Timing Hierarchy

Let’s examine a simple sequence of events that can illustrate some timing differences or what we will call timing hierarchies. While we are at it we can explore how these hierarchies can be beneficial or detrimental.

The sequence we will use as our basis of explanation is the following:

  1. An opponent steps forward with his or her right leg and throws a Migi Oi Tsuki.
  2. We step forward with our left leg.
  3. We employ a Hidari Ura Chudan Uke.
  4. We employ a Migi Gyaku Tsuki.

This is pretty simple stuff. Someone punches toward us and we step in to block it and deliver a counter strike.

Now let’s define some timing possibilities or hierarchies. Here are the likely possibilities:

  • First Tier Timing – we step first, then perform our block. We then strike.
  • Second Tier Timing – We step and block concurrently. Our foot makes contact with the floor (or begins to take root) as the block makes contact with the incoming strike. We then deliver our strike.
  • Third Tier Timing – We move forward and block before our foot makes contact with the floor. The foot makes contact with the floor as we strike.
  • Fourth Tier Timing – We both block and strike before our foot makes contact with the floor. We do everything we planned (or could think to do) while we are in transition.

The benefit of first tier timing is that it is easy to perform. You might well use this timing when you are first learning a new skill, movement sequence, or Kata. A disadvantage might be that it is slow, but this can depend a great deal on what you are attempting to accomplish. Different situations will require application of different timing tiers.

Looking at things a little differently, an advantage of first tier timing is that it is slow. Because of this you can work to perfect minor issues with a movement sequence. Doing something very slowly allows you to notice small movement patterns (both good and bad) you cannot hope to identify when moving quickly. I often suggest to students that they slow down movement sequences so the sequences are performed very slowly, perhaps only 10% of normal speed. This provides a great opportunity to notice what is happening in every part of your body, thereby allowing you to make beneficial changes in or observations about your movements.

Most students naturally perform movements with second tier timing. That’s because this timing seems natural to them. It is in fact not natural in many cases, but it usually feels as though it should be natural. That is why nearly everyone (including quite experienced practitioners) perform Kata with first and second tier timing. It feels right and it feels good. It also looks good, which is why this level of timing is prevalent at tournaments.

The advantage of this timing tier is that you root yourself just as you are applying a block or strike. It sounds as though this would be beneficial and indeed it often is useful. Applying timing from any tier is useful at various times.

You might use second tier timing if your intent were to use your block to somehow manipulate or disrupt your opponent. Being rooted when you attempt this is a definite advantage. Second tier timing provides you with this opportunity.

But second tier timing is still often not natural. Third and fourth level timing are natural, even though you likely think they are impractical or inordinately complicated. They are not, but often seem like they should be. Let me explain by starting with fourth tier timing.

If someone comes at you and you spot an opportunity to strike first you are very unlikely to step, block, and then strike in that order. You want to get things done in a hurry. So your launch yourself toward the opponent and block at the same moment that you strike. Sometime later your foot hits the floor. This is what is natural. Try it with a training partner. You will see this is how you are really going to react if you have the need to strike someone quickly.

Third tier timing is an intermediate step. It allows you to close distance quickly as you concurrently set things up for the subsequent strike. Your strike will benefit from the rooting of your front foot. This tier provides a much faster delivery process than second tier timing, but it is not nearly as efficient nor as natural as fourth tier timing.

But fourth tier timing is not without its issues. You are weightless during the entire delivery process. This can represent a problem if your opponent is rooted well and in position to deal with your aggressive approach. If that were the case then you might well wish to use first or second tier timing.

So there is no best or ideal timing model to follow. Sometimes one timing tier is appropriate and at other times it is not. You will want to experiment with these different tiers to see when they can be beneficial and when they are a detriment.

Like most Tensoku Ryu concepts this timing model affords you with another set of tools you can keep in your toolbox. When appropriate you can use the best tool to help you accomplish your goals.


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