Prior to the student practicing the instructed strokes and kanji, the student is advised to perform (some level/amount of) “Warm-up” exercises. Doing so will “re-acclimate” the student with (correctly) using the brush, and will reinforce the instructed methodology's during their practice of Shodo.
The student should sit comfortably (whether at a table, desk or a “Shodo-bench” or where ever they are practicing the instructed techniques.W
The back should remain straight, and the arm's are relaxed.
The brush should be held with the fingertip's, with the wrist remaining straight.
The forearm remains parallel to the work surface/paper.
ALL strokes should be performed by motioning the torso, via the waist (the arm should only move minimally, if at all) and never through the wrist.
When the brush touches the paper, it should immediately begin moving.
“Speed” (of brush motion) is determined only by “ink flow” (from the brush), not for attempting to create “effect”.
The student should “Exhale” in conjunction with the brushes motion (inhaling when the brush is lifted from the paper).
Warm-up Practice's Utilized at this school include:
The “Bounce” technique (review)
Correct “Breathing” (Exhale with the stroke, Inhale when the brush is lifted from the paper)
Vertical/Horizontal Stroke brushing
Corner and Connection review
“Zen” circle (brush control) practice
The “Bounce” Technique
The “name” of this technique can be misleading. The motion is not (literally) a “bounce”, it is a (controlled) raise, and re-setting of the brush. This technique is used for a “couple” of situations. The most frequent/common use, is when the finishing “Mother-Dot” is set at the end of a stroke (to clean the “outer” edge of the stroke). The next is similar (in results) as the motion is often done when brushing a “corner”(as done in the Carpenter's Square strokes). The last (at least in my own experience) is for aiding in the creation of the (bottom) “corner” (of the “Praying fish”and the “Long Wave” strokes).
To perform this action, the stroke is made, and when the desired end is reached, the brush (body) is lifted from the paper (leaving the “tip”of the brush in contact with it). This allows any “stray” hairs to realign before the brush is again lowered to the paper. This motion is inclined (though hardly “guaranteed”) to “clean” the outer edges and/or aid in creating a clean “corner”. The motion is easily performed, and (several) students claim to use it for “other” purposes (?) in their brushing of the various “styles” as well. I have no (direct) knowledge of those methods, so I can't confirm/deny any of them (feel free to “experiment” on your own).
Breathing (while brushing Calligraphy)
The “rule” for correct breathing (while brushing calligraphy) are simple, Exhale when the brush is in motion, and Inhale, when the brush is lifted from the paper. Obviously, a slight breath should be taken prior to brushing, but be aware that “Inhaling” while motioning the brush will (often) “mess-up” the stroke being attempted. This becomes more challenging as one becomes more proficient at brushing the character's (kana & kanji), as one is inclined to brush more kanji with each “reload” of the brush.
Vertical/Horizontal Stroke Brushing
This warm-up is intended to acclimate the student to motioning via the “waist” (to produce the brush strokes). The student will first brush a straight line across the top of the page (Left to Right). The stroke is began with the “Mother-Dot” and is continued across the page and is ended/completed with another “Mother-Dot”. This is repeated (Top to Bottom) until the entire page is filled. The student then (beginning on the RIGHT SIDE, in order to acclimate to the Japanese manor of brushing) will set a “Mother-Dot” at the upper-right corner, and pull the brush downward to the bottom of the page. The stroke(s) are alternately “ended”, with (another) “Mother-Dot” and/or a “Tapered Point”.
Variances in stroke thickness can additionally be addressed during this practice. Attention is focused on the brush “Tip” which is maintained along the “upper-edge” (for the horizontal strokes) and the “Left-Side Edge” (for the vertical strokes).
Corner and Connection Review
This exercise begins with the student brushing a horizontal stroke (roughly) a 1/3 the width of the paper. The student then performs a “Bounce” (explained elsewhere), then pulls the brush downward (towards the bottom of the paper). The student then brushes (another) horizontal line that terminates “within” the vertical stroke (previously brushed. The next stroke begins where the last Horizontal stroke began, and is pulled (directly) downward, the brush is lifted and performs a “Bounce”. The brush is pulled to the right (in the manner used when brushing “ichi”) to the same distance as is (directly) above it. Another “Bounce” is enacted, and the brush is pulled downward. These actions are repeated until two (2) columns of these strokes are completed (see example for clarification).
Numerous aspects to brush use/manipulation can be utilized in this exercise. There can be “width” variations (in either/both horizontal/vertical strokes), “corner” (Carpenter's Square/Reverse Carpenter's Square) review (upper-right, lower-left), “Ichi”. This exercise will remind the student of numerous details when they begin brushing the kanji being practiced.
“Zen” Circle (brush control) practice
This Exercise is (mainly) used to review the student's ability with utilizing the “waist” to perform their brush motions. The student can choose to begin at the bottom (as shown in this example) or at the top of the paper (it's an irrelevancy). Note that there are no “straight” lines produced in this practice. As soon as the brush comes in contact with the paper, it is motioning in a “curve”. This “circles” can begin in (either) the center (going from smaller to bigger), or on the outer edges initially (going larger, to smaller). The student's focus, should be on their arm NOT moving. All motion should be achieved via the motion of the waist. This is also practice in “upward/downward” brush motion. As the student motions forward, across and back, they will have to compensate their forearm's distance to the paper. This will be evidenced through the resultant variances in the produced “strokes”. The “goal” is to maintain a consistent size (of stroke) throughout the individual circles (as well as creating a “symmetrical” set of circles).