“Real kuzushi at a distance,” by Charles Warren

Nobuyuki Watanabe, 8th dan, applies kuzushi at a distance

Nobuyuki Watanabe, 8th dan, applies kuzushi at a distance

Most encounters, though, do involve some kind of psychic overload. Training allows you to tap any energy involved to enhance your “game”.”

Charles Warren

Charles Warren

“Real kuzushi at a distance has real effects as it disrupts ukes initializing, targeting, tracking and capability to launch attack. It is a sort of preemptive aiki. The attack is concluded before it has begun…”

Now, outside the dojo it won’t probably result in a fall. It’s more likely that the erstwhile attacker will freeze, maybe stumble or stumble and run. Without going into tedious detail I have experienced variations of each. Does that make me some kind of superman? No. It’s just that when the time arose, I embodied the right spirit.

Is this something I learned in the dojo? Yes and no. That’s another long and probably tedious “voyage of exploration” narrative. The short answer is the old answer. “The way is in training.” If you stick with training you are probably filling a need which is important enough to devote time, effort and pain over a long period of time. “Do” means way of life, after all.

I grant that my first experience of kuzushi was when I might have been a 5th kyu, but that was just a gift, a little miracle of budo. God was generous and merciful. That one, by the way had the salient aspects of kiai and the attacker crawling away mumbling, “I don’t think this is a very good idea…” The stuff in between, maybe one second or less, was just strange. But while it was certainly memorable, I’ve never had the same experience again in 40 years so I don’t hold it out as a goal of training.

Most encounters, though, do involve some kind of psychic overload. Training allows you to tap any energy involved to enhance your “game”. A minor league example is multiple person freestyle at the shodan level. Practicing is more intense than usual keiko and the test is more intense yet. Real situations are more intense, so handling that is a valid goal of training. Afterward, if you like you can tell stories but the impressions you take away subjectively would probably not be recorded on security cameras. For that matter, whatever decided the situation may not be very apparent on the video even if it was physical.

Reconciling what might be recorded with what you did is where the general public, even martial arts types get lost. Nobody outside aikido falls like we do. This doesn’t help our credibility with the public. People, generally, see falls as a form and emblem of losing. No fall? There is no victory or defeat. What folks don’t understand is that proper kuzushi restores peace by disrupting the script. “Stop the cut at c…” A contemporary example, without applying moral judgment to the issues or parties is Putin’s role in stalling Western intervention in Syria.

Falling as a loss is something from wrestling and judo. I’m not sure that even in aikido ukemi is generally seen, rather, as a way to preserve energy and gain distance while presenting a difficult target. A good fall saves you from what is probably a pretty nasty technique. An excellent fall gets you back into the fight at the soonest moment. A superlative fall leads to reversal through sutemi or other kaeshi waza. Watch out for those in the dojo. Misunderstandings can get dangerous (injury), stupid (argument), or both very fast.


  1. David Orange says:

    Many nice points here! A good piece!

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