(Excerpt from Principles and Concepts for Martial Arts)

Kuzushi, breaking the balance, is the key to a beautiful, effortless throw. When your opponent is off-balance, he has no power to resist your attack.

There are 8 main directions for Kuzushi:

You can be off-balance forward, forward and to the right, to the right, backwards and to the right…

When people demonstrate breaking the balance, they often exaggerate the movement, pulling or pushing the center of gravity way out of the base, like this:

It should be quite obvious this man is about to fall. Throwing him to the left would take no effort at all.

While this is a good way to explain the principle of Kuzushi, this is not the proper way to perform Kuzushi. This is NOT how you break the balance of an opponent in practice.

As we have seen earlier in “Balance in motion”, the body is constantly adjusting its base to keep it under the center of gravity. If you pull your opponent’s center of gravity completely out of his base, he will automatically change his base and recover his balance. He does this all the time, every day, he is very good at it.

Getting him completely off balance sounds great in theory, but it is very difficult to do against an actual opponent.

Breaking your opponent’s balance is a subtle movement. You are trying to bring his center of gravity to the edge of his base, far enough from the center that he loses power, but not so far that he would feel the need to correct his position:

When his center of gravity reaches the edge of his base, he can be thrown with little effort and will have few options to recover. This is Kuzushi, the breaking of the balance.

The edge of the green area represents the point at which the opponent’s balance is broken.

It is important to note how this ties in with timing. Remember that timing is attacking at the right time. When is the right time? When Kuzushi is successfully achieved, or is about to be. (As mentioned earlier, you have to be in position to attack when that happens, so you still need to predict it a bit in advance).

Another point to note is that not all directions are equal for Kuzushi:

As you will no doubt notice on this picture, if you are attacking perpendicularly to the base, you only need to move the center of gravity by about 5 inches (half the length of the foot) to reach the edge of the base and achieve Kuzushi, whereas if you want to obtain Kuzushi to the side, you have to move the center of gravity much further (which can be done and is often done), making it a less subtle option, and more difficult if the opponent has a wide base.

By default, you want to position yourself perpendicular to the base and attack along the dotted line.

To learn more about balance and other vital concepts of grappling, get a copy of Principles and Concepts of Martial Arts.

– Guest post by Sylvain Galibert

A lifelong martial artist, Sylvain Galibert received his Judo black belt at the Kodokan in Japan and trained Muay Thai in Thailand. He is the author of Principles and Concepts for Martial Arts and Chess principles for Martial Arts.