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Timing in martial arts

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Timing in martial arts may be defined as the time when an attacking or a defending movement achieves its objective of attack or defense. For example, the time when a punch lands on an opponent’s jaw may be considered as the timing of that attacking movement. Similarly, the time when successful dodging can evade an attack, then it may be considered as the timing of that defensive movement.

Chris Evz video “How To Knock Someone Out”:

Best Combat video “Highlight Best Mma | The Best Dodging In UFC MMA History”:

Factors of Timing

Timing in martial arts, depends on the harmony of three factors, namely, spirit, mind, and body.

The spirit conditions the mind, and the mind conditions the body. Then the conditioned body executes the martial techniques according to the level of conditioning of the spirit, mind, and body. If the spirit, mind, and body have different levels of conditioning, then different levels of timing are achieved.

When all three -spirit, mind, body- are conditioned at the same level, then they are in perfect harmony, and thus, perfect timing is achieved.


Conditioning is the process of achieving higher levels of resilience, where the term “resilience” primarily, signifies the capacity to recover fast from any unfavorable circumstance, and secondarily, it connotes toughness, elasticity, flexibility, strength, and the courage to bear and overcome pain or adversity.

Spirit conditioning

The spirit to fight is the determining factor in getting up after being repeatedly knocked. A fighter who is able to get up every time and continue to fight, has a very high chance of victory. Therefore, conditioning the spirit is a very important practice for any fighter.

Few common ways of spirit conditioning are as follows:

—do or die attitude, no fear
—justification, no doubts

Spirit conditioning by “do or die” attitude

The spirit can be conditioned by a “do or die” attitude. For example, during WWII, the Japanese army was facing defeat, and in order to win, they had conditioned their spirit with a do or die attitude, which resulted in having no fear. Pilots were trained as suicide bombers known as “Kamikaze”. They flew planes filled with explosives and they simply crashed their planes to their targets; thereby, killing both themselves and their enemies.

British Pathé video “Suicide Bomber Pilots: WWII Footage (1945) | British Pathé”:

Spirit conditioning by justification

The spirit can also be conditioned by justification for the fight. The justification may be biased, controversial, or debatable; however, if the fighter is convinced that the fight is justified, then the fighter has no doubts for fighting, and performs his best.

For example, in 1945, the United States detonated two atomic bombs named as “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. The aerial bombings together killed several thousands of people, about two hundred thousand, with the majority of them being civilians. For months afterward, many people continued to die from the effects of burns, injuries and radiation sickness, compounded by malnutrition and illness.

Over the years, the ethical and legal justification for these bombings have been widely debated all over the world. Supporters claim that it was necessary to end World War II, while critics claim that it was an unnecessary act, a war crime, and an intentional nuclear attack on civilians.

Paul Tibbets was the pilot of the plane who dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In a 2001 interview, as seen in the following video, he says that given the same circumstances, he would do it again and he has never lost a night’s sleep for his bombing Hiroshima. His words imply that he considered his act as justified and therefore, he had no doubts while fighting.

WBNS 10TV video “2001 interview with Paul Tibbets, the pilot who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima”:

Dr. Julius Robert Oppenheimer, often known as the “father of the atomic bomb”, played a leading role in developing the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the following video, Dr. Oppenheimer provides his justification for creating the bombs and its subsequent use in WWII.

CBS News video “From the archives: Robert Oppenheimer in 1965 on if the bomb was necessary”:

The justification may have ethical, moral, or legal complications; nonetheless, the above videos show that if a fighter is convinced of the justification, then the spirit of the fighter is conditioned to fight with his full capabilities.

Mind conditioning

Once the spirit is conditioned either by justification or by a “do or die” attitude, then the mind can also be conditioned.

Few common ways of mind conditioning are as follows:

—clear objective
—unshakeable determination
—acceptance of unpredictability
—an empty mind

Mind conditioning by having a clear objective

The mind can be conditioned with a clear objective. The objective in fighting is to subdue or eliminate the opponent and thereby, ensure a win. Fighting is not done with the objective of showing off skills for demonstration purposes, or to fight without any objective simply for the sake of fighting. In fighting, the only clear objective is to win, and nothing else. Once the mind understands this, then the mind is conditioned by this clear objective of winning.

Tric Entertainment video “Troy Fight – Hektor vs Achilles”:

Mind conditioning by having an unshakeable determination

Determination can condition the mind, and if the determination is unshakeable, then winning is almost certain.

DK MC video “Rocky Balboa Vs Clubber Lang || Rocky 3 || Ending Scene [HD]”:

Mind conditioning by acceptance of unpredictability

A fight is always unpredictable. Accepting this fact helps the fighter to remain confident, without becoming under- or over-confident. Under-confidence signifies that the spirit is not suitably conditioned and the fighter most likely will lose the fight. Over-confidence assumes that victory is certain, but a fight is never predictable, and hence, an over-confident fighter also most likely loses the fight. Underdogs usually win due to the over-confidence of the defending champions.

TDB 2K video “Biggest Underdog Wins In UFC History | Part 1”:

Mind conditioning by keeping an empty mind

An empty mind is a mind that is not preoccupied with thoughts, strategies, plans, or anything at all. It is simply empty. And because it is empty it can act and react efficiently to the opponent’s telegraphed moves, situational openings, inherent weaknesses, and other events taking place in a fight, automatically.

Wise Panda video “NO MIND”:

Body conditioning

The conditioning of the spirit and the mind, rely on the conditioning of the body. In martial arts, the instrument for fighting is the body; hence, if the body is not conditioned, then conditioning of the spirit or the mind is of little or no use. Therefore, the journey of the martial artist starts with conditioning of the body.

Few common ways of conditioning the body are as follows:

—physical fitness
——warm up, aerobic-anaerobic exercises, cool down
——stretching, gymnastics, acrobatics
——speed drills
——stances, footwork
—fundamental movements
—relaxation and tension
——freehand, calisthenics
——resistance, nature or man-made
—specific body part
——hitting/ pressuring
—sparring (with or without weapons)

Generally, body conditioning starts with breathing, which may be done by the lungs, by the abdomen, or by both. Breathing provides mindfulness and awareness, both of which are necessary for timing in martial arts. It also provides strength to withstand blows.

DJ Doc Time video “Kung Fu breath control…Must see video!”:

Physical fitness training usually starts with warm up, followed by aerobic and anerobic exercises, and ends with cool down. When done consistently, physical fitness can show excellent timings in remarkable skills.

Trend Central video “People Who Are At Another Level…”:

Flexibility is gained by regular stretching and followed by gymnastics. Exceptional students also practice advanced gymnastics like acrobatics, fused with other styles of martial arts.

Great Big Story video “So Fly: The Impossibly Acrobatic Martial Art of Tricking”:

With breathing, physical fitness and flexibility, agility is gained.

BUNDO video “Bruce Lee Ping Pong (Full Version)”:

Footwork and stances help to gain balance, fluidity, and angles in movement.

Karate Dojo waKu video “Make Your Movements More POWERFUL & FASTER| Karate Footwork”:

Fundamental movements consist of attacking and defensive techniques, like stances, blocks, punches, kicks, dodging, weaving, jumping, etc. A single technique can also employ both attacking and defensive movements performed simultaneously. A high level of mastery in fundamental movements is necessary for body conditioning. With fundamental movements a strong grasp is gained regarding when to tense and when to relax the body, as well as when to breathe in and when to breathe out.

Polski Związek Taekwon-Do video “Gen Choi Hong Hi Sonbadak Noollo Makgi”:

Strength training is done by freehand method using different calisthenic exercises, or by lifting/ pushing/ pulling weights, while punching, kicking, or doing other attacking and defensive techniques.

BUNKAI KARATE video “Karate – Old school training”:

Strength can also be gained by other exercises like climbing up and down stairs, or rock climbing.

@ChinaViewTV video “Climbing down stairs on all fours: Kung Fu practice routine for Shaolin monks”:

Timeless memories video “Honnold’s solo climb – El Capitan – 2017”:

Strength training can also be performed by practicing stances, blocks, kicks and punches in neck-high water in some lake, or even underwater in a swimming pool.

@MorningDiveMaryBeteta video “Martial Arts Training Underwater | Morning Dive Experience”:

Besides using resources provided by Nature, even man-made resistance bands can help to increase bodily strength.

TEAM KI video “KARATE RESISTANCE BAND WORKOUT – karate home workout – TEAM KI”:

Any specific body part can be conditioned by hitting/ pressuring any hard or soft surface repeatedly.

Jean-Claude Vandammelibrary video “Kickboxer (1989) – The Tree scene + Training sequences HD – VAN DAMME”:

Patterns/katas/forms are codified actual movements of actual warriors. They are practiced for gaining an understanding of different circumstances that may present in a fight.

International Taekwon-Do Federation video “Team Pattern – Senior Male – ITF World Cup 2016 – Budapest.”:

In sparring, a very good idea of range, power, speed, rhythm, action, reaction, reflex, and timing can be gained. Sparring can be with or without weapons. Both types of sparring can be no-contact, semi-contact, or full-contact. A full-contact sparring session is nearest to a real fight and thus, the more experience a fighter has with full-contact sparring, usually the more is his understanding of timing.

International Taekwon-Do Federation video “Sparring Senior Male -63kg Final – ITF World Cup 2016 – Budapest”:


Timing is essential for winning. If a blow is given a bit early or a bit late, then it misses its mark, and it is as good as not giving a blow at all. A missed blow can result in opening up the centerline, which can be immediately grasped advantageously by the opponent. Therefore, no blow should be missed. Perfect timing takes only a split second, but that split second can determine whether the fighter wins or loses/ lives or dies. Hence, perfect timing should be practiced by harmonizing the spirit, mind, and the body. Harmony of these three is achieved when what the spirit wants, the mind understands, and the body follows, which results in perfect timing, and most likely, in a win.

Mad Max5 video “Kenshin vs Usami”:


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