“Do not chase after secret techniques for everything is right before your eyes.” ~ Morehei Ueshiba
This is a classic comment from O’Sensei. One of the things that is “right before your eyes” is kuzushi.
Kuzushi is a Japanese term for unbalancing an opponent in martial arts.
The noun comes from the intransitive verb, kuzusu, meaning to level, pull down, or demolish. As such, it is refers to not just an unbalancing, but the process of getting an opponent into a position where his stability, and thus ability to regain balance, is destroyed.
In aikido, it is an essential principle and the first of three stages to a successful throwing technique: entering, off-balance, throw [sabaki, kuzushi, waza].
At its simplest level, kuzushi means off balance and involves the use of the other person’s motion. While most people understand this they do not incorporate that understanding into every part of their Aikido practice. Every technique requires kuzushi, taking your uke’s balance. Without kuzushi the technique becomes difficult and laboured or maybe impossible.
However, if you take someone’s balance their ability to press the attack or resist your technique is removed. Using kuzushi you can then achieve a level of harmony, “aiki”, with your uke.
To achieve kuzushi you need to move your body as one from your hara (your centre) not from your extremities. The movement of your arms and legs should be a result of moving your centre in concert with your assailant.
Secondly – become one with the other person. Physically you move when they move, at the speed they move and blend your movement with their attack. You keep blending with them until they hit the ground. Only by fully accepting his attack and allowing your assailant to move in the direction he wants, can you use your technique to the fullest without allowing him an opportunity to counter.
Thirdly – although I believe this only develops with training, there is a psychological element to kuzushi. That is off balancing your uke at the moment they attack. There is not room to deal with it here but it can easily be seen in the fabled story of the duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro.
If you want to improve your aikido then one way is to improve kuzushi. When you train be aware and look for kuzushi in every technique. Practice it. And of course the most important thing is practice often!!