Monday, July 07, 2008

The Broader Meaning of Kuzushi

The first and most important step in applying a throwing technique [ideally: any technique] is to first employ kuzushi. Usually, I would explain kuzushi as "unbalancing", but delving a little deeper we find that kuzushi derives from the verb kuzusu, meaning "to level, pull down, or demolish".

Looking more broadly at the problem of "leveling" an aggressor, any or all of the following means can contribute to the cause:
  • Unbalancing: Bringing the aggressor's center of gravity beyond his or her base of support
  • Mis-alignment: Moving parts of the aggressor into an awkward configuration
  • Distraction
  • Pain (which can also be a distraction)
All of these measures help to reduce the aggressor's ability to resist the remainder of the technique. However, for subtle kuzushi, it is best when there is neither too much nor too little of the contributing components. Too little, and there is no effect. Too much, and your intentions are telegraphed.

By practicing cooperatively we can learn to sense when our (or our partner's) balance is lost, and where our (or our partner's) alignment is compromised. Developing sensitivity, and an acute feeling for the interplay of these factors can help to make the application of kuzushi elegant and irresistible.


Anonymous said...

Got any thoughts on why kuzushi helps with restraint and control? Obviously it is easier to control someones movements when they are off balance, but getting someone to submit when their balance is broken is much easier also, as in less pressure needs to be applied.

Daniel Prager said...

Hi Adam

I think that you understand this already!

In my words: Less force is needed because the ability to resist has been significantly reduced by the effect of the kuzushi. That makes
it easier for the giver to complete the technique (to whatever extent).

Anonymous said...

Actually, I was thinking more in terms of when the balance is not connected directly to the ability to resist. For instance the comealong armbar.

You don't need to be balanced to bend your arm, and the technique doesn't take your arm to a radically unnatural position in relation to your body. Are we unable to exert as much resistance physically? When you do a chinup you have no balance.

Dan Prager said...

Adam: I am not sure exactly what you are driving at, but thanks for posting these stimulating comments!

In the case of the comealong armbar, I think that the use of off-balancing, structural compromise and opportunities for atemi and distraction are readily apparent, just in the standard entry.

As for not putting the arm in a "radically unnatural position", I agree up to a point, but there are ways to subtly mis-align the arm to reduce resistance.

It would be a good exercise to explore the different ways that balance and structure can be disturbed in a particular technique, and how they contribute to overall efficacy and efficiency.

As for chin-ups and the like, are you sure that there is no balance? It might be worth chatting to a gymnast about the nature of balance in situations where the arms -- rather than the feet -- are connected to an immovable object.