The art of “Kuzushi” in Kyogi-Aikido

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo.
Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

Kyogi-Aikido

Kyogi-Aikido is a limited version of the art of Aikido created by Morihei Ueshiba. The goal of Kyogi-Aikido is to introduce some free-play or randori with a limitation in the use of harmful techniques.

In order not to forget the original teachings, some kata or formal demonstrations are created for the presentation to public demonstrations and for grading purposes. This is referred to as “Embu” or a formal demonstration of Aikido techniques that are not permitted during randori. In addition to the Koryu no kata or the original techniques, Embu also includes the formal demonstration of the techniques allowed during randori or freeplay.

Randori kyogi:A competition that enables you to practice Aikido techniques more practically. In tanto randori, one uses a dagger and the other apply techniques freely. The one who have the dagger is changed in the latter part of the game. In toshu randori, players don’t use a dagger and apply techniques each other.
Embu kyogi:Competition of pre-arranged forms. Players show techniques and compete its performance level.

Basic Techniques of Sport Aikido (Tomiki Aikido)
Instructor: INOUE Yoshiomi (7th Dan in Aikido)
Author: KOMATSU Toshiya (5th Dan in Aikido)
Available at Amazon as a paper version or a kindle e-book

Martial art or martial sport?

Most people think that judo, karate and other combat sports are just a game because they are included in the Olympic competition. The implication is that a sport is just for the “game” and cannot be effective for self-defense or fighting. The belief is that the distinction between Sport and Martial Art is that martial artists train for the real world. By real world the assumption is that in addition to street self-defense, other hostile situations are included, such as intimidation and so on.
In the real world, before a new product is used by the general public, it must be tested in different circumstances before it can be used. Fundamentally, a product must be safe and must bring some kind of progress to our lives. A product is not necessarily a physical thing, but it can also be a mental notion.

If a martial art is founded on an almost religious belief and which is not tested in the context of realistic and scientific procedures, this martial art is an illusion and a danger for someone who is a so-called true believer. On the other hand, we must open our minds to ideas and concepts that we regard as controversial. Do not become a true believer who rejects anything that does not belong in the dogma of a so-called true budoka.

Aikido Sport or Kyogi Aikido by removing some of the potential dangers may reach a prominent place as a sports activity, but also as a kind of self-protection. Training in Kyogi Aikido differs in many aspects from the more traditional way of training in Aikido. It produces natural, fast, reflexive movement with the full power safe application, achieving a result against a struggling opponent who is also utilizing the full power while engaging in strategic and tactical resistance using all of his or her resources and training.

Of course, this can go wrong. Winning and losing can become too large and begin to divert the training process. The final goal should not be medal victory. The use of sports competition as a metaphor for a true fight can be very different from a game. Matches, as well as free practice and sparring, are simply different methods to shape the mind and body to deal with the adversity of combat situations.

Just as non-competitive martial arts training may not provide the benefits of competition, training for a sports competition may not provide the full scope of self defense training. Martial sports often include non-competitive components. For example, competition is only a part of the Tomiki Aikido curriculum, and Kenji Tomiki, was very concerned about preserving those self defense techniques that could not be used with full force in free play or randori.

Though martial arts and sports both have higher objectives, it is still a fact that many people train in martial arts primarily for self-defense. For those who have never used sports training methods, or those who have never explored the traditional training of Bujutsu, it is easy to reduce the efficiency of the other. As martial artists we should continually seek opportunities to challenge ourselves by examining the weaknesses of our training and keeping our minds open to other methods.

Kyogi Aikido Limitations

Safety in the first place is possible if we include certain limitations in the practice of randori or freeplay.

Using “Atemi” on a physical weakness of the body can be very dangerous if applied correctly. If not, you can injure yourself with your hand, fist or other part of the body used as a weapon.

As in other martial arts or fighting sport, the use of highly dynamic push is introduced in order to throw the opponent. The target becomes a dynamical weak point of the body. Destabilisation becomes an art in itself. Kuzushi or the art of unbalance becomes an important training element in the curriculum of Kyogi Aikido.

Though not directly harmful, gi-grabbing is not used during shiai and in extension not during randori dojo training. The idea was that gi-grabbing was a part of judo randori. Tomiki’s original idea was to embed atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza into judo training using as a separate randori (kyogi aikido)

Kuzushi – Breaking balance

From the book witten by Komatsu Toshiya:
Breaking Balance and Techniques
When beginners learn techniques by watching advanced players, they tend to look the moment his opponent is thrown. However, it is important to understand “breaking balance” in order to learn the technique quickly. Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, said that after he studied breaking balance of his opponents, his skills became much better. The result of his research on judo is that “the body balance of people is always broken by pushing or pulling him.” This means that by breaking balance of an opponent, it is possible to apply techniques even if the opponent is powerful. This principle of Judo is the same in Aikido.

Unbalancing the opponent before applying a throw

We have to take in account different aspect about how to unbalance an opponent. Two important aspect have to be considered:

  • Physical unbalancing – break his stable posture and keep your posture
  • Mental unbalancing – finding the unguarded moment by using mushin mugamae

Physical unbalancing

A human body adopts basically always a stable posture because we are under pressure of gravity. Our posture is not always very effective in the maintenance of a balanced posture. Practicing a stable structure is one of the first stages of martial art training. Shizentai and jigotai are both types of posture to introduce stable structure to beginners. Even more experienced practitioners may benefit from practicing shizentai and jigotai.
Physical unbalancing a stable structure is a skill which uses pulling, pushing or rotational movements. These actions can be considered tools for the use of internal and external power.

Power usage needs a stable structure, otherwise the opponent will use your unstable posture to create kuzushi. Maybe that’s new to a number of you. Most explanations of kuzushi only describe how to unbalance someone without explaining how to keep a strong but flexible structure (jukozo).

Most training packages to study kuzushi are rather unrealistic or abstract in character. These exercises are not directly applicable to randori training. Practitioners must adapt these unbalancing movements for practical use in randori.
Nonetheless, formal kuzushi training sets give you the feeling of how an unbalanced movement influences the opponent. Practitioners will also be aware that a stable posture is required.

Mental unbalancing

Mental unbalancing could be described as upsetting or disturbing the equilibrium of a person’s state of mind.
Finding the unguarded moment by using mushin mugamae is the first step to set to disturb opponent’s state of mind.

“Find the vulnerable moment in the opponent at the moment when he launches his attack. This kind of counterattack that is executed in the void instant when your opponent is just beginning to launch his attack is called “deai”.”

Kenji Tokitsu – 1979 – Le voie du karaté – pour une théorie des arts martiaux japonais

Mushin mugamae
To get into an opponent’s state of mind, you have to free yourself from all the thoughts that may disturb you how to see the opponent. In this situation, you may manipulate your opponent by showing an opening for him to attack. But you are ready to counter, or you can attack the moment he is preparing to attack you.

Both are waiting for the signal “Hajime” of the referee. The person who has the tanto is known to the defender as a right-handed striker. However, the tanto is now in the left hand. This disturbed the defender and he shouted: “He is a lefty!” It was time to attack for tanto. Sadly, there was no “Hajime”. The limitations are not always as convenient.