HYOSHI (拍子): musical time, tempo, beat, rhythm

When people use the term HYOSHI they usually use it when they talk about something that is “out of rhythm” or “offbeat” and the likes, but when you try to express the term precisely its often hard to do so, even for scholars.

When I consider what HYOSHI means in kendo terms I see it as the instant where striking distance in both the physical and time dimensions, plus the relation between you and your (often moving) partner come into unison; that is to say, the exact moment when you should strike. This HYOSHI has neither colour (i.e. there is no “telegraphing”) nor sound. If you think “my opponent is attacking” then HYOSHI has already disappeared (i.e. you are too late).

If you are serious about pursuing the discipline of kendo then even children – in their own way – must attempt to acquire understanding of this HYOSHI; if you only do kendo where you strike as you like, then even if you become older you will not be able to comprehend kendo (i.e. understanding does not necessarily come only with age).

In itto-ryu there is a saying: “Make your sword as a brush and draw characters as if writing in water. No trace will remain.”

It is said that mastery of the laws of swordsmanship is acquired through polishing of technique, but what this refers to in the end, I think, is the study of cutting-HYOSHI.

About the author

SAKUMA SABURO sensei was born in 1912 in Fukushima prefecture. He started kendo at around 10/11 years old in Fukushima Butokuden. After graduating from what is now Fukushima University he started teaching kendo at various high schools. In 1939 he began to work in Mitsubushi’s mining operation and taught kendo throughout the country whilst visiting various mines. After the war, he became a student of Mochida Seiji hanshi and – while running his own kendo club – began working as a director in the Tokyo Kendo Renmei amongst other things.

He died at 84 in 1997. He was hanshi hachidan.

平成・剣道 地木水火風空 読本(下)。佐久間三郎。平成9年発行。

By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
For more information check out the About page.

3 replies on “Hyoshi”

Very thought-provoking post. I do find that I lose when I have no rhythm or connection to my opponent. On another note, the reference to “writing in water” seems to be referenced in the Vagabond series (manga of the life of Musashi) when Musashi is writing with water instead of ink.

Hi George,

I’m curious about the “no color” comment.

So, is something like men-semete-kote considered as “having color”?

DCPan – the ‘co colour’ thing is a come term in Japanese kendo, though its still pretty much unknown in the English-speaking kendo community. Basically it refers to telegraphing, or somehow giving yourself away before launching into a strike. ‘men-semete-kote’ is a deliberate feint-like action (depending on how you do it) so it could be thought of as showing ‘colour’ in away.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.