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A shadowy chicken and egg thing

A doctrine that is often attributed to Kano and his successors is that a technique is composed of three (some say 4) parts - kuzushi, tsukuri, kake (and some people add zanshin).

  • kuzushi refers to getting your opponent off-balance or off-guard.
  • tsukuri refers to getting yourself in the right place to effect the technique.
  • kake refers to the actual execution or doing of the thing.
  • zanshin refers to remaining alert and aware before, during, and after a technique.

But kuzushi-tsukuri-kake is not an ordered thing - particularly with regard to kuzushi and tsukuri.
Some people point out that you must destroy or control the opponent's balance (kuzushi) before you can safely step inside their sphere of influence (tsukuri) in order to do the thing (kake) - and they are correct.
Some people point out that you must get off the line of attack and get within ma-ai (tsukuri) in order to be able to affect their balance (kuzushi) - and they are correct.
Some people emphasize the importance of using the movement of your center of mass - dropping your weight onto uke - to get kuzushi (tsukuri and kuzushi happen almost the same time and tsukuri causes kuzushi) - and they are correct. 
And in some sense, if you are able to move into shikaku (the dead angle behind uke) then uke is automatically in a state of kuzushi because he must make at least one adjustment/recovery before he can continue to attack. (tsukuri=kuzushi) - and this is also correct
At least all these are correct sometimes. 
But when we are talking about a set of kihon (fundamental techniques) sort of like a primer for noobs, I do not think it does much good pedagogically to tell the beginner that each technique can be done all these different ways - that sometimes you do kuzushi then tsukuri and sometimes you do tsukuri and then kuzushi and sometimes it works out to tsukuri then kake because tsukuri is really equivalent to kuzushi.  That seems like a recipe for confusion.
Rather, I like to specify a form for the novice to copy until they are performing adequately and then we might point out (or they might discover through randori) that sometimes it works differently.  
Sometimes this is called henka (variation) and sometimes it is called ura (profound).
Sometimes - and I really like the evocative sound of this - it is called kage (the shadow) referring to the shady grey areas between and beneath fundamental techniques or the consequences or implications of understanding the fundamentals.

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Patrick Parker