Timing in Martial Arts: the Right Moment to Strike
Understanding the duality of Time.
In life, as in Martial Arts, moments define us. When we are required to react, things like speed, power, coordination, situational / environmental awareness, proprioception, habituation, emotional maturity, and experience – can all make the difference between the right choice and the wrong choice: this is called Chronos, the ‘time’.
Chronos (/ˈkroʊnɒs/; Greek: Χρόνος, “time”, pronounced [kʰrónos], also transliterated as Khronos, or Latinised as Chronus) is the personification of Time in pre-Socratic philosophy and later literature. Chronos governed linear, chronological time.
Chronos in daily life.
If you have a business meeting to attend, you know the time. You attend it. Your shift starts at a certain time, you begin it. A bill should be paid on a certain day, then you pay it.
Chronos in sparring.
An attacker lifts his arm and steps to the side, that is the time to arrive. Time to strike. Immediately. The better you can time this strike, and all of the functions your body may need to perform; – finding stance, deflecting an attack, avoiding something else in the environment – the more effectively your strike will minimize the danger. In terms of timing in martial arts, we would consider this as Chronos, as The literal time your body has to react. The time to defend and attack, strictly from a physical perspective.
Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment).
Time for Kairos.
So how does Kairos, the ultimate moment, come into play? To step back to the analogy of the businessman, you would not approach your boss for a rise or a promotion when he is in the middle of an important call, or right after the company has announced cut backs. Extrinsic factors have more of an impact on situations, than appear to us at first glance.
Kairos in Sparring.
A gap in your opponents defense, a chink in their armor, is the perfect time to strike. The ultimate moment, or even the right moment, is harder to define. This is a philosophical moment, a moment of true maturity and understanding, and, although a Chronos moment and a Kairos moment are very different, they are not mutually exclusive.
Timing in Martial Arts: not just a single Factor.
Now, what happens if you are attacked, walking with your friend, and you see the attacker uncover a weak point..? Is that the perfect moment to attack? Have you considered another attacker waiting to attack your friend who you have left undefended? Have you considered all of the consequences, physically, emotionally and legally, that your actions could bring?
The time to use your training, your skills, your courage, is now, and always. But the time to hurt someone without considering the repercussions is never.
Be alert, be strong, and never doubt your instinct, because no matter your reaction speed, you should be aware of the ultimate moment to react: the Kairos moment.