26 April, 2011

Breaking Kuzushi

When I first heard the term "breaking your opponents kuzushi" I was a bit mystified by the meaning.  My Sensei described this to us as destroying the balance than an opponent has.  The more that I read about kuzushi, the more the concept intrigues me.  While I am sure that I am butchering the intended meaning and usage from the Japanese language, I hope that my ignorance will be forgiven.  I am using this term as I have been taught, and my own lingual studies are still woefully inadequate.

Lets turn to history again (what a surprise!).  The best example I can think of is when Kano Jigoro was learning jujutsu, and with intense study had bested one or another of his teachers.  While his teacher wore the expression of surprise (and a little dismay), Kano explained that the key to his victory was kuzushi, and the ability to disrupt balance in your opponent.

The best description that I have heard for how to accomplish this was pretty straight forward:
  • From the front, you need to get their head over their knees AND their knees over their toes.
  • From the rear, you need to get their head over their hips AND the hips over their heels.

I am emphasizing the AND in both of the above descriptions, because this is something worth remembering for those trying to understand and learn the mechanical aspect of balance.  It is something that I emphasize when I am trying to get partners to work on a throw, to check that they are doing it correctly.

There are two important reasons for balance.  The first is the obvious for everyone with a grappling background - you get tossed ass over tea kettle!  The second is obvious for everyone with a striking background - the force you exert is equally relayed back to you, so without balance, you get flung back ass over tea kettle.  Same problem, similar result, different reasons.  But it all makes sense.

There is one final aspect to balance, and that is the mental.  If you are able to break the rhythm of your opponents attacks (perhaps more an issue in striking arts than in grappling/throwing - I don't know and I am assuming here), you are disrupting their intent.  If you continue to block, you keep the opponents intent and their are on their mental balance, and you are off.  If you react to the attack with a counter, you begin to get the opponent on the defensive, and that is the beginning of the end.

If you thought countering an attack was hard, try countering the counter, or countering the counter of the counter, or ... well you get the idea.

The point is that you need to keep your balance, physical and mental.  I won't say anything about emotional, as it helps to be crazy if you live the budo life.

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