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Kuzushi 崩 Balance Control

The idea of balance control is closely tied together with last month’s topic of kamae. We want to be aware of, and ultimately have control over, both our own balance and the balance of our attacker. To describe it in another way, we want to break our attacker’s kamae or base, without sacrificing our own, so that we can more effectively win.

The seventh of our twelve keys is:


“Hips, shoulders, and legs aligned to throw off adversary’s balance without giving up your own; he in effect allows you to defeat him”
-An-shu Stephen K. Hayes, To-Shin Do Official Curriculum

In To-Shin Do, the idea of throwing someone is much more than just pulling them off balance with size and muscle and trying to “throw them hard”. The world outside of sporting events doesn’t come with weight classifications and referees to allow for a fair chance at winning. We need balance breaking tools that don’t rely on strength. The great news is all of our To-Shin Do techniques come with lessons in balance taking built right in. As you are going through your techniques look for:

  • Where your training partner’s center of gravity is throughout the technique
  • Ways to take your training partner toward the ‘triangle point’ in front or behind their legs that marks the point of their least stability.
  • Ways to take out or de-stabilize a leg
  • Ways to strike to move them farther and farther out of kamae
  • Ways to take their energy farther than they were intending

These are just a few methods for disrupting balance before attempting a throw or takedown. And that’s the real key point. We want to have the attacker’s balance well broken first. Then we throw. We aren’t throwing to break balance. And all of our techniques have some lesson like this in them. (Check with your instructor to get more feedback on what balance lessons to be focusing on).

The advanced goal, the real black belt secret of balance control, is the constant evaluation and continual evolution as we are moving. During every movement we make, we want to be disrupting our attacker’s balance in some small way, and we want to continue to adjust how we are creating that disruption, until the attacker’s balance is beyond recovery. A big disruption of balance is okay too, but that can be harder to find without forcing it to happen. Think of slowly stealing balance. Then they are so far off balance they can’t recover, and they’re not even sure how it happened. That’s moving like a ghost!

This off-balancing can happen on the inside too. If our internal kamae is out of alignment, if we find ourselves unprepared for what is happening, we can end up too busy reeling and trying to recover mentally that we don’t have time to physically be in the fight. We even have an idiom, ‘thrown for a loop’ to describe this mental state of being so confused and off balance from the inside that we are unable to function at our best. Some of our highest level black belt techniques show how we can disrupt balance in this way.

Balance control takes place in the mind as well as the body. We just want to be sure we’re the ones doing the throwing!

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