SP ARCHIVES: Counter-time

Jon Law wrote: Steve you’ve mentioned counter time at primal but i’m not certain i fully understand what you mean. Attack is obvious, counter too, but does the counter time concept involve imposing you’re time/beat on his, with yours being the faster; halfing/quartering the beat or whatever.

Presumeably this ‘sense’ of counter time becomes intuitive over time, much like countering as part of the rhythm of the attacker can, I’m sure i remember Benn doing this a lot. If so would it be better to concentrate on ‘imposing’ yourself on the opponent as ‘counter time’ seems to be integral to achieving this. I suppose we can link this mastering of the ‘timing’ with use of the breath by ‘saying’ the rhythm.

Steve wrote: http://www.fencing.net/forums/thread17489.html

Here’s a link to a discussion on counter-time. It develops, and it might give you some insight into the concept. It’s a fencing term. I came across it some 50 years ago reading my father’s books on fencing.

The foil in particular develops a conversation of the possibilities of exchange with the blade. What’s important to these exchanges is the time frames in which they occur. The lesson for me was not so much about playing a game of chess, but in understanding the periods of time in which these exchanges take place. As that developed over the years and I became aware of the striatum and its association with the interval of time within a process or between two processes, that awareness became more important than the mechanics of the exchange.

The mechanics of an exchange in, say, fencing, or in Filipino stick drills, make you aware of synchronizing with an opponent’s rhythm and syncopating upon it, but the essence of it is the understanding of time and tempo. You’re in charge of the framework in which action takes place. You can control the space because you control the time. You can see movements developing and opportunities opening up which other people can’t see, because you have a heightened awareness of time.

This understanding of time is essential for crossing a road, inserting your car into traffic, playing video games—but in the martial arts it’s often ignored. And for me it’s always been the most important element in my development of power. The timing of the development of force within my body (sequentially or simultaneously) and its application against the ground to cause a reactive force, or an impulse into my opponent to cause damage is all dependent on this highly developed sense of time. That’s how I break bones when I hit people. I’m able to put everything I have into this condensed moment of time, and it creates a shock against the target. And obvioiusly, the release of that power must occur in accordance to the opportunistic timing to do all that given to me by my opponent unintentionally, or by my preparation of him.

Forcing your opponent to react to you is one way you can go about it, but you also have to be able to understand this time period from the other perspective, of you reacting to him. An enhanced sense of time speeds up everything you do.

Getting in tempo and setting tempo is a primary part of this. Just as when listening to music, your head is involved, your feet are involved, your hands and your body are involved—it’s just that the movement is within a combative context, and not simply a dance. Your mention of breath is an important one. I always drew on the Indian dancers who vocalize the beat of the movement with very fast tongue and breath articulations. I saw this as a way of articulating the time and expressing the rhythms that I could see, and my body would translate that vocalization at the intensity and rates I was performing. It’s a little bit like scat singing.

If you put this in the context of a large class, it would be ridiculous. It’s like jazz. It’s a personal interpretation, it’s not orchestrated.

These are just some clues. They’re all around us, and we can use them in our martial arts.

When you look at the really great boxers, they have this innate rhythm. Maybe it’s a part of their musical culture which they’re able to translate into their fighting. In Thai boxing, it’s no accident that there are musicians interpreting and contributing to the fight. So you have to let your body get involved in exciting, syncopated rhythms. If you’re the introverted type—like me, I’d do it in public but that’s just me—go in a room by yourself, put on some really syncopated music (I like the Black Eyed Peas but there’s lots of stuff) and then go for it. Work your fighting moves and your skipping, all your training, to the rhythm. Let the rhythm take over. Just think that your body’s another musician in the mix.

That’s the tip of the day.

And that’s one of my ‘secrets’. There are a few more. Try it. Find out.

And you know what? I bet some of you guys can dance. Don’t see that there’s a difference. It can contribute to the way you fight. Don’t formalize it. Just let it happen.