Hyoshi – cadence, rhythm or tempo?

musashi tokitsuHyōshi is most commonly found in the classical martial arts, referring to cadence, rhythm and tempo. In the famous “Book of Five Rings”, Miyamoto Musashi describes it as three timings: before, during, and after an activity in relation to the enemy’s attack.
See : Sen or pre-emptive action

As described by researcher Kenji Tokitsu, hyōshi can refer to the rhythm, cadence, or momentum in things. Momentum is related to the speed of a body (mass).
The relation between two combatants brings into play the whole set of “hyoshi” manifested by each of them: movements, facial expressions, breathing, the ebb and flow of muscular tension, mental state.

Hyoshi is the synchronisation of cadence, rhythm and tempo.

Cadence refers to the speed and time taken to complete a series of a single movement.

Just as musical rhythms are defined by a pattern of strong and weak beats, so repetitive body movements often depends on alternating “strong” and “weak” muscular movements.

Tempo is the speed of synchronised movements

Kihon training

In kihon training there are many different “sen”. You need to understand the hyoshi and be able to use it properly in order for you to improve your randori.

  • 2.0 go-no sen (up to 2nd kyu or blue belt)

This is a beginners hyoshi. There is an attack, your brain is acting in a conscious way, you are performing the exercise or defense as told by the instructor.
It is the slowest one and not very useful in randori. It is mechanical training.

We can practice a kihon technique thousands of times and we can execute one very quickly. But it is not the mechanical speed which is important, but the tempo of the synchronised movements.

  • 1.5 go-no-sen (1st kyu or brown belt)

It is still a mechanical approach to attack and defense. The synchronisation is much better than the 2.0 approach. You have more control on your movements and some of the substructures of the techniques will be done from the subconscious.

  • 1.0 sen no sen (1st dan and higher)

An approach of 1.0 means when the opponent’s attack comes, the defense by tori simultaneously counters. In other words, these two techniques (attack and defense) are executed at the same time and the execution completes at the same time with the opponent’s attack.

I must emphasize that these numbers are used simply to describe the speed of the training approaches. So, a tempo of 1.5 is biomechanical structurally faster than 2.0, even though an actual 1.5 combination could be slower if it is purposely executed very slowly. I want to make sure that the readers to understand clearly that a “hyoshi” speed I am referring to is different from the popular mechanical speed.

  • 0.0 sen sen no sen

This is an approach which will raise the eyebrows, because the defender will act before a physical attack will happen. In our modern society we cannot act with a violent action against a person who maybe thinks about attacking you.
On the other hand it is possible to take precautions before a physical confrontation will happen. I am not referring to your precaution you take because you are afraid of the confrontation.

Is it possible to use this in kihon training? Yes, this is about taikan or bodily feeling without a physical contact.
Multiple people are sitting with their back to you. Point your finger to someone of the group and shout a kiai* to a person in particular. If that person feels your pointing he will stand up.

* Kiai (気合) is a Japanese term used in martial arts for the short shout uttered when performing an attacking move. Kiai or yelling (with or without a sound) can also be used to teach taikan It starts in the hara; from a physiological perspective, this means the yell should start in the diaphragm, not the throat.

Using hyoshi in your training

Sen or hyoshi can be used to explain the different levels in your kihon training. The application of kihon waza, the basic movements and techniques of Budo Aikido, will be further deepened in randori geiko. Here the use of hyoshi cannot be omitted from the different methods of randori.

So if the instructor is asking you to do a technique faster, don’t change the rhythm and cadense. The secret to do it faster is “relaxation”.