JUDO RON 23-About Kuzushi

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Theory and practice of Kuzushi, the art of breaking balance and posture applicable to judo Tachi and Ne-Waza.(word document)


Discussion and investigation into selected judo topics by Ronald Dsormeaux

JUDO RON 23 - About KuzushiI have talked about the general principles of judo during many of my discussion groups or mondo held with my students over the past years. Even today, I think it is imperative that we refresh our mind about the concept and the application of Kuzushi as identified by the founder of Judo, the late professor Jigoro Kano. Such a concept or principle was introduced and perfected by Doctor Kano around 1881 after his study of the Randori practices at the Kito Ryu and as a result of his encounters with Iikudo Tsunetoshi sensei. Kano practiced and perfected reading the opponents motion and developed several tactics to break their postures. He introduced the eight directions (Happo Kuzushi) by which an opponents posture can be broken. The Kodokan judo Dictionary1 still defines Kuzushi as balance breaking: An action to unbalance your opponent in preparation for throwing him while the general Random House dictionary refers to Kuzureru as the verb to collapse, to destroy or lose shape. Respecting the original definition of the founder, it is appropriate that we link Kuzushi with the means of identifying the right moment of opportunity for Tori (Debana) and the exact moment of vulnerability on Ukes part. Expressing the early meaning of Kuzushi, and confirmed by Kano sensei as a truthful adaptation of his teaching, one of the Kodokan pillars, Yokohama Sakujiro sensei wrote in 1908 in his Judo Kyohan that:2In order to conquer your opponent you must of course be an adept at as many tricks as possible (techniques). However dexterous you may be, you will find them useless if applied at the wrong time By the right occasion to apply tricks, is meant the time when your opponent has fallen into the condition in which your methods will take effect. Such condition is said to be in his loose or broken posture. Victory may be divided into three principal heads: Put you opponent into a broken posture, (Kuzushi) place yourself in the right posture or place (Tsukuri), and perform the tricks in the proper manner (Kake)

1 2

Teizo Kawamura and Toshiro Daigo, Kodokan Dictionary of judo, Tokyo, 2000 Yokohama Sakujiro and Oshima Eisuke, Judo Kyohan, Fukui Japan, French version 1911 titled: Manuel de Jiu-Jitsu de lcole Kano, English translation as Judo Kyohan, 1914


Discussion and investigation into selected judo topics by Ronald Dsormeaux

Tachi Waza and Kuzushi These first references to Kuzushi implied that the principle was mostly related to Tachi Waza or standing judo. For each technique in the Gokyo, there was a proper Kuzushi or variation on the how to apply it since professor Kano had first discovered these applications during Randori. When he later refined his concept, he gave it a more universal definition to encompass the Ne Waza or ground work. He saw the Kuzushi as the mean to entice the opponent into a position of no return, as an undetectable movement or surprise by which the opponent could be mastered with minimum effort and which would offer the less chance to escape. Hereunder are some illustrations of the general and physical applications of Kuzushi as found in Tachi Waza.


Discussion and investigation into selected judo topics by Ronald Dsormeaux

As one can observe, these basic physical manoeuvres of lifting and pushing with your entire body are aimed at making the opponent very uncomfortable in his posture; unstable in his balance. They create the necessary distractions that will extend his reaction time to your own mouvements. As judo is both a mental and physical activity, one can assume that Kuzushi is also made up of additional processes such as installing fear, doubts and uncertainties; spreading confusions and allowing the introduction of selected shouts aimed at distracting momentarily his mental ability and concentration. The application of Kuzushi is one of the basic weapons found in the arsenal of judo as I described them in my book Shin Gi Tai3. The operating words associated with Kuzushi are: to disrupt, to outwit and out skill the opponent by means of adjusting ones action to the opponents reaction and vice versa. Each action must therefore be wanted or desired. Such a total approach to defining Kuzushi has been expressed by Professor Koizumi Gunji of the London Budokwai when he said:Judo may be described as a science for the study of the potential powers of

the body and mind, and the way of applying them most efficiently in combative activities.4 Kuzushi begins by making use of the mind as a mental power to develop the proper strategy and approach in accordance with the various situations before us. It is almost a combination of two principle know as Sen whereby you forestall your opponent by starting your action before he begins his attack and the Sen No Sen principle where you are mentally capable of discovering or anticipating his very first move. By doing so, one establishes a higher degree of self confidence and is able to tackle the situation without fear of what the opponent could do or not do. By being able to sense the emotions and the mouvements of the opponent, one can better make use of the other Judo technical principles dealing with non-resistance and the application of the Ju principle.


Ronald Dsormeaux, The Discovery of Judos Arsenal, Shin Gi Tai, 2008 Koizumi Gunji, My study of Judo, Cornerstone Library, New York, 1960



Discussion and investigation into selected judo topics by Ronald Dsormeaux

We know that physical and mechanical sciences define strength in terms of resistance. Without resistance, strength is equal to zero. In such case, the effect of strength/force is limited to its prime application; that of maintaining the stability of the structure or object within its environment. Its stability is generally determined by the material chosen, the weight, the size or form; by the height, the balance of forces inside and out, the location of its centre of gravity and by its base of support. External forces applied against the structure are equal to the internal forces employed to hold the structure in place. Judo activities have similar requirements but since judo is a dynamic process between two opposing persons, we have to understand and make use of the three basic laws as expressed by Isaac Newton which could be applied: 1. An object at rest will remain at rest unless influenced by an external force. 2. When an object is moved by a force, it develops an acceleration proportional to, and in the direction of that force. 3. To every action there is a reaction. To maximize our judo efficiency, and gain from the influences produced by the forces of gravity, friction, momentum, velocity, impulsion and propulsion we require being truthful to natural and to judo principles. We have already discussed these in earlier presentations pertaining to natural posture, displacement, rhythm and Kokoro. They are key elements forming the basis for the intelligent use of the energy principle. The manner in which they are used or deployed will determine the levels of our flexible response or application of the Ju principle. When discussing the right natural posture, we have learned how we could retain a balanced state of our body and gain from having a full view of the opponent and the developing situation and are advantaged with greater liberty of action. With displacement exercises, we emphasized common tactics to avoid, neutralise external forces, render them ineffective or redirect them to unbalance the opponent. With rhythm, we discovered that physical strength and weakness are less important than equilibrium and coordination. Kokoro has opened our mind to reveal the essence of will power and spirit. We have thus established that maximum efficiency can be obtained with minimum efforts.4

Discussion and investigation into selected judo topics by Ronald Dsormeaux

Our body is not a solid entity as one would normally find in a physical structure such as a skyscraper. When threatened, we react differently and try to regain our stability by changing our posture or switching direction of movement. Our body is composed of bones, flexible joints, tendons, muscles, internal organs and water; it has several circulation mechanisms and reservoirs that inflate, deflate or react to each other. Its efficiency depends on the nervous system to properly command the coordination and harmony of its composite parts and it is also depended upon its maintenance of a relative state of stability. In a standing posture, such stability is obtained by the constant adaptation of the center of gravity (in the abdomen region) which oscillates its positions directly over the base or space outlined by the position of the feet. Maintaining such a fragile state depends on constant adjustments of the muscular functions over the joints of the body, especially at the hips and legs regions. Some of my former teachers emphasized that the trunk or Hara was the primary source of both balance and power and that the other moving parts were mostly instrumental tools involved in the transfer of the power from the centre to the extremities. They recommended directing our power from the Hara and transferring it into our hands and wrists, arms, head and toes. We understand that the action of Kuzushi, of disturbing or disrupting occurs when ones balance is threatened and that we are rendered temporarily powerless. We are facing a willing opponent, he or she is not a dead weight but a thinking person with a will power as strong as our. His speed of reaction before a dangerous situation will be crucial. We therefore have to sense and feel such a weak moment occurring within our opponents movement path. While maintaining our own stability, we will need to move quickly and place our self in an advantageous position (Hontai) before he regains his composure by stepping in or away from the opponent and applying subsequent action in the direction to which the opponent has demonstrated this kind of weakness by offering the least or no resistance. It was the great technician that was Mifune Kyuzo sensei 10th dan which recommended that whatever we do, we should try to maintain freedom of action and maintain balance when he said: One must always keep his balance and let the opponent lose his55

Mifune Kyuzo, Canon of Judo, Seibundo-Shinkosha, Tokyo, 1963


Discussion and investigation into selected judo topics by Ronald Dsormeaux

In a judo contest, there are several instances where we may become at risk of loosing our stability thus presenting a higher degree of vulnerability. Hereunder is a partial list: 1. When we enter the respiratory phase of inhaling. 2. When we are careless with the displacement of our feet (Ayumi Ashi). 3. When we are incapable of observing the situation from a safe distance. 4. When we are mentally fatigued or preoccupied with other things. 5. When we focus on only one subject or direction. 6. When our body is tired and slow to move about. 7. When we become confused by right-left or multiple attacks or situations 8. When our reaction time is diminished by our own poor posture. 9. When we are not properly trained for dynamic and changing situations. 10. When we let the opponent guide and lure us in his rhythm. 11. When we are unable to change our body position because of the close entanglement with the opponent. You may find several other circumstances emanating from the study of the next diagram depicting postural situations. Try to imagine the source, the facility of making use of distance, speed, confusing attack, directional force and the potential opportunity to place a Kuzushi in those four situations.

For our discussion, we have to remember two basic rules: Make use of Ukes strength first and foremost, then, you must synchronize the actions of your Hara, head, hand and feet to induce UKE to make a move from which he will be committed and have difficulty retrieving. Kuzushi and Ne Waza


Discussion and investigation into selected judo topics by Ronald Dsormeaux

The principles applied to Tachi Waza are also present in Ne Waza, yet they are expressed by different applications. Here, our aim is to attack the weakest point. We need to maintain Ukes centre of gravity in close proximity to the ground while restricting his mobility or escape routes. By making use of our own centre of gravity (located in the abdomen) we are able to shift our weight around, on or about him. Mifune sensei tells us that in both the throwing and floor techniques, the Kuzushi must remain the essence of a victory.6 In his method of judo, sensei Kawaishi Mikinosuke emphasised that the hold-down techniques are the corner stones of all ground work. He remarked that the swift entry into a secured position is the doorway to impose the maximum restriction to the opponent by preventing his escapes, restricting his moves or taking advantages of his weaknesses through choking techniques and arm lock lever actions.7 Inokuma Isao sensei expressed the continuity of Tachi Waza into Ne Waza in his preface to Pelletier G and Urvoy C document on Ne Waza as follow: Following a throw with an immediate attack into Ne Waza without letting go of the opportunity provided by the broken posture of the opponent constitute a major advantage towards victory and represent a major asset in judo.8

6 7

Mifune Kyuzo, Canon of Judo, page 43 Kawaishi Mikinosuke, Ma mthode de judo, 1951, page 290 8 Pelletier G and Urvoy C, Ne Waza, Sedirep.1981


Discussion and investigation into selected judo topics by Ronald Dsormeaux

If an Ippon is not marked by throwing the opponent on his back and with sufficient force, one must be prepared to follow the opponent to the ground. The rules of contest require that his back be held to the ground without escaping for the duration of 25 seconds. The opponent can abandon or concede his defeat when choked or held in a dangerous arm lock. The prime points of control are: the head, the torso, the abdomen, the elbow joint and the shoulder areas. As we will note in the following graphics, such bodily control must be sought while preserving as much as possible our own freedom. We need to keep in mind that our positions are interchangeable, that we have the freedom to move our base of support, and vary the techniques used or change our control areas at will.

Of course the superior position presents better possibilities for control yet; the lower and side positions have their distinct advantages as we need to constantly readjust our postures and play on the angles to maximize the use of the action-reaction principle with every move or tentative escape that will be tried by the opponent. The observations made by professor M.Feldenkrais 9 support the logic used by the earlier Ne Waza specialists in that: when the opponent lays on his9

Feldenkrais M, Higher judo groundwork, Frederick...