Everybody knows, you pretty much have to have some kuzushi before you can do a technique on someone. But there's this seemingly eternal debate... Is kuzushi something that tori does to uke or does uke just become unbalanced because of the way the world works and tori's job is to spot and make use of that kuzushi. I personally think the answer to that question is, "yes" but that's sort of a topic for another day.
My interest for today is in how does tori effect kuzushi upon uke (if you will allow me to take that side of the previous debate)? Does tori effect kuzushi by exerting (pushing/pulling) against uke, or does tori effect kuzushi by becoming conspicuously absent from the relationship, by creating a void to lead uke into? (Again, I think the answer is, "Yes.")
A lot of American Tomiki folks have this set of 8 or 10 exercises that we call "releases" or "Hanasu." The Europeans and Japanese tend to call these same exercises "kuzushi." So, what we call Hanasu, they call Shichihon no kuzushi (7 forms of off-balance). We differ in what we call these exercises, as well as how many (7 or 8 or 10...).
But, the two names for this one set of ideas/movements are not accidental. It turns out that they really are the same thing. Releases are off-balances.
The mechanism that appears to be happening in most all of these releases is that as uke grasps the wrist, tori (usually) steps off-line and pushes back against uke. This push creates a natural resistance in uke - a directionality to the conflict. Then, as smoothly and instantaneously as possible, tori changes the direction of push by 90 or 180 degrees. This creates a void, or a weak direction, into which tori directs uke. This type of 90 or 180 degree change is what we call "releasing" and it produces what the Japanese call kuzushi - a moment of dis-balance and weakness in uke.
We release uke into unbalance.
Photo courtesy of Paco PH