Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happo no Kuzushi and Kuzushi

Happo no Kuzushi is commonly translated as being the eight directions of off-balance. It is often seen as being the pinnacle of kuzushi theory.

The US Marines Close Combat manual, along with many others in the martial arts and other activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter, refer to the happo no kuzushi concept. People; happo no kuzushi is simply a device to indicate direction when explaining kuzushi techniques. It is a compass. A watch is a little more precise than the happo no kuzushi compass. And a watch is just as insightful into kuzushi as is happo no kuzushi.

Kuzushi is commonly referred to as unbalancing or off-balancing. It is not. Even though The Overlook Martial Arts Dictionary (Farkas and Corcoran) refer to the happo no kuzushi concept in their definition of kuzushi, they quite rightly translate kuzushi as 'breaking' or 'upsetting.' It is not the 'destruction' of balance as the term is so often translated.

What is balance? McLester and St Pierre (Applied Biomechanics: Concepts and Connections 2008) explain that balance implies coordination and control, and that balance is a neuromuscular reference whereas stability is a mechanical term. The reference to 'mechanical term' is a reference to a number of physical variables that can be varied to increase or decrease the degree of stability and mobility. Knudson (Fundamentals of Biomechanics 2007) explains that balance is the control of stability and the ability to move. The ability to move is the definition of mobility, so balance is the control of stability and mobility. Carr (Sport Mechanics for Coaches 2004) explains stability in terms of how much resistance a person 'puts up' against having their balance disturbed. The resistance is against destabilising forces.

Technically, unbalance refers to losing control of stability which means falling to the ground. Kuzushi is not designed to cause an opponent to fall to the ground. Nage waza (throwing techniques) and taoshi waza (takedown techniques) are designed to cause a person to fall to the ground, but kuzushi is not. Kuzushi is a facilitator. It faciliates the execution of techniques, including nage waza and taoshi waza. It facilitates the execution of techniques by destabilising the opponent, not by unbalancing them. Kuzushi applies forces to cause the opponent's centre of gravity to move outside of their base of support, but not irretrievably so. This is a subtle but important difference between kuzushi and unbalancing.

Jan de Jong and his instructors would often, as many others do, describe the 'direction of unbalance' as being the direction described by the right angle of the centre of an imaginary line drawn between the heels of both feet. This is simply the direction where the least amount of force has to be applied in order to move a person's centre of gravity outside of their base of support. A person's centre of gravity may be moved outside of their base of support in any direction. It simply means that more force has to be applied in that direction if not applied in the direction of least resistance.

Then there is the three dimensional element that the 'dynamic sphere' theory of aikido attempts to overlay on the happo no kuzushi theory. Not only are the forces applied in a linear direction, they are also applied in a three dimensional direction.

If the martial arts and all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter are to advance their theoretical understanding of their methods, they have to move on from the naive and simplistic happo no kuzushi concept. The mechanical concepts of stability and forces provide that advancement.

1 comment:

  1. "Happo no kuzushi" is another victim of the difficulties translating japanese to english. I have seen 6 or 8 directions for the concept of "all around" or "all directions".
    "Kuzushi" comes from "kuzu"; to crumble, breakdown or destroy. It is a concept not entirely related to balance and stability. Kuzushi can be achieved by disturbing the ability to generate power or reach a target. Being unbalanced helps, but it is not a prerequisite for kuzushi.


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