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Aikido and Piano are a good match for Sakura (Video) (Note the rolling forward wrist motion in Kabalevsky’s “Galop”)

Main article: Aikido
Aikido shihōnage technique.

“Aikido (合氣道:あいきどう aikidō?) is a modern grappling-based Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (植芝 盛平 Ueshiba Morihei, 1883 – 1969). The art consists of “striking”, “throwing” and “joint locking” techniques and is known for its fluidity and blending with an attacker, rather than meeting “force with force”. Emphasis is upon joining with the rhythm and intent of the opponent in order to find the optimal position and timing with which to apply force. Aikidō is also known for emphasizing the spiritual and philosophical development of its students reflecting the religious background of its founder.

“Morihei Ueshiba developed aikido mainly from Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu incorporating training movements such as those for the yari (spear), jō (a short quarterstaff), and perhaps also juken (bayonet). Arguably the strongest influence is that of kenjutsu and in many ways, an aikidō practitioner moves as an empty handed swordsman.”

Sakura comes for her lesson when it’s already dark at 6:30 p.m. and she’s in full Aikido garb.

At 12, she speaks Japanese and German fluently. And it can get confusing at times when one or the other parent picks her up and chatters off in the native language. (Dad is from Germany, mom, from Japan)

I’m always awestruck when Sakura easily slips from one mode of communication to another without skipping a beat.

Both parents, University faculty, were determined to keep their cultures preserved as they raised three children and what a nice job they have done!


Sakura has taken piano lessons for two years now, and is one of my rare left-handed pupils. It doesn’t seem to factor into her playing, because I wouldn’t know of this predisposition if my eyes were open or closed.

Her pronounced dedication to practicing has an intensity that keeps propelling her forward, and she understands the importance of keeping the steady rhythm of learning alive and well.

In the repertoire arena, Sakura has studied the works of J.C. Bach, J.S. Bach, Kabalevsky, Clementi, and Mozart.

Recently, she performed Bach’s Prelude no. 1 in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier at her Middle School talent show. And through the grapevine I heard that it was with flying colors.

Yesterday, on a cold evening in Fresno, she played a sprightly “Galop” by Kabalevsky and demonstrated her mastery of the spring forward wrist. (Notice the rolling motion that drives the 16ths to the long note)

Bravo, Sakura! You’re a joy to teach!

Dimitri Kabalevsky, Galop by Kabalevsky, Kabalevsky, Kabalevsky Op. 39 Children's pieces, piano, piano instruction, piano practicing, piano technique,, pianoworld,, playing staccato at the piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, teaching piano to children, word press,, you tube, you tube video

Teaching Clowns by Kabalevsky, from the Op. 39 Children’s Pieces for piano

This is a tricky miniature packed with robust energy. The parallel Major/minor duality is fleshed out with a quick build-up to climax. The challenge is to sustain a Left Hand staccato ostinato, a repeated bass pattern, while observing separate articulation and phrasing in the right hand. Effective dynamic contrasts make a performance even more poignant.


Teaching “Galop” by Kabalevsky

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Piano Lesson: Teaching and playing “Galop” by Kabalevsky from the Op. 39 Children’s Pieces (Videos)

Don’t do a double take on the spelling of “Galop” because every edition I’ve seen up close and personal, does not have the expected double l.

If it were as simple to play this piece as spelling its name correctly or incorrectly, I wouldn’t have a problem. But in truth, a miniature like this is a mountain of a challenge. (Kabalevsky, a 20th Century composer, was Director of a music school in Russia and conceived his compositions with a particular technical goal in mind. His Children’s Pieces Op. 39, comprise a colorful collection with an assortment of moods)

From Kabalevsky an Introduction to his Piano Works, Willard Palmer, Editor:

“While teaching his young students, Kabalevsky came to realize that there was a great need for simple and interesting piano pieces that would maintain the student’s interest and at the same time introduce the various problems of technique and musicianship in such a way as to make them easily grasped and understood.”


Last night, my second year piano student, Sakura, who is left-handed, attentively practiced “Galop,” focusing on phrasing and articulation in each hand. That’s the rub–trying to play slurred groups of two 8ths in the left hand against a spin of 5 notes in the right. And what about the balance issue. The left hand must not scream and overshadow the right though the temptation is to pound away at those staccato chords where they come at the CLIMAX, from measures 9 through 16. There’s a melody to consider and just the same, you don’t want to sound like Rosie the Riveter. Keep your shock absorb wrists supple and spongy.

Basically, “Galop” is a high intensity piece regardless of its peak coming dead center. You’ll always need your energy reserves in high gear, but be sure not to spill your guts where you find yourself losing control.

Practice as slowly as possible with consciousness about the interaction of both hands at any given time, and then raise up your tempo in increments.

Above all, enjoy the ride and keep your cool.

Sakura’s lesson: