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  1. judoka_uk is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/18/2011 6:56pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Forget about Kuzushi

    Ok this has taken longer than I had anticipated, but after being pulled aside by a beginner, earlier in the week after doing nagekomi and being questioned on how I continued pulling with the sleeve and driving with the lapel right down until the mat! I thought enough’s enough I need to get out this article in the hope that it will stop at least a few beginners from compartmentalising their throws.

    So here goes...

    Chaps, I have news.

    Kuzushi isn’t important as a beginner you’re better off forgetting about kuzushi. It will improve your Judo if you don’t worry about kuzushi and stop thinking about it.


    Probably quite a few confused and or shocked faces on people after having read that. After all kuzushi is one of the sacred cows of Judo, people spend hours working on their kuzushi and all Judo coaches stress its importance. And as regular readers will know I’m a strong advocate of the basics and practicing simple, fundamental Judo skills, so how can I justify saying kuzushi isn’t important and why would I advocate forgetting about kuzushi?

    Having spent quite a lot of time observing and working with beginners and, of course, struggling with Judo myself I have consistently seen ‘kuzushi’ being touted as the mythical cure to all beginner problems. If I had a pound for everytime I’d heard a coach say ‘you need more kuzushi’ or during randori ‘you need to break his balance’ I would be able to pay off my student loan... well probably not, but I could at least get in a few rounds in the pub.

    The thing is that a beginner’s problems are actually rarely down to a lack of kuzushi. Of course that is not to say that when first introducing a throw that you shouldn’t teach and instil a correct kuzushi action for the throw. That is of course vital and use of the hands and body to create kuzushi for throws in uchikomi, moving and static, is crucial.

    However, we need to rethink the importance we place on kuzushi when explaining and teaching the throwing process to beginners.

    Under the current model throws are introduced in 3 stages:
    Kuzushi
    Tsukuri
    Kake

    As instructors we pay lots of attention to the kuzushi phase, less to the tsukuri and even less to the kake.

    The effect of this emphasis on the kuzushi phase is a distortion of priorities and a flawed understanding of the throwing process by the beginner and often by coaches.

    This manifests itself in two main ways –
    Compartmentalisation of the throw
    Lack of awareness of moments of opportunity for the throw

    Compartmentalisation of the throw

    A consequence of the way we break down throws into the three stages outlined above and the over emphasis placed on kuzushi it is very common to see beginners doing what I call ‘compartmentalizing’ the throw.

    That is to say that they do a big jerk/ tsurikomi action and then, just, sort of, stop. Then they try and go to tsukuri etc... Obviously this fails pretty much every time.

    I believe that the way in which we hive off the various parts of the throw, which is of course a legitimate and valuable method of teaching. Does, if left un-contextualised, cause conceptual problems for beginners when they attempt to throw in a live resisting situation such as a randori.

    I’m not advocating full abolition of the kuzushi-tsukuri-kake metric of throwing.

    Rather that it is full contextualized so that beginners understand that the three phases aren’t firewalled from each other and that the line between kuzushi and tsukuri and thus kake is quite fluid, malleable and often indiscernible.

    A good example of how this compartmentalisation of throwing leads to what I call ‘compartmentalisation-itis’ is when drilling uchikomi or nagekomi.

    The beginner will stand opposite their partner and apply kuzushi, usually tsurikomi in the position.



    Tugging uke off balance and then when uke is tilted forwards onto their toes stepping to the point of the triangle and commencing their tsukuri.



    This usually causes problems because tori off balances uke and then steps in. It is very hard to preserve the tension in the arms to keep uke off balance whilst stepping in so tori almost always undoes all the kuzushi work they have done and return uke to balance as they step in.

    The result is almost always having to force the throw under sub-optimal conditions and of course enforcing sloppy and incorrect technique.

    This issue becomes even more acute when it comes to randori because tori has not programmed his body to associate kuzushi with tsukuri. Rather, to separate the two as distinct and compartmentalised actions. Tori is unable to apply kuzushi properly in conjunction with tsukuri and so defaults to attacking an on balance uke with the inevitable result – throw failure.

    You can observe from competition footage and from footage of quality nagekomi that no one ever starts square on to their uke off balances them, then fits in, then completes the throw. Kuzushi and tsukuri are always indistinguishable and drawing a marker between tsukuri and kake practically impossible.

    This is because in a realistic throwing situation all three happen basically simultaneously.

    However, for teaching purposes its necessary to break the three down so people can understand the principles and not get overwhelmed by the complexity of the complete throwing action.
    Think about the three step metric of – kuzushi, tsukuri and kake as like the stabilisers on a bike. Only necessary for absolute beginners and learning the basics. However, being stable and not falling off the bike remains vital no matter how high you progress...

    So when approaching throwing in uchikomi, nagekomi and randori remember that if you crudely partition kuzushi, tsukuri and kake you will be on route to throw failure and a much shallower learning curve.

    Another issue arising from compartmentalisation-itis is that we fail to contextualise the kuzushi-tsukuri-kake sequence within the wider throwing sequence. Therefore failing to ensure that beginners understand where they fit in, in relation to kumikata, dodome, zanshin and most importantly debana.

    This causes a lack of awareness of moments of opportunity and often causes beginners to go down the wrong route when they try and reverse engineer their way to debana from a total throwing action encased with a dynamic situation - randori.

    Lack of awareness of moments of opportunity

    When I was even more of a beginner than I am now I was constantly searching for that secret, the key that separated people who could throw, seemingly at will, from me who couldn’t throw a tantrum if he tried.

    Like most beginners I focused my search in two areas-
    Set ups
    Geometry

    Set ups

    As previously discussed the issue with set-ups can be largely semantic.

    So I will explain exactly what I mean by going down the rabbit hole of ‘set-ups’, that beginners think that an action produces a pre-determined and immutable reaction which has its own pre-determined and immutable action. So to take an example of Ko uchi gari into Seoi nage, beginners need to remember and realise that the Seoi nage is only appropriate as an action if the reaction to the Ko uchi gari makes Seoi nage the appropriate action.

    So just doing a Ko uchi doesn’t automatically create an opportunity for a Seoi nage.

    This is where a searching for ‘the answer’ to throwing in set-ups leads people astray. The Ko uchi gari doesn’t produce the Seoi nage, however, it does create ‘moments of opportunity’/ debana one of which could be a Seoi nage or it could be a Tai otoshi etc...
    It all depends on how exactly uke has moved relative to tori and tori relative to uke and a myriad of other complicated interrelated factors.

    So beginners often incorrectly try to reduce Judo to simplistic algebraic equations of, for example, Ko uchi gari + Seoi nage = Ippon.

    This isn’t incorrect, is a waste of the beginner’s time to pursue it and will stultify development.

    Geometry

    Often beginners seek answers to the ‘throwing puzzle’ in geometry through a close study of recordings and videos of people doing Judo.

    As a result they often contrive that the solutions to their problems throwing people lies in geometry. If they can get uke to step back with their left foot at a 45 degree angle and simultaneously advance their own foot 7.5 inches at 13 degrees then they will have the perfect set up to throw their partner.

    As any experienced and knowledgeable Judoka will tell you going down this route is a hiding to nothing.

    And although I often use concepts and ideas that could be called ‘Judo geometry’ in my posts, such as T-ing up and the triangle. The difference is that these geometrical shapes or examples are always presented as concepts and rough guides rather than die cast rules.
    So if you’re beginner and you’re doing what I used to do which is watch Koga and Jeon dvds almost with a protractor out trying to calculate the angles of what they were doing. Please stop. Its not where the answer to your issues lies and you’re wasting your time.

    So what then?

    As usually I’ve waffled on a lot about what you shouldn’t do, but spent little time discussing what you should do.

    Well the reality is that there is no one answer to throwing more people, there is no single key to kuzushi and no single solution to throwing more people more often.

    However, what I would like anyone reading this to take away is that they get out of their heads the notion that ‘kuzushi’ is a mystical force or magical entity divorced from the rest of throw and separate from movement, gripping, positioning etc...

    Often I read on forums and elsewhere beginners saying they will concentrate of ‘just trying to off balance’ their partners in randori.
    This concept is fundamentally flawed you can’t just off balance people in a vacuum. Its dependent on your movement, your grip, your positioning and uke’s grip, movement and positioning. Nor can you divorce the off balancing from the throwing action.

    Also if you do manage to off balance someone using your hands. Why in the hell would you waste that success by not throwing them?

    You can’t divorce kuzushi from the entire dynamic process that is Judo. Nor can you divorce kuzushi from the rest of a throw – the moment of opportunity, fitting in, and execution.

    Kuzushi isn’t the lone kid leaning against the wall at the school disco, its right there on the dance floor getting involved with everyone else.

    So next time you step on the mat, please remember kuzushi is embedded in the throwing process which occurs as a result of movement and gripping.

    I know this has been a bit of a wordy and ramble-y one and hopefully you've been able to bear with me through it.

    As always critiques, comments and questions are welcome.
  2. BKR is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/19/2011 11:10am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Nice work, once again.

    I find that the less verbal explaination and conceptualization I use in teaching, the better the results. By better I mean faster, higher quality, and with less fr8ustration for everyone.

    I also find that as students get more advanced (like, maybe nikyu, more like ikkyu) they can start to grasp more conceptual things, but only after they can physically do them.

    An example would be uchikomi, especially static uchikomi. One halfmark of my students is that they can throw, but suck at uchikomi (by sankyu it gets better, but not until ikkyu do I focus more of breaking things down).
    Falling for Judo since 1980
  3. Hedgehogey is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/19/2011 1:42pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Was this inspired by the comments to my thread on JF? If so, i'm tickled pink. I'll be forwarding this to my coaches. It may change the way we drill and teach.


    "The only important elements in any society
    are the artistic and the criminal,
    because they alone, by questioning the society's values,
    can force it to change."-Samuel R. Delany

    RENDERING GELATINOUS WINDMILL OF DICKS

    THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST NON-EUCLIDIAN SPLATTERJOUST EVER

    It seems that the only people who support anarchy are faggots, who want their pathetic immoral lifestyle accepted by the mainstream society. It wont be so they try to create their own.-Oldman34, friend to all children
  4. judoka_uk is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/19/2011 2:04pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by BKR View Post
    Nice work, once again.

    I find that the less verbal explaination and conceptualization I use in teaching, the better the results. By better I mean faster, higher quality, and with less fr8ustration for everyone.

    I also find that as students get more advanced (like, maybe nikyu, more like ikkyu) they can start to grasp more conceptual things, but only after they can physically do them.

    An example would be uchikomi, especially static uchikomi. One halfmark of my students is that they can throw, but suck at uchikomi (by sankyu it gets better, but not until ikkyu do I focus more of breaking things down).
    I whip my belt off and make a triangle with it on the mat and illustrate the T for all grades from white to black, but only if that's what their main issue is. Often with white belts there's so many things to correct that I leave it out.

    Although I agree. Standing there talking at people and whacking out a black board or power point presentation for 20 minutes is not going to get you anywhere.

    I try to sneak the concepts in gradually, as you know, we've discussed my progressive throw introduction model before.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hedgehogey View Post
    Was this inspired by the comments to my thread on JF? If so, i'm tickled pink. I'll be forwarding this to my coaches. It may change the way we drill and teach.
    Which comments on which thread?

    I'm not sure it will be particularly well received its a may seem innocuous but, its actually a pretty controversial thing to say. I would never post this on JF it would be way to much of a headache. Also people who've been doing something one way for 30 odd years don't like being told they're wrong by someone half their age.
  5. Hedgehogey is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/19/2011 2:08pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    The ones on my randori videos where people give really vague, "improve your kuzushi!" advice.


    "The only important elements in any society
    are the artistic and the criminal,
    because they alone, by questioning the society's values,
    can force it to change."-Samuel R. Delany

    RENDERING GELATINOUS WINDMILL OF DICKS

    THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST NON-EUCLIDIAN SPLATTERJOUST EVER

    It seems that the only people who support anarchy are faggots, who want their pathetic immoral lifestyle accepted by the mainstream society. It wont be so they try to create their own.-Oldman34, friend to all children
  6. BKR is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/19/2011 2:15pm

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     Style: Kodokan Judo

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    For rank beginners, my whole progressive scheme involves making sure they do not get too close to uke when trying to throw, so I tend not to mention the triangle thing to them. I use cues that suggest changes in distance and relative position to uke. However, once they start to get it, I'll introduce the triangle concept.

    As most of you may have gathered by now, there are different viable approaches to teaching/learning all this stuff.

    In my case, I tend to conceptualize as little as possible. My approach is to make sure the student is doing the drill correctly, which will yield positive results without a lot of explanation, or as little as possible as least, and most of that is in terms of cues for correction. The same problems come up again and again, even in more "advanced" students who have done Judo before getting to our dojo.

    I don't really know what else to say, except that forgetting about kuzushi is a great phrase.
    Falling for Judo since 1980
  7. captainbirdseye is offline

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    Posted On:
    8/19/2011 3:48pm


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I've had this pointed out to me before, when I was first learning sode tsurikomi goshi and I had huge difficulty with pulling the sleeves, then turning in. My coach basically said what you have, "Stop yanking his sleeve, stopping, turning in and trying to throw him".

    Personally I'd love more time conceptualising this sort of thing, and it's one of the reasons you're articles are great. I've no idea how you are as a coach on the mat, but the way you put across your ideas in writing is brilliant.
  8. BKR is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/19/2011 3:57pm

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    Quote Originally Posted by captainbirdseye View Post
    I've had this pointed out to me before, when I was first learning sode tsurikomi goshi and I had huge difficulty with pulling the sleeves, then turning in. My coach basically said what you have, "Stop yanking his sleeve, stopping, turning in and trying to throw him".

    Personally I'd love more time conceptualising this sort of thing, and it's one of the reasons you're articles are great. I've no idea how you are as a coach on the mat, but the way you put across your ideas in writing is brilliant.
    Once you have the correct distance and tsurikomi action on simpler throws, more complex ones become a lot easier.
    Falling for Judo since 1980
  9. judoka_uk is offline
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    Posted On:
    8/19/2011 5:33pm

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hedgehogey View Post
    The ones on my randori videos where people give really vague, "improve your kuzushi!" advice.
    Oh right. Yeh that was a part of it its been building up for a while though with many contributory incidents.

    Quote Originally Posted by captainbirdseye View Post
    I've no idea how you are as a coach on the mat, but the way you put across your ideas in writing is brilliant.
    Cheers.

    Depends, on how prepared I am and whether I'm in a good mood or not. If I'm prepared and in a good mood, I like to think I'm a decent coach. If I'm not prepared and not feeling it, probably not so much. Although I usually get people coming up to saying they've learnt something or asking about this or that regardless of how prepared I am or how I'm feeling, so I can't be all bad.

    I also like to entertain myself so I'll often dick about with my uke or unsuspecting member of the audience for a laugh.
  10. Hedgehogey is offline
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    Posted On:
    11/04/2011 4:18pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Revisiting this: JUK's comments to 'forget about kuzushi' may be a concept that all judoka should consider. I'm not saying JUK's right. But here's my opinion on it:

    Kuzushi is not any more than the sum of a number of factors: timing, gripping, footwork, setup, etc. Now this seems like common sense, but how many times have we heard/said something that implies that kuzushi is more than the sum of these factors? In that sense, an overreliance on this concept can cause us to retreat into the magical thinking so common in TMA*.

    'Needs more kuzushi' is a phrase often thrown about, but if we consider kuzushi in the way I reccomend above, that is far too vague a statement. What specifically needs improvement? 'Kuzushi' is not itself an adequate answer to this question. One must address the specific factor(s) impeding the success of the throw. If student A has a weak hikite and student B has feet in the wrong place, and we (the instructor) correct these mistakes, we can say in conventional judo parlance "I helped them improve their kuzushi". But clearly we did two seperate things.

    In this way kuzushi becomes an unquantifiable concept. And when one gets into the unquantifiable, it's all too easy to retreat into mysticism.

    Now I might get flack for this because this might go against something Kano wrote. But I find such orthodoxy pathetic, like Vatican theologists who've never experienced a moment of true spirituality in their lives.** Kano was an innovator, a punk kid who shook up the jujutsu world and applied scientific reasoning to the formerly esoteric. To treat his words as gospel is profoundly disrespectful to his memory.



    *I have no interest in debating what is or isn't a TMA. You know what i'm talking about.

    **I'm Italian and Puerto Rican, I can say that kindof thing


    "The only important elements in any society
    are the artistic and the criminal,
    because they alone, by questioning the society's values,
    can force it to change."-Samuel R. Delany

    RENDERING GELATINOUS WINDMILL OF DICKS

    THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST NON-EUCLIDIAN SPLATTERJOUST EVER

    It seems that the only people who support anarchy are faggots, who want their pathetic immoral lifestyle accepted by the mainstream society. It wont be so they try to create their own.-Oldman34, friend to all children
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