Timing is another key element of training in Tensoku Ryu. There is an age-old question in the martial arts that goes, “Is it better to know how to move, or when to move?” People with limited experience will often answer “how to move” is most important. People with significant experience will knowingly answer that “when to move” is most important. People with extensive training will answer “yes”. To be truly effective you must know both how and when to move.
Hyoshi is the study of when to move. You will also want to explore Ma Ai, which is the study of distancing. The two concepts work together in an integrated and inseparable way. You must come to understand and appreciate both. The skills associated with how to move are the subject of a great many other training activities in Tensoku Ryu.
There are innumerable ways in which you can think about and employ Hyoshi. We will cover a scant few of these to suggest the importance of this concept.
If someone throws a punch at you and you attempt to block then clearly you want your block to arrive on time. If you block too early, you miss the incoming strike altogether allowing it to sail in right after your failed block attempt and, well, you know what happens.
You can also block too late. The sequence goes something like, “Ouch!,” block. This is a case of employing different timing but producing identical results.
You want your timing to be just right. You want to intercede and make contact with the strike while it is still some distance from its target. If you wait a bit longer you increase the risk of being hit. This is an essential aspect of blocking in Tensoku Ryu. Your block should not be too close. You want to disrupt that incoming strike before it gets very close. You do not want to block when the strike is three inches away. That will likely be too late.
The timing will vary depending on the initial striking distance, the nature of the strike, and the speed of its delivery. Appreciating these variables is a matter of practical experience. Nobody can teach you this. You need to experience it yourself to appreciate what works best.
Blocking is perhaps the most fundamental application of timing. Two moving things (the strike and your block) must arrive at a beneficial point and time to ensure you are not hit. This takes some precise hand-eye coordination. But it is not especially complex. Nearly everyone learns to do this fairly quickly (especially if they are not a huge fan of being hit).
Another aspect of timing involves subsequent movements. When an opponent strikes you, he or she will likely immediately retract the attacking appendage and then begin to extend the other side of the body in the form of another strike (usually) or manipulative movement (less common). With appropriate timing, we can thwart the retraction and/or the extension which will cause the opponent to suffer a sudden loss of structural integrity. We can then move to take advantage of the opponent’s Weightless condition. But this too takes excellent timing. Wait too long and the opponent will again establish a Rooted condition. You will have then missed a tremendous opportunity.
As a person steps in your direction, you may be able to employ timing differently. As a person walks they usually lift a foot, shift their weight forward and then rely on gravity to pull the foot down and hence drive the body forward. So the person has effectively put weight on the leg before it has reached the ground. If you disrupt the future placement of the leg in any manner the opponent will immediately lose structure and may fall. The person will be vulnerable to any other activity you may decide to initiate. Getting the timing right for such disruption is not easy. It takes a long time to feel confident in your ability to perform this simple skill. The skill is perhaps only ten percent practical application. The remainder is entirely timing.
A more complex application of timing comes from tracking and taking advantage of an individual’s movement. You want to be able to reliably predict when and where a person will arrive at a particular structural alignment or condition at some future moment in time. You want to know this so you can initiate an appropriate action that will coincide precisely with the expected future condition or state of the opponent. We do this with great regularity in Tensoku Ryu. We often initiate a structural change in an opponent that will result in a known position or structure that we can use to our planned advantage. This is a much more advanced skill than the blocking example above, but it suggests the importance and relevance of Hyoshi.