By Yossi Sheriff

Syncopation, סינקופה, シンコペーション, in fighting and in martial arts refers to a change in regular rhythm of attack, defense or movement.

Techniques in martial arts can be singular or grouped together in sequences. When techniques are grouped together in sequences, the meter and the distribution of the technique inside a sequence creates the sequence's rhythm. Any disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm or the placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn't normally occur is called syncopation[1]. There are at least two frames of rhythm interpretation, one is an inter-sequence syncopation that is about the rhythm of singular techniques, and the other is the general rhythm of the combat, war or competition.

Syncopation is prevalent in all fighting and martial arts. Using Kata analysis and a top down approach of the methodical pyramid most attacks happen with a preceding syncopation [2].

Syncopation in martial arts is a general term, just like it is in music theory. there is no limit to the number or variety of possible syncopated rhythms, nor are there limits to the ways they may be used[1]. Syncopation can be executed in various manners. An extra technique may be introduced, an expected step omitted or the general tempo of the randori or tatakai can change in an unexpected manner.

In Ninjutsu kata, syncopation can be easily observed in the preliminary striking moves of the Kukishinden ryu techniques. Moreover, once the opponents grab each other, the general rhythm becomes chaotic but can be sometimes observed as consisting of static moments with bursts of syncopated action.

Simple rhythm and syncopation breakdown

Video of the 3rd colloquium - lessons of simple rhythm and syncopation


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hoffman, Miles (1997). Syncopation. National Symphony Orchestra. NPR. Retrieved on 13 July 2009.
  2. GIngihan (2011). Sayings of Gingihan. Wasifat. AKABN. Retrieved on 21 September 2014.

External links