Yoyū 余裕

Today I had a friend from Japan come over to train at my home studio, which is always fun. He shared with me some details and ideas regarding Mutō Dori (facing a sword unarmed; 無刀捕), and Tōtoku Hyōshi (刀匿礮姿), as well as some unusual methods of Ukemi (受身) using the body. Interestingly, he kept using a Japanese term I don’t recall ever hearing before, Yoyū (surplus; 余裕). Though I didn’t know the term, it didn’t take long due to the context to get an idea of what it meant (It should be noted that I don’t tend to train with too many guys that train with Masaaki Hatsumi, but instead, train with the folks that train with Ishizuka and Kacem – not as a rule, there’s just more of one type of training in my area than the other).

However, in trying to think of a way that I could write about it, I cam up pretty blank; it’s more like a minute quality of movement and placement from the angle that I understand it; so I hit the internet to dog around about this; the first place being the dictionary:

“surplus;  composure;  margin;  room;  time;  allowance;  flexibility;  scope;  rope” (Tangorin)

This only kinda gets us anywhere in regards to it’s usage, so I found this article, La magie de yoyu 余裕 by Bernard Grégoire in French. Below is the translation:

“For a few years the word yoyu has been used in our Bujinkan vocabulary. Yoyu is the small surplus or more precisely the drop of water that overflows the vase. Only Hatsumi sensei could take such a word and make it a theme.

When an attacker executes a punch, he usually takes care not to strike too far so as not to lose his balance and not offer open places that could turn against him. Unfortunately for us, the intellect and the subconscious are two different things. The decisions made by our intellect are not always shared by our subconscious. This is the strength of Yoyu.

When a punch is fired, if the target is unreachable, our arm will automatically retreat to prepare for our next attack or simply to reinforce our guard. If it seems possible to reach the target, then the subconscious maintains the mission order, extending the arm more and more in order to reach that target which is there a few millimeters in range. This is a small part of the magic of Yoyu. To make believe the subconscious of the adversary that it will be able to strike us. Make it go a few centimeters more to make it lose its stability.

From the moment the opponent is unstable, he opens the door to all kinds of possibilities. The intellect knows it is a trap, but the subconscious does not see it that way. He continues to want to fulfill his mission at all costs. This principle of overcoming the opponent can be applied in various techniques, such as strikes or seizing techniques.

Those who had the chance to serve as a partner for Hatsumi sensei understand this principle of yoyu which makes us throw ourselves in spite of ourselves in the mouth of the wolf. When this principle is applied as Hatsumi Sensei does, it is realized too late that one has just made a mistake.”

I saw the application of Yoyū also carry a sort of feeling of “wiggle-room”, kind of like finding yourself in a spot where the opponent has no Yoyū (wiggle-room), while you give yourself Yoyū (options and opportunity).

However, it is pretty evident that there are many manifestations of this principle…


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