From IchiWiki - The Definitive Reference to the Ichimoku Kinko Hyo Charting System
The tenkan sen, as we have already mentioned in our Introduction section, is calculated in the following manner:
TENKAN SEN ("turning line") (HIGHEST HIGH + LOWEST LOW)/2 for the past 9 periods
While many may compare the tenkan sen to a simple 9 period simple moving average (SMA), it is quite different in the sense that it measures the average of price's highest high and lowest low for the last 9 periods. Hosoda believed that using the average of price extremes over a given period of time was a better measure of equilibrium than merely using an average of the closing price. This study of the tenkan sen will provide us with our first foray into the key aspect of equilibrium that is so prevalent in the Ichimoku Kinko Hyo charting system.
Consider the chart in Figure I below:
As can be seen in the chart, the tenkan sen often exhibits "flattening" whereas the 9 period SMA does not. This is due to the fact that the tenkan sen uses the average of the highest high and lowest low rather than an average of the closing price. Thus, during periods of price ranging, the tenkan sen will clearly show the midpoint of the range via its flat aspect.
When the tenkan sen is flat, it essentially indicates a trendless condition over the last 9 periods.
It can also be seen how the tenkan sen provides a much more accurate level of price support than does the 9 period SMA. With only one exception, price action stayed above the tenkan sen in the three highlighted areas of the chart, while price broke below the SMA numerous times. This is due to the more conservative manner in which the tenkan sen is calculated, which makes it less reactive to small movements in price. On a bearish chart, the tenkan sen will likewise act as a level of resistance.
The angle of the tenkan sen can also give us an idea of the relative momentum of price movements over the last 9 periods. A steeply angled tenkan sen will indicate a nearly vertical price rise over a short period of time or strong momentum, whereas a flatter tenkan sen will indicate lower momentum or no momentum over that same time period.
The tenkan sen and the kijun sen both measure the shorter-term trend. Of the two, the tenkan sen is the "fastest" given that it measures trend over the past 9 periods as opposed to the kijun sen's 26 periods. Thus, given the very short term nature of the tenkan sen, it is not as reliable an indicator of trend as many other components of Ichimoku. Nevertheless, price breaching the tenkan sen can give an early indication of a trend change, though, like all Ichimoku signals, this should be confirmed by the other Ichimoku components before making any trading decision.
One of the primary uses of the tenkan sen is vis-a-vis its relation to the kijun sen. If the tenkan sen is above the kijun sen, then that is a bullish signal. Likewise, if the tenkan sen is below the kijun sen, then that is bearish. The crossover of these two lines is actually a trading signal on its own, at topic that is covered in more detail in our Ichimoku Trading Strategies section.
The kijun sen is calculated in the following manner:
KIJUN SEN ("standard line") (HIGHEST HIGH + LOWEST LOW)/2 for the past 26 periods
The kijun sen is one of the true "workhorses" of Ichimoku Kinko Hyo and it has myriad applications. Like its brother, the tenkan sen, the kijun sen measures the average of price's highest high and lowest low, though it does so over a longer time frame of 26 periods as opposed to the tenkan sen's 9 periods. The tenkan sen thus provides us with all the information the tenkan sen does, just on a longer time frame.
Due to the longer time period it measures, the kijun sen is a more reliable indicator of short-term price sentiment, strength and equilibrium than the tenkan sen. If price has been ranging, then the kijun sen will reflect the vertical midpoint of that range (price equilibrium) via its flat aspect. Once price exceeds either the last highest high or lowest low within the last 26 periods, however, the kijun sen will reflect that by either angling up or down, respectively. Thus, short-term trend can be measured by the direction of the kijun sen. In addition, the relative angle of the kijun sen will indicate the strength or momentum of the trend.
Price equilibrium is expressed even more accurately in the kijun sen than in the tenkan sen, given the longer period of time it considers. Thus, the kijun sen can be relied upon as a significant level of price support and resistance (see highlighted areas in Figure II below).
Price tends to move alternately away from and back toward the kijun sen in a cyclical fashion due to the kijun sen's strong expression of equilibrium or stasis. Thus, when price momentum is extreme and price moves rapidly up or down over a short period of time, a certain "rubber band" effect can be observed on price by the kijun sen, attracting price back towards itself and bringing it back to equilibrium. An analogy could be made between how price interacts with the kijun sen and how electricity always seeks to return to ground or zero potential. The "ground" in this case is the kijun sen and price will always seek to return to that level. This phenomenon is particularly evident when the kijun sen is flat or trendless, as can be seen in Figure III below:
Given the dynamics of the kijun sen outlined above, traders can use the kijun sen effectively as both a low-risk point of entry as well as a solid stop loss. These two tactics are employed extensively in both the kijun sen cross as well as the tenkan sen/kijun sen cross strategies which are covered in greater detail in our Ichimoku Trading Strategies section.
The chikou span is calculated in the following manner:
CHIKOU SPAN ("lagging line") CURRENT CLOSING PRICE time-shifted backwards (into the past) 26 periods
The chikou span represents one of Ichimoku's most unique features; that of time-shifting certain lines backwards or forwards in order to gain a clearer perspective of price action. In the chikou span's case, the current closing price is time-shifted backwards by 26 periods. While the rationale behind this may at first appear confusing, it becomes very clear once we consider that it allows us to quickly see how today's price action compares to the price action of 26 periods ago, which can help determine trend direction.
If the current close price (as depicted by the chikou span) is lower than the price of 26 periods ago, that would indicate that there is a potential for more bearish price action to come, since price tends to follow trends. Conversely, if the current closing price is above the price of 26 periods ago, that would then indicate the possibility for more bullish price action to follow.
Consider the charts in Figures IV and V below:
In addition to providing us with another piece of the "trend puzzle", the chikou span also provides clear levels of support and resistance, given that it represents prior closing prices. Ichimoku practitioners can thus draw horizontal lines across the points created by the chikou span to see these key levels and utilize them in their analysis and trading decisions (see Figure VI below).
Senkou Span A
The senkou span A is calculated in the following manner:
SENKOU SPAN A ("1st leading line") (TENKAN SEN + KIJUN SEN)/2 time-shifted forwards (into the future) 26 periods
The senkou span A is best-known for its part, along with the senkou span B line, in forming the kumo, or "Ichimoku cloud" that is the foundation of the Ichimoku Kinko Hyo charting system. The senkou span A is another one of the time-shifted lines that are unique to Ichimoku. In this case, it is shifted forwards by 26 periods. Since it represents the average of the tenkan sen and kijun sen, the senkou span A is itself a measure of equilibrium. Goichi Hosoda knew well that price tends to respect prior support and resistance levels, so by time-shifting this line forward by 26 periods he allowed the Ichimoku practitioner to quickly see "at a glance" where support and resistance from 26 periods ago (1 month ago on a Daily chart) reside compared with current price action.
Senkou Span B
The senkou span B is calculated in the following manner:
SENKOU SPAN B ("2nd leading line") (HIGHEST HIGH + LOWEST LOW)/2 for the past 52 periods time-shifted forwards (into the future) 26 periods
The senkou span B is best-known for its part, along with the senkou span A line, in forming the kumo, or "Ichimoku cloud" that is the foundation of the Ichimoku Kinko Hyo charting system. On its own, the senkou span B line represents the longest-term view of equilibrium in the Ichimoku Kinko Hyo system. Rather than considering only the last 26 periods in its calculation like the senkou span A, the senkou span B measures the average of the highest high and lowest low for the past 52 periods. It then takes that measure and time-shifts it forward by 26 periods, just like the senkou span A. In Hosoda's original implementation, the senkou span B would thus represent price equilibrium for the prior two (2) month period, shifted ahead of current price by one (1) month. This convention allows Ichimoku practitioners to see this longer term measure of equilibrium ahead of current price action, allowing them to make informed trading decisions.