Do You Even Kuzushi?
Exploring the use of kuzushi in Jiu Jitsu…
Kuzushi is a term commonly used in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Wikipedia describes Kuzushi as, “a Japanese term for unbalancing an opponent in the Japanese martial arts.
The noun comes from the transitive verb kuzusu (崩す), meaning to level, pull down, destroy or demolish. As such, it refers to not just an unbalancing, but the process of putting an opponent to a position, where his stability, hence the ability to regain uncompromised balance for attacking, is destroyed.
In judo, it is considered an essential principle and the first of three stages to a successful throwing technique: kuzushi, tsukuri (fitting or entering) and kake (execution).
Kuzushi is important to many styles of Japanese martial arts, especially those derived from, or influenced by, Ju Jutsu training methods, such as Judo, Ninjutsu, Aikido, Uechi-ryu karate, Goju-ryu karate, and Wadō-ryū karate.
The methods of effecting kuzushi depend on maai (combative distance) and other circumstances. It can be achieved using tai sabaki (body positioning and weak lines), taking advantage of the opponent’s actions (push when pulled, pull when pushed), atemi (strikes), or a combination of all three.”
I must admit, the majority of my Jiu Jitsu career I thought of kuzushi in regards to getting a take down. If I want my training partner’s posture to become more upright, I would snap their head down. This made my double legs infinitely easier.
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Danaher recently made this post regarding kuzushi, “...One of the most important tenants of my approach to ground grappling, or ne waza, is that I want to take the notion of kuzushi and apply it to ground work just as Kano did to standing work. The act of off balancing an opponent prior to attack is just as useful on the floor as it is in the feet - especially when working from bottom position. All of your bottom submission attacks and sweeps become dramatically more effective when your opponent is constantly being taken out of balance.
My whole approach to bottom position is built upon the pattern of employing kuzushi generators - movements designed to take an opponent out balance - whenever possible to make bottom ne waza more effective.
Most people work bottom position with their primary emphasis on grip and immobilization of their opponent by wrapping them up as tightly as possible. Beginners typically hold their closed guard as tightly as possible - thinking that this is the way to success. I believe a much better approach is to focus on kuzushi as the basis of all bottom position and to feed all attacks off an initial attack on the opponents base of support. Thus my approach to guard work and all pin escapes is built around the ability to generate kuzushi upon my opponent. In my experience this approach always trumps over bottom methodologies based around holding opponents tightly in place with legs and arms. Here Eddie Cummings uses our kuzushi based approach to guard work in a fierce contest against world champion Augusto "Tanquinho" Mendes. Observe how Mr Cummings, despite being slightly smaller, has Mr Mendes completely elevated with only a single limb on the floor for balance. This is where world championship fighting gets decided, yet this critical skill is rarely taught in a systematic fashion. As a result it remains a skill used by most world champions and ignored by the vast majority of casual practitioners.”
As my own Jiu Jitsu progresses, I find myself looking for the principles behind successful technique. I ask myself “what was the kuzushi applied?” I find myself keeping score. How many elements of kuzushi did I generate? Yeah I know that there are no strikes (atemi) in Jiu Jitsu but I would argue that pain compliance is a worthy substitute. Perhaps understanding the principles of Jiu Jitsu is what transforms Jiu Jitsu from a series of predetermined movements to an art where something truly unique can be created.
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