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Kuzushi – Defeating the Enemy by Destroying his Balance

The kanji for “kuzushi” actually translates as “to demolish” but in martial arts terms it takes on the ideal of first breaking the opponents balance, and then finishing him off. Warriors learned early on to never attack a superior force head on but found ways to distract their opponents or even attack from another direction all together. They also recognized that one of the best times to attack was after an opponent had lost his balance due to unknown circumstances, which included being out of position. Another way to look at balance in combat is the ability to be aware of everything going on around you, or “zanshin”. This concept allows us to understand that you can break an opponent’s balance physically, mentally or even spiritually.

Most classical martial arts systems have a variety of techniques they use to break an opponent’s balance. These range from pushing or pulling, using the opponent’s momentum against them or even how to strike at just the right angle to cause “kuzushi”.

Mentally we train to not allow a sudden crisis to destroy our demeanor, by constantly developing healthy reactions to a multitude of attacks and situations. We constantly study the actions of other successful people and learn to modify those actions to fit our own needs.

We also learn that by developing a strong spirit, that we can endure those that try to intimidate or bully us and stay focused on our own specific objectives.

In an effort to understand the weakness of being off-balance we spend hours developing good balance in our postures and movements to ensure our ability to respond from a solid position.

In combat a good General understands this concept well, and formulates strategies and tactics designed to keep the enemy off balance through a variety of posturing and flanking maneuvers. Even in our personal lives this concept of striving to always maintain our balance, while at the same time trying to destabilize any opposition we may encounter, is one of those little keys of success.

In modern times we have learned to try and maintain balance in several key areas including business and career, family and personal life, money and investments, health and fitness, personal growth and development, social and community activities, spiritual development and inner peace. Each of us learns one way or another, to maintain the right amount of energy in each area, or this imbalance will cause a string of other problems. Like the General in his war room creating battle plans, the modern warrior breaks out the day planner and coordinates activities to ensure a balanced progression towards his specific goals.

A couple of key concepts would include asking what one thing should I do at this moment to help me reach my goals and still maintain my balance? Also, when faced with a problem ask, how can I reposition the problem or myself, in order to minimize or even completely neutralize the negative consequences of this problem? The modern warrior understands and constantly works on maintaining balance in a rapidly changing world. Understanding “kuzushi” is one of those little secrets of Martial Arts Mastery.

During these trying times when we are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, loss of income and self-isolation the concept of maintaining one’s balance becomes even more critical. Think of not only mastering your martial art but mastering life.

Wishing you health, happiness and success.
In the way, JWA

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