rhythm and timing

Wow.  It has been a bit since I posted.  But some of you should be posting too!

Tonight I was thinking about rhythm and timing.  Rhythm is generally a good thing, but it is predictable.  If you can pick up an attacker’s rhythm, you can exploit it by being just a bit ahead, or sometimes a bit behind.  And of course, he can do the same to you.  A broken rhythm is unpredictable, and can’t be exploited by either of you, which is good and bad.

Very rarely in combat does a rhythm last long, so you need to be quick in picking up and exploiting one you do see.  Maybe a bit like those games where you hear a few notes and have to guess the tune.

Often, each partner provides alternate notes.  In kumi tachi #1, for example, you start synchronized, with your swords touching.  Aite 1 starts by stepping back and putting their sword in hasso gedan.  This is a suki, an opening.  It is also a taunt – ‘I dare you to come and hit me’.  Aite 2 accepts, and steps in with the obvious attack.  Aite 1 can respond in various ways, but the kata calls for him to step aside and deflect the strike, stealing its power for a counter strike.

Now if Aite 1 stays with the rhythm, Aite 2 can easily block and the exchange can go on for ever.  Instead, Aite 1 waits until Aite 2 is fully committed, and so breaks the rhythm.  Picking up a bit extra energy from Aite 2’s sword helps.  Just as Aite 2 thinks he has got Aite 1, Aite 1 moves and counter attacks and then keeps the pressure on Aite 2 until the end of the kata.

Keeping the pressure on is like playing notes as fast as you can.  If Aite 1 could attack a little faster, he could win sooner.  If Aite 2 could defend a little faster he could turn the tables on Aite 1.  The kata calls for Aite 1 to make two strikes and “win” on the second.  I put quotes around “win” because a kata is a cooperative activity and both win when it looks effective and inevitable, but where this would end in a real life duel in medieval Japan is with Aite 2 dead.

However, this is a bit of a different way of looking at pairs practice – kumi tachi or kumi jo.  So try it out for size, and see if it helps you move a bit further.

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