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kuzushi in hizaguruma

Continuing my series on specifically where is the kuzushi found in our judo throws - our third technique that we teach beginners is hizaguruma - the knee wheel.
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But first a tangent - coming up thru the ranks, we had the hardest time EVER getting hizaguruma to work.  And my instructor at the time was not much better than we were at the thing.  We asked him one time "why is this thing taught so early when it is so damned hard to make work?" and he made up some nonsense about how it was taught as the first thing so that by the time you get a black belt you will have had sufficient practice to (maybe) make it work.
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Let me state in an unqualified way, that is B.S.  This thing is taught early because it is both basic and foundational (it is a great early example of the guruma concept).  It is not difficult to throw - in fact my yellow belts tend to throw it regularly for ippon in shiai and it is often their favorite throw.  We used to have a hard time with it simply because we were throwing it with the wrong mechanics and the wrong timing.
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We teach hiza as a backup plan for a failed deashibarai.  Tori sails in and tries to sweep your front foot but can't get it to move.  So he places his sweeping foot on the line of uke's feet facing both of uke's feet, and immediately uses his other foot to block uke's back knee as he tilts uke into the hole.
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So where is the offbalance in hizaguruma?
  • Timing - after an attempted deashi when uke's front foot is weightbearing.  Tori has made a tiny round-the-corner step and uke's back foot is just about to move forward.
  • Direction - Uke's posture crumbles into the hole between his feet - 90 degrees to the line of his feet. 
  • Unintended action - uke had intended to step forward with his back foot to face tori, just like in kosotogari.  Instead his step was blocked at the knee and his intention and momentum carried him into the hole.


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Kuzushi in kosotogari

The second technique we teach in judo is kosotogari, and we teach it as a response to a deashi gone bad.
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You will recall in deashi we teach to push uke on a backstep, which should either cause him to rock back and forth or take another full step back, either of which allows us to do deashi.
But what happens when you get the timing of the sweep wrong and uke's front leg is more weighted than you thought - when you hit deashi and his foot does not move?
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In this case, you take a turning step (just like in walking kata) around uke's front foot to stand beside/behind him, then when he turns back to face you, kosotogari appears.
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So, where is the kuzushi in kosotogari?
  • Timing - after an attempted deashi when uke's front foot is weightbearing.
  • Direction - there is really not a lot of push/pull in this, but tori turning the corner invites uke to turn the corner after.
  • Unintended action - uke had intended to stand still and weather your deashi attack.  Instead he was forced to turn the corner to keep tori from slipping behind him.

There is the off chance that instead of turning to face, uke may refuse to move, but that is just dumb because that is inviting some much more awful things, like sukuinage or taniotoshi or uranage.

Kuzushi in deashibarai

Have you smelled the smoke yet?  The smoke coming from the grinding of the gears in my head?  It's Sean's fault because of his article he posted this morning at Northern Wind Budo Blog.
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And when the gears start a grindin' and the smoke starts a pourin' like that, there's no telling what might result.  I thought I'd try my hand at describing just where the kuzushi is at in several throws.  I thought I'd start at the very beginning (a very good place to start) with deashibarai.
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First, based on a couple of previous articles, we can say a pretty good definition of kuzushi is "a properly timed and directed application of force that causes uke to make an action that he had not planned to make."  Sure, there are some weird, spooky ways to get some interesting offbalances, but for the most part you have to push or pull uke in a certain direction at a certain time, and that causes him to make some unintended action that you can exploit.  So, in order to describe a kuzushi, I'll have to describe the timing and direction of the push/pull as well as the unintended action that uke makes.
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So, how is this done in deashibarai (at least in the deashibarai we usually teach beginners and pracice the most)?
  • timing - right when uke's foot touches the ground on a backward step.
  • direction - push their torso in the direction of their back foot
  • unintended action - uke puts more weight than he wanted to in his back foot, then rocks back forward.
  • exploitation - as uke starts to rock back forward, you sweep his unweighted front foot.
One of the biggest problems with a lot of people's deashi is that instead of a sharp "on-off" sort of push which causes uke to rock back then forward, tori pushes too hard and long which causes uke to rock back and then step backward out of your deashi.  In this case, the unintended action (kuzushi) is uke stepping back with the leg you were intending to sweep so your exploitation is to step with uke and then do deashi on the other leg. 
 
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Patrick Parker
 

The engine of judo and combatives

A few weeks ago I posted a story about one of my students getting a leg broken by skipping a seminar at my Dojo to go to a competition.  Today another of my long-time students reminded me of a cool episode in his life.

This student had gotten up to about green or brown belt, and decided he wanted to join the Marines.  So off he goes to boot camp, or whatever they call their initial training stint, part of which now includes the MCMAP ground fighting material.  I don't recall the time frame, but at some point in this training, he got a week off to go home and he came and played with me for a few days.

I'm always curious about how our classes are serving folks, so i asked him how he was handing the MCMAP stuff with his background in judo, what was the same, what was different, that sort of thing.  He said it was all familiar except for the MCMAP folks were more focussed on cool techniques and pretty much totally lacked foundation for those cool techniques - how to shrimp, how to bridge, 2-hands on a point, etc...

So, I figured he must be doing pretty good in the competitions.  Not so.  He seemed to think his performance had been pretty mediocre and he was disappointed that he hadn't done better with his background.  So we got on the ground so he could show me what he'd been doing in MCMAP, and sure enough, he was a flurry of aerobically conditioned muscle trying for cool armbars. But there was no foundation of ground mobility there.

He had let his instructors brainwash him into forgetting how to shrimp and bridge and do all the foundations that actually make this stuff work.  So we had a review session for 2 or 3 days that mostly consisted of drills involving shrimping, bridging, and positional transitions.  I suspect he was sorta disappointed when he left that I hadn't shown him the cool ninja techniques that he needed to do better in MCMAP.

But then he went back and commenced to kicking absolute ass at MCMAP.  He rapidly (instantly) rose to the top of his class, and his crowning achievement was whipping the MCMAP instructor's weekend cagefighting MMA ass!

Seems the instructor had the same bad habit that I'd schooled out of all my students of crossing his ankles in front of the opponent when in the rear guard, so when the instructor took my student's back, my student proceeded to ankle-bar both of the instructor's legs and force him to tap.

There is something to be said for paying close attention to foundations.  Working on the cool submissions without drilling the foundations is like having a beautiful sports car with no engine.  It won't go.  It's not good judo and its not good combatives.

Legendary heart yankers!

Some time back I did a series of articles about martial arts urban legends, like 3000 year-old martial arts and knocking peoples noses back into their brains and that sort of thing. Today I was reminded of another.

This morning I ate breakfast with a Vietnam vet aquaintence, and he asked if I still taught judo.  When I said yes, he immediately started in on how he used to do judo in "'Nam" and wanted to know if we also practiced, "the neck method" in our judo. I think I managed to avoid rolling my eyes.

Then he claimed that his special forces judo buddies had "broken their hands so they would grow back together into blade hands" and that they had been trained to stab their hands through enemies chest or abdomen in order to grab their heart and "yank it out!"  He said this was their preferred method of silent sentry removal.

I just nodded and said, "wow!"

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.
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Under this definition the act of unbalancing uke means to cause uke to make an unintended action.
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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?
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Let's start by saying that it's pretty much axiomatic that you can't do good kata without kuzushi.  Kata without kuzushi sucks.
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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.
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Kuzushi has to arise naturally (unexpectedly) from the interaction between tori's and uke's intended actions.
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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.
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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.
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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.


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Patrick Parker
www.mokurendojo.com

Three hipthrow entries

I have, for a long time, based my judo classes on the idea that there are  handful of throws that are foundational to the rest of the throws - the idea that all of the cool, weird throws are just fairly minimal variations of a bare handful of foundational throws.  I have fluctuated on whether I think there are about nine foundational throws, or if perhaps it might be as few as six, but the general idea has remained pretty constant, and we've gotten a lot of mileage out of is teaching model.
With regard to teaching hipthrows, I have three basic entries that I teach that can be used for pretty much any hip throws -
  • stepping through uke's hips as he steps back
  • turning parallel with uke and fitting in as he steps forward
  • shifting the front foot out of the way then turning backward with the rear leg to fit in
Problem is, I have always taught these three entries in a sort of haphazard manner, whenever I happen to think to or whenever a student has a hipthrow question that looks like a different entry would solve.  Since any of the three entries can be used to throw any hipthrow, I have mostly defaulted to using the first one just because it is my personal favorite and the easiest to teach.
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Then I got to looking at the core throws that I listed above. There are two hipthrows there (ukigoshi and ogoshi), and the first thing that I teach after these foundation throws is koshiguruma - another hip technique.  Hmmm... Three hipthrows before green belt and three entries for hipthrows... I bet you can read my mind...
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I think I will try explicitly pairing each of these hipthrows with one of these entries, so that beginners get some systematic exposure to all three koshinage entries.  My first thoughts on this pairing are something like this...
  • stepping through into ukigoshi
  • turning parallel into ogoshi
  • turning backward into koshiguruma
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Patrick Parker

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