Regarding Rhythm in Strategy (1)

“While in all things there is rhythm, the rhythm of strtategy requires extensive training to master. The ryhthms of the world are expressed in such things as the Way of Dance and the rhythms of wind and string instruments; in all these, there is a harmonised and peaceful rhythm.
Moving over to the Ways of the Martial Arts: the shot of the bow, the firing of a gun, and the riding of a horse all have rhythms and timings. In all skills and abilities, rhythm is a a thing that should be ignored.
Furthermore, there is also rhythm in that which is empty.”
— Musashi, The Scroll of Earth, Go Rin No Sho


Whilst I try to keep personal anecdotes out of the interpretations expressed here, two occurences this weekend has pushed me to explore and wrap my head around one of the most important concepts of combat which is rhythm and timing.

The first was a lesson learned on a Friday night coed scrim hosted by another league in another part of the country: I played a satisfactory game, and yet my effectiveness as a blocker was dulled because my timing was off by filling a gap too soon (rather than the much more common too late). Both have the same result, a jammer who made it past me in a one on one last line of defence. Next time: wait an extra half a second before engaging so that the jammer cannot adjust their trajectory.

The second was short staff training on the Sunday morning. Have a look at the demonstration of the kata (04:15):

As the sword comes in to cut, the staff responds by catching and deflecting the sword away. This is excellent technique, but it is compounded by understanding the sword’s rhythm and timing.

Trying to resist the sword when you catch it becomes a test of strength. This is not an ideal situation. Best case scenario, you expend all of your energy and ‘win’, worse case scenario, you are fatally cut. However, catching the sword and immediately responding by changing the sword’s trajectory immediately takes the power struggle completely out of the equation.

Application of good technique with the right timing is crucial and is critical on the battlefield that is the roller derby flat track. Whether or not you’re a jammer trying to get through those walls or a blocker trying to fill a gap when the opposing team’s offence comes steaming in and create the gap for their jammer, the point is simply that you do not have to use all of your power to be effective. Save your energy, strike in the right moment and altar your opponent’s trajectory.