Kuzushi in kata

There is a definition of kuzushi that has come into favor among many of the judo and aikido clubs that I most often have contact with.  It says that a state of kuzushi happens anytime uke is forced to make an action that he did not intend to make.  Whether it is a breath or a blink or a flinch or a step, if it was unintended then it reflects a state of unbalance or weakness. Any unthinking, reflexive reaction means uke is disbalanced.
Under this definition the act of unbalancing uke means to cause uke to make an unintended action.
In randori, this makes sense, because if you can draw uke out or bump him and make him take a recovery step, or if he flinches or blinks in response to your atemi, then you can more easily do your thing.  But how does this definition play out in kata, where every action is pre-planned and therefore intended?
Let's start by saying that it's pretty much axiomatic that you can't do good kata without kuzushi.  Kata without kuzushi sucks.
But you also can't do good kata with uke pre-planning to jump offbalance dramatically at the right time.  Kata with uke jumping for tori also sucks.  The kuzushi can't be part of uke's planned, intended actions.  If it is planned then it is not un-intended, which means it is not kuzushi, and we're back to the kata sucking for lack of kuzushi.  Pre-planned intentional jumping has a wholly different character of motion than does unintentional motion.
Kuzushi has to arise naturally (unexpectedly) from the interaction between tori's and uke's intended actions.
In kata, both parties know beforehand all the actions that are going to take place, and the final outcome.  But Uke must start into the kata with proper intention and then the interaction of that intention with tori's action should cause uke to take an unintended step.
Uke and tori may both know when and where that step is going to occur and where it will land, but it was not uke's intention to take that step, and now he must recover his balance/composure/whatever in order to continue with the program of intended actions in the kata.
We often talk about the necessity of "intent" in uke's attacks. We often talk about uke making "good attacks."  We often talk about tori having to "get a good initial off-balance." In these instances, this is what we are talking about - this interplay between uke's initial intentions and the reality of the relationship as it unfolds.

Patrick Parker

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