100 Days of Practice Challenge 2019 Reflection

On Thursday, I celebrated the completion of both my Music 100 Days of Practice Challenge AND my Budo 100 Days of Practice Challenge. Neither went exactly as I had planned, but there were still some valuable lessons and takeaways from the experience.

Reviewing my 100 Days of Practice Challenge - Music

I didn’t do a good job at meeting any of my goals this round, as far as my featured trio of pieces are concerned. For those tuning in just now, they were Papillions by Robert Schumann, Danza del gaucho matrero by Alberto Ginastera, and Happy Together by The Turtles (originally, Somewhere Over the Rainbow). The reality of being a church choir musician - a multi-instrumentalist at that, and a piano teacher with mostly intermediate and advanced students preparing for festivals and exams - is that their repertoire took precedence over my featured trio because January to April was pretty hectic for both. I did hit some milestones though:

Papillions: I did learn the Introductzione, no. 2, no. 3, and #7. I determined early on that this was more a study piece than performance piece. I struggled with repetitive strain injury from the blocked octaves (Refer to my Day 30 & Day 70 Check-in). I struggled with trying to like the piece. I made my peace with that though. So long as I could play through those pieces slowly, remembering to relax my hands and arms between each blocked octave, I called it a success. Since Papillions didn’t spark joy for me, I was happy to “Konmari” it from my practice list.

Danza del gaucho matrero: I think I got about halfway through relearning it before Holy Week preparations took over my entire practice time. I have decided to continue working on it, with the endgame being to get the entire work, Danzas Argentinas, better than how I played it back in my ARCT days.

Happy Together: This was probably the one piece that got the closest to having a check mark on it. On Day 65, I recorded myself singing and playing the song on ukulele, and then practised on cajón whilst listening to the track.

Biggest takeaways? Balance. Having three pet projects during an incredibly busy time of the year was not a great life choice.

The second is that my singing-and-playing-at-the-same-time skills leveled up significantly this round. Funny what regular practice can accomplish, eh? Playing and singing at six out of seven of our Holy Week services was exhilarating and exhausting. I think this was perhaps the most I have done for Holy Week. Preparing for it was a test in endurance as well as adaptability, as things do change on the fly.

My brother and I played musical chairs in the rhythm section for the church choir throughout the Holy Week services. Photo credit: R-M Arca.

My brother and I played musical chairs in the rhythm section for the church choir throughout the Holy Week services. Photo credit: R-M Arca.

Perhaps the third takeaway was that if I’m going to choose a piece that has some connection with my late piano teacher, Irina Ginzburg, at least pick one of the pieces I actually love. There are several, but partway during this challenge, I gravitated towards Leyenda (Asturias) by Isaac Albéniz (the last piece we worked on together). The goal is to have it performance ready for my studio’s year-end recital.

Reviewing my 100 Days of Budo Practice Challenge

With the increased study and training time, I noticed that things have been sticking better in my brain and my muscles. There is less cross-contamination between the four martial arts I study. Oh, it’s still there, but just not as much.

Demonstrating Ukigumo from the Chuden Iaido set (Muso Shinden Ryu) at the 2019 Calgary Expo. Funny thing is, I was supposed to demonstrate Yamaoroshi, but hey - kigurai. Photo credit: Jonathon Wilkes.

Demonstrating Ukigumo from the Chuden Iaido set (Muso Shinden Ryu) at the 2019 Calgary Expo. Funny thing is, I was supposed to demonstrate Yamaoroshi, but hey - kigurai. Photo credit: Jonathon Wilkes.

The result is that I entered our martial arts demonstrations at the 2019 Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo with more confidence than years past.

More importantly, I got small glimpses of kigurai. My sensei once described it as the confidence you have from doing something numerous times. Sang Kim of Byakkokan Dojo says, “…it translates roughly into pride in your technique and confidence,” while Francis Briers uses, “self-possession” and “subtle but powerful confidence” (Source: The Training Journal). It’s the type of quiet confidence that a visiting sensei or senpai exudes as they walk into a new dojo. Or a musician walking onto the stage of a new-to-them venue.

The other takeaway isn’t new. If I want to squeeze in more training time (versus book/video study time), I need to schedule it in, just like I do with music practice. It also needs to be done before I start teaching piano for the day. I will have to keep fiddling with that perfect balance between studying and physical training.

Beyond the #100DaysofPracticeChallenge

“I think you now need 100 days of rest and contemplation,” posted one friend after I shared my Day 100 post on Facebook. I chuckled upon reading it. After 100 consecutive days of practice, with only one sick day, music and budo practice are just part of my daily routine now. I took yesterday off and it felt weird.

My general guideline is to keep violinist Jascha Heifetz’ quote in mind as I move forward. It is, “If I don't practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it."

I will continue plugging away with the spirit of the 100 Days of Practice Challenge but without the hashtag or the daily log updates on Instagram. If I’m away on vacation or need a day off, I’ll take time off, but otherwise, I’ll strive to practice and train daily. I will maintain my practice logs in my Budo and Music practice journals. Occasionally, I’ll post some “work in progress” clips on IG, but otherwise, I will try to get my students to show off a bit more on the studio IG page for the next little while.

I liked the practice parameters I set out for both challenges at the beginning. They offered me flexibility to get in quality practices, whether I had two minutes or three hours.

Musically, I have decided that one “me project” during the busy periods is probably easier to balance along with choir repertoire, student repertoire, and keeping my musician survival skills up to snuff.

Budo-wise, I am leaning towards training/studying three to four times a week, one day being at the dojo (due to my work schedule). On the off days, I’m going to work on cardio and/or core strengthening. I suppose, it still falls under budo as it is conditioning the mind and body. My other goal is to strive towards having two longer training sessions per week (or more).

#100DaysofPractice - Student Update

Most of my students participated in the 100 Days of Practice Challenge. All who did have recently wrapped up their 100 days of practice. Some have opted to finish the year doing 30 Days of Practice Challenges, while others settled on doing one more 60 Days of Practice Challenge. Once all of their surveys have been turned in, I will share some of their takeaways from the experience.

100 Days of Practice - Closing Thoughts

One worry that I have is that by not tying my practice to an official #100daysofpractice challenge online, I will fall off the bandwagon. I have to have faith that after completing four of these practice challenges (one #30daysofpractice music challenge, two 100 days of practice music challenges, and one #100daysofmartialarts challenge), that I won’t.

I have several studio administrative projects and tasks that I am woefully behind on, so I need to spend more time on those overdue items. To be honest, reviewing the videos and photos to post daily did eat up a lot of time that could have been spent on those other tasks. I have a couple of ideas for future 100 days of practice challenges, which can wait till the summer or the fall.

Who else has completed their 100 Days of Practice Challenge? I’d be interested in hearing about you experiences.