Saturday, February 16, 2013

Poetic description of kuzushi

I perceive a big problem in our aikido, and to some degree, our judo and jo practice also.

We are all concerned with balance - maintaining ours, breaking the other guy's, etc - but we (especially westerners) seem to lack the language we need to discuss issues related to kuzushi.

About all we ever ask is "did you or didn't you 'get' kuzushi?"  as if balance and kuzushi were discrete, mutually exclusive states of being.  But it seems to me that there are lots of inbetween states - like balance and falling are opposite ends of a continuous spectrum.  It seems to me that there can be lots of kinds and flavors and feelings and effects within that balance/unbalance spectrum.  But all we can figure out how to think about is did or didn't it happen.

So, how do we talk about non-discrete touchy-feely sorts of things?  How about poetry?

A while back, Nick came up with a scheme for characterizing and classifying different ways aikido folks transfer energy from tori to uke using the metaphor of the five elements - earth, fire, water, air, and the void.  This resulted in a pretty interesting way to think and talk about and experiment with different aikidoka's feels, but this energy transfer model seems to me to mostly deal with the kake phase of the throw.  What if we use the 5 elements metaphors to classify different kinds of kuzushi?

I propose five kinds of disbalance.  Have you ever felt...

Earth kuzushi - like being crushed between a rock and a hard place by having to deal with the weight of the earth through tori's structure - or like walking down a flight of stairs and stumbling at the bottom when you think there is one more step - or stubbing your toe - you have met the proverbial immovable object!

Fire kuzushi - like being cut down by a laser - Fire is the irresistable force that shears through your structure - Fire kuzushi can be explosive.

Water kuzushi - has a back and forth feel - turning 90 degree corners - flowing around obstructions - taking the shape of the space between tori and uke - erosive.

Air kuzushi - flowing - leading - uke feels like he is grasping at vapour - centrifugal - makes uke move so fast that he can't keep up with himself - feels like the air pressure in front of the attack blows tori out of the way

Kuzushi of the void - Occupying the space'that uke needs to stand up - no contact - effects at a distance - uke is unbalanced by tori relaxing rather than exerting.

Want to discuss this blog post?
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Patrick Parker

1 comment:

  1. It's a good idea. I have some Baguazhang background, and the 8 elements all have their own ideas. Some problems as an example: Earth in the Five Elements can be stone or soil (in the Yi Jing, Mountain is stillness, and Earth is receptivity). The image of Earth is associated with constant rotation, absorption and enveloping in the Yi Jing and is the maximum Yin element. A bloody nuisance when you get into Taiji and the Five Elements and the 8 Trigrams are combined giving both types of Earth in one movement...

    I hate people referring to "energy" or "feeling" for something that is a very concrete manifestation of strategy, physics, anatomy, mental state and the relationship between all these variables and more in two bodies. If this is the real idea behind technique and not simply hand position, if this is the juice that makes all the difference between something working well or poorly, why do we have such poor language for it?.


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