shakuhachi from one of the vendors at the San Francisco sword show where I was signing copies of my book. It took nearly a month before I could even make any sound at all and about three months before I could play the scales consistently. My main problem has been finding books or Internet information about how to play the bamboo flute. Finding a teacher in the Chicago area has been impossible.

I took the shakuhachi with me to Japan last year. One Saturday morning I was waiting for a friend and decided to play it outside. After a few minutes of a nearly recognizable "Sakura," a maintenance man came up to listen. Soon others gathered around and congratulated me on trying such a difficult instrument. We began talking and sharing similar experiences. By the time my business partner arrived to open the office, I had made about a half dozen new friends.

Other than the haunting Zen like sound, a side benefit of the shakuhachi is learning how to control your breathing. It has actually helped my martial arts training.

Gene Williams
19th April 2003, 14:08
Hey guys, What an interesting thread. I've been playing guitar for years, and I'm still a beginner, too. I mostly play country (the old stuff), blue grass, and oldies (50's, 60's), but I learned to play listening to the Kingston Trio:D One of the most profound lessons about martial arts I ever had came from music. I have a friend who is a studio musician in Nashville (and defintely not a beginner). We were playing a song and he performed a particularly nice little fill. I said, "Wow, that was nice." He responded, "It took me about ten years to learn how to do that, and about ten more to learn when not to do it." Reminded me of the saying, "Perfection is not when there is no longer anything to add, it is when there is no longer anything to take away." Gene

19th April 2003, 19:21
I keep my old guild f-212-XL which sounds a lot better wit a cedar top on it than the original deck which got watersoaked in 1984 and wasn't fixed until 1991. I kind of like the wider board, which is strung for a six string rather than twelve.

Started noodling around 1973, and these days, I tend to play a couple a dozen of my own compositions rather that standards.

If I get bored, and the house is empty, sans kids, I can pull out me old 1970 guild and plug into either the little carry around amp, or dust off the old system I keep in the cellar.

I Iget bored with that, I can pull out the 1965 Moserite hollow body electric, with the snakeskin striker board/ spring loaded bridge and make that little puppy cry like the old sixtys surfer dudes used to do.

The journey of Budo sometimes needs a sidebar of music, and that music is the medicine to soothe the soul.

I got some really neat guitar picks from the EMP center in Seattle, Washington last years, and if you get a chance to pick some up they are quite creative in helping to create different styles of picking/ strumming than a plain old plastic guitar pick. The aren't as good as tortoise shell, but they do make the strings sound better.

Don't be in a hurry to condition your fingertips or strengthen your hands to easily do bar cords .... it is just like martial arts ... it takes time to strengthen the muscles and coordinate the hands.

I still keep a beater guitar, cheap with nylon strings that don't bite into the fingertips, because I have always had one, and my daughter, 21 years old, thought she might want to learn. As it happened, her social life took off and dad gets the old beater guitar back without having to buy a good guitar, oh well.

I am glad to see some struggling musicians doing budo too.

Best side benefit is not having to strain with grips because of an increased finger strength. And somedays, other people besides me want to listen to what I am playing with appreciation...... now .... If I could just get my wife and kids to throw money ....

Phil Farmer
30th April 2003, 15:18
It's interesting that I happened on this thread. Two weeks ago, the grandson of the creator of Yoseikan was here in Texas to teach clinics. He has developed two things that utilize music as part of the training. One is called Yoseikan Training and it is a skill specific form of aerobic workout. The other is currently being called Yoseikan Sparring and it, too, uses music.

What Mitchi Mochizuki has discovered is that his students can train longer and harder with the music and their basic skill level is developing faster. His father, Hiroo Mochizuki, used the traditional Japanese drumming to teach fluid movement in karate thirty years ago. Any of us who have trained on kata with an instructor counting the moves have basically done martial arts to rhythm. Capoeria (sp.) is the most obvious application.

It makes sense that there is a rhythm to all that we do and in aikido, the idea of "harmonizing" with your opponent is key to the art. It should not be a surprise that music and martial arts go together, but until our clinic, I had a hard time seeing the relationship. Now, I am sold on the idea that there are many applications. A final picture for you: three or four years ago, Master Minoru Mochizuki went to live in France with his son. He was sitting and watching a very nervous grandson use music with Yoseikan for the first time. Mitchi explained that he was worried about what his grandfather might think. He did his workout, no indication from the inscrutible grandfather,and then he left. After he was gone, Master Minoru told his own son that what he had seen was wonderful, a great application of the art in a new way. Now how is that for getting approval for music and martial arts to go together - from a (then)93 year old Japanese National Treasure.

Keep on strumming John, you're definitely on to something.

Phil Farmer

John Lindsey
30th April 2003, 23:37

I am a lefty too, but play a right handed guitar. Yes, guitar is difficult to learn at first, but it gets better after a few months. What did you find hard about it?

My son is 4 years old and he loves to strum the guitar to hear the noise it makes. He even moves his left hand like he is trying to make chord changes :).

Gil Gillespie
5th May 2003, 04:29
I tried at various times to learn guitar but it never "took." I was learning basic folk chords (C,F,G) and everything was a struggle. Years later (1976) in San Francisco a guitar playin buddy put a guitar in my hand and said "Here, play." I said "I've tried; I can't." He said "You never played the blues."

That 1st night he taught me E and A and I could carry rhythm while he played screamimg solos. I was thrilled. Over the next many weeks I struggled with the B7 for the turnaround, but what really tripped me was that I didn't have to count the changes. I could FEEL EM. The blues were in me from all those years of R&B.

The greatest tie in he told me that later plugged into budo was to never think that I was practicing to do it later. Always do it NOW with all the soul, passion & joy you got in ya!

5th May 2003, 15:38
I'm learning guitar too, but only as a hobby. I couldn't adapt myself to the acoustic, but when I tried an electric one I fell in love with it. Since I'm a computer geek, I'm curious about Gibson's new <a href="http://magic.gibson.com/digitalguitar.html">digital guitar</a>.

My roommate was a high level capoeirista (capoeira practioner), and by watching capoeira groups I could easily find a connection between music and martial arts.

19th May 2003, 06:04
Hi, Im new to this forum and I considered interesting to add something here; It seems that youre doing good Mr. Lyndsey, enthusiasm could lead you far in your musical journey, I suggest you to learn to use your right fingers to play (no pick) due you re lefty but playing right side, you should overcome finger bars problems shortly. That Ovation guitars offers a pretty neat sound that resembles Spanish studio ones.

Often it is said that dancers makes good martial artists (wich is true) and musicians goes far or came before that dancers also, not all musicians make their own music, not all martial artist develop their own personal style, soon you will discover wich your path is and both (to compose or playing others) will give great pleasure. Learn to play simple pieces first in relaxed manner, you dont have to be tight for to be fast, been rytmic or following tempos.

Take care that if you have d learned properly, you dont have to be a master to teach your child (that soon be able) to the level youve reached.

music, martial arts or whatever other stuff is committed by natural talent and/or personal effort; Natural talent means less effort and greater/quiker results, while personal efforts means not that easy but assured results.

Last, not to tire you out, learn for your own benefit how to enter in creative states while playing, the thing is the more you learn the more easy for you should be play in beginners mind when it is your desire, that will come soon or later.
All this and much more is transpasable entirely to martial practises.

Manuel Chiquito Anderson
Caracas, Venezuela

joe yang
23rd May 2003, 20:43
I used to play a lot. I had a cheap Gibson, a Melody Maker and a great old Fender Twin Reverb. Today I'm using a little Pig Nose amp, but I have a Telecaster and an Ovation. They're my wifes. I'm pretty much a delta blues type. Someday I'll have a National. I love bottle neck slide.

24th May 2003, 01:45
Nice sound that old Fender twins (2 and 4 speakers), very clean sound one gets. Once I owned a Roland built in flanger beatiful sound, then I bought a Peavey nice stuff I used for many years.

Last I sold a purple BC Rich, the two sunbust and red Yamahas, the black Ibanez, the Krammer, the imitation SG

I used to exchange guitars for a while with a band partner he had good taste 54 Les Paul Gibson, couple Fender Strato, that old big box electric Gibson model, a cheap Pacific and old Weston.

I lost a nice acoustic Yamaha (that a friend of mine oil painted a beatiful landscape at the botton of the box) and a hand made Paloma Spanish, they were stolen 10 years a go.

I still have that semi-acustic Ovation, a Ariana and three Spanish

manuel chiquito anderson

7th November 2004, 01:26
I thought before I called my local Guitar Store and showed myself to be a complete nurd and guitar beginer I would do it here first. I was wondering if there is some software like voice recogntiion that would allow me to play my guitar into the computer and then display that output in tab or notation form.

D. Harpster