Tension Timing – Part 3

Tension Timing – Part 3


Part 3: Trajectory

In Part 1 of this series on Tension Timing, I discussed the differences in tension timing; Braking, Reversing and Flowing. In Part 2, I described why certain timings might be more suitable for certain targets, using examples of the head, the body and the knee. In this article, I will review how certain tension timings may be more suitable for certain weapon (e.g. fist) trajectories.

Techniques involving linear projection of the weapon often benefit from Type I (Braking) focus, or a combination of Type I and Type III (Flowing). Imagine a battering ram. To snap back this battering ram quickly as contact is made would probably not be as effective as slamming into the door with no recoil. With the battering ram, we do not expect to smash through in one try. So the brakes are applied to keep us from flying into the door ourselves, when forward momentum of the ram is abruptly halted. At the point where we know the ram can knock down the door, we may instead decide to plunge through in a more flowing motion. Similarly, a linearly projected punch or kick could stop abruptly at the target, or follow through. In most cases, the brakes would be applied at impact, as we do not usually know if we can really push through the target, or if that is even a desirable outcome.

Projecting the weapon in an arching motion is usually benefits from incorporating Type II (Reversing) focus. With this trajectory, the weapon (hand/foot) revolves in an arch around the corresponding joint (e.g. elbow/knee) and strikes at or near 90 degrees as related to the base of projection (e.g. the direction the elbow or knee faces). The weapon is usually retracted in a similar path after contact is made with the target.

Curvilinear (the closest term available for a low-grade curve, somewhere between a straight line and an arc) is usually the best way to utilize Type III (flowing) focus. Often, this type of trajectory involves the weapon travelling a large distance, much of it relatively far from the body center, such as during ashibarai (foot sweeps).

Combining trajectories
As with the types of focus, trajectories can be blended. A common example is the usual employment of the front “snap” kick most Shotokan instructors expect of students when stepping forward. In this kick, the arching motion is timed with a forward thrust of the hip such that the trajectory straightens out considerably, thereby turning the arcing motion into a more curvilinear one. It should be noted in this example, however, that there are both linear and arching motions at work. In the typical foot sweep, there is no real snap involved; thus I do not consider it a combination of trajectories, per se.

Trajectory Applied

A thrusting technique is one that involves a linear trajectory of the weapon. More specifically, the weapon’s trajectory is not only straight, but straight from close to the center of mass of the attacker projected directly into the target. Usually, this type of trajectory employs Type I (Braking) focus.

Snapping techniques are those that employ arching trajectory. There are plenty of “snappy” techniques, which use a quick pull-back timing-Type II (reversing). But some of these techniques actually utilize curvilinear projections of the weapon. A pure snap involves very limited motion of the joint around which the weapon revolves, not thrusting that joint (elbow/knee) towards the target.

Sweeping techniques use curvilinear trajectory of the weapon. Usually, this type of trajectory employs flowing tension timing. Sweeping trajectory can be used for arm techniques as well as leg techniques and is usually used when performing takedowns.




Trajectory Ideal tension timing typical technique type Ideal target type/example
Linear braking thrust Stable/body
Arc reversing snap Somewhat moveable/head
Curvilinear flowing sweep More moveable/knee

To be continued
Although this concludes my three-part series of web articles, there is much more to the study of tension timings, trajectories and related subjects. These articles are merely short synopses of my research. There is more to come…

Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published July 2000)