Broadsword and a Ukulele

Broadsword and ukulele

My Tai Chi teacher recent­ly added the Yang style broadsword to the cur­ricu­lum. I’d be lying if I said I was­n’t ecsta­t­ic, as I’ve wait­ed quite a while to learn a weapon form. There’s some­thing roman­tic and exot­ic about wield­ing one of the four great Chinese weapons. I find it delight­ful­ly iron­ic that it’s a gwei­lo who’s cat­alyzed such an inter­est in my own cul­ture. Take THAT, my racist and sex­ist Chinese ances­tors.

As for the ukulele, one day I found out how inex­pen­sive they can be and bought one right away. It’s a Mahalo Les Paul style ukulele (right down to the square tun­ing pegs) with an extend­ed neck for high­er reg­is­ter notes. In many ways, the ukulele is the per­fect instru­ment for me right now; cheap, easy enough that I can teach myself1, and not too hard on the fin­gers2.

It feels fuck­ing fan­tas­tic to be play­ing music in some form again. I did years of piano and flute lessons in ele­men­tary school to high school, and took a very long hia­tus from then till now. And that was most­ly in band, when I could­n’t choose the music I want­ed to play. Now I can play the songs I like, and the advan­tage is that I’ve prob­a­bly heard them a few hun­dred times so I already know them inside-out.

With my years of music lessons and per­for­mances from my youth, it’s not like I’m learn­ing music from scratch, I’m sim­ply fig­ur­ing out how to apply what I already know about tone, pos­ture, tun­ing, vol­ume, fin­ger­ing3, tim­ing, and into­na­tion, to anoth­er instru­ment. Admittedly, it’s been very slow going, and it’s like I’m learn­ing a new lan­guage as I train my fin­gers to achieve a dex­ter­i­ty that was nev­er there before.

The inter­est­ing thing is that my last few years prac­tic­ing Tai Chi has helped me learn the ukulele. In my Tai Chi class, I’ve gained the patience and per­se­ver­ance required to prac­tice the same moves over and over again until they become a nat­ur­al part of my mus­cle mem­o­ry. In the begin­ning, it was a lot of con­cen­tra­tion spent just try­ing to remem­ber what to do next in the form, but now that I don’t need to think about them when I prac­tice, my con­cen­tra­tion goes into fine-tun­ing the lit­tle details. The same prin­ci­ples can be applied to the ukulele (or any instru­ment, for that mat­ter), and I’m try­ing to get to the point where I don’t need to think about what my fin­gers should be doing, and just con­cen­trate on play­ing with the right kind of expres­sive­ness.

Which is why I have a broadsword and a ukulele rest­ing on the wall next to my desk. Any time I need a break, I pick up one of them and prac­tice for a few min­utes.

  1. Because I real­ly don’t have time for anoth­er time-con­sum­ing hob­by []
  2. The strings are nylon, instead of the met­al of gui­tars, so the cal­lous­es aren’t as bad. The health of my hands is also an impor­tant thing to me. []
  3. Though the fin­ger­ing for a stringed instru­ment is real­ly dif­fer­ent from piano and flute. []


  1. Its awe­some that youre teach­ing your­self the ukulele
    Keep it up man !!

    Next house show will fea­ture YOU as the open­ing num­ber haha

    • Hah, no, the only way I’ll actu­al­ly be per­form­ing is if I ever wrote my own stuff, which I have no plans to do. Unless, of course, you pick up gui­tar too, and we FORM A BAND LIKE ML. YES.

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