If there’s one performing arts group at the College that everyone has heard shaking the Union—drawing ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from prospective students on tours—it’s the Bowdoin Taiko drumming team. And that’s just how leader Adam Eichenwald ’14 likes it.

Eichenwald joined Taiko as a first year while exploring his passion for kung fu and jiu-jitsu. Eichenwald is also a member of the College’s break dancing club, Broken, an activity he also attributes to his love of martial arts.

Six years ago during a summer in Spain, Eichenwald, who hails from Dallas, met a peer from New York who was studying kung fu. Eichenwald fell in love with the art immediately.

“He showed me some of what he was doing and I said ‘I’m doing that,’” recalled Eichenwald.

Eichenwald began practicing as soon as he returned to Texas, travelling to Plano to learn under an instructor who traced his martial arts lineage back to the first kung fu school in China. 

“I fell into it then. I came to love it,” said Eichenwald. “I was terrible.”

After a few years of hard work and dedication, Eichenwald had the experience of a lifetime. The summer after he graduated high school, Eichenwald left Texas and headed to China to study under Shaolin kung fu monks in the Shandong province.

“I’m only five years in. I’m considered a novice,” said Eichenwald. “Monks train for twenty years on a single set of techniques before they’re considered masters.”

To Eichenwald, kung fu is more than self-defense—it’s an art.

“A painter takes colors or a piece of wood or scraps and makes it into an organized something that appeals to the senses. A martial artist does the same with his or her own body,” he said.

An appreciation for movement and artistry gave Eichenwald the passion for his diverse extracurricular activities at Bowdoin. Eichenwald feels that groups like Taiko and Broken have found a place within the College’s arts community because they fill a niche that more strictly visual arts disciplines do not.

“I feel like we [stimulate] a sense that isn’t stimulated from a painting,” said Eichenwald. “The energy and passion that comes from what my groups do provide a different form of art that gets to a different sense.”

"'Kung fu’ means ‘excellence of self,’ in rough translation,” said Eichenwald. 

“So a cook has kung fu in cooking, a painter in painting, etc. Whenever you’re putting effort into something, striving to become better at it, you’re practicing kung fu,” he added.

Eichenwald takes the idea of kung fu and applies it to everything in his life, seeking activities that help him improve himself.

“I do my best to learn from whoever can teach me. I see people doing things that I think are really cool and I say ‘show me what you just did, show me how to do that.’ I fail miserably most of the time, but sometimes I get it,” he said.

Eichenwald encourages others to do the same, and strives to share his passions with anyone who will listen. For this reason, Taiko is open for all students to join at any time.

In an effort to boost this sense of community, Eichenwald and other Taiko members have attended the annual East Coast Taiko Conference. The conference is not a competition, but a series of workshops and shared experiences that unite a variety of people.

“We have two hour long jam sessions,” said Eichenwald. “If anyone wasn’t really energetic before the conference, they get into it at the conference.”

“Taiko, break dancing, biology, no matter what I do, what really makes it something special is the people around me who are doing it as well,” said Eichenwald. 

He thrives on the community of Taiko to make art collectively.

“If it was just me playing Taiko up there, no one would want to see me. It’s the energy and passion of the people around me that really makes it worthwhile,” he added.