There are, however, some fundamental skills underlying how you apply kuzushi which many beginners miss or don't do properly the first and foremost amongst these is tsurikomi.
The other is ensuring that the kuzushi action is applied continuously throughout the throw. Very often beginners do a very large exaggerated jerking action at the start of the throw and then during tsukuri and kake completely forget about their arms and kuzushi.
If you take a Judo throw you’re normally introduced to it in three stages:
If you wanted to expand that significantly you could think of a throw in 7 stages
Although given the scared look that has now, no doubt, spread over many of your faces that is probably too complicated.
So let’s look at throws in 4 stages, which convey enough important information whilst keeping things as simple as possible.
Originally I wanted to write something about debana and kuzushi, but I just found the whole topic spiralling out of control and me being unable to convey simply the ideas. I think this is something that can only really be done when you have a; laptop, interactive whiteboard, judo mat and very patient Judoka. Even then it’s impossible to teach people the appropriate debana for each throw although it is possible to teach people to perform the ideal kuzushi for each throw.
So instead I decided to refocus onto what is a major stumbling block in the application of throws for many beginners - they peak too early. Yes gents, it can happen to the best of us, but luckily with time and a strong dose of Judo it can be rectified.
Beginners very often do a really big jerky pulling or pushing action for their initial kuzushi but as soon as they commence their turn in or entrance – tsukuri – their hands go dead and they abandon all their kuzushi. What beginners fail to realise and coaches fail to emphasise is that when you apply kuzushi for a throw it doesn’t stop once you commence tsukuri it does and must continue throughout tsukuri right up into and during kake. If you don’t continue your kuzushi throughout tsukuri then you will likely have an aborted and failed kake.
I have previously covered one of the key technical elements of kuzushi – tsurikomi. This is important not in only the initial unbalancing of uke but in continuing to ensure they’re off balance and that the destruction of their balance gets progressively worse throughout the course of your tsukuri.
As you can see from these two pictures tori has maintained kuzushi throughout the entirety of his tsukuri so that were he to be on the brink of commencing kake uke is completely off balance.
Now if a beginner has a decent tsurikomi action they can often achieve a decent initial off balancing, however, as soon as they commence their turn in the hands go ‘dead’ i.e they cease to be actively applying kuzushi.
Next time you’re on the mat turn in for a forward throw and stop when you’ve turned in fully then check to see where your hikite hand is. If its hanging around down by your crotch or hip then you have a problem you have dead hands and you have failed to maintain the application of kuzushi throughout tsukuri.
Then check where your tsurite hand is positioned if its painfully and uncomfortably lagging behind your ears then again you have a problem with dead hands and have failed to maintain kuzushi throughout tsukuri.
If you look at this picture of Katanishi practicing his tsukuri you will notice that his tsurite hand is in line with his ear and that his hikite hand is high around his forehead
Now a breakdown of Katanishi’s hand action throughout the throws:
As he begins to throw uke tori’s hand is nowhere near his hips it is very high and continuing to pull.
From another angle:
The importance of the principle of maintaining kuzushi throughout the following stages of the throw is relevant in variant gripping styles as well for example with a same side sleeve and lapel grip.
Katanishi performs Morote seoi nage with whilst gripping the lapel on the same side as the sleeve.
He performs a good high initial action
If you have performed tsurikomi properly this should be relatively straight forward. And it has positive knock on effects as if you try and keep your tsurite level with your ear when you have your forearm properly inserted into the ‘pocket’ of uke’s armpit then you will be able to exert an immense amount of control over uke’s body and be able to turn them much more easily. A high collar grip or other round the back and over the back grips have a tendency to bend uke over and bind then to your back rather than lift them up and allow for easy rotation.
Your hikite action of drawing uke out and upwards if continued throughout the throw will be hard to resist, if done expertly, ensuring the sleeve stays high and your action remains smooth and powerful will ensure maximum effective application of the kuzushi action.
I can't stress enough how important it is for your kuzushi to be continuous throughout the entirety of the throw if your kuzushi is limited to an initial jerk then your throw is fundamentally undermined and flawed the kuzushi action should be smooth, powerful and continuous throughout the entire throw ensuring control over uke right into the mat!
Hopefully this has been relatively clear and has continued to help some of you enhance your understanding of some key underlying concepts and aspects that are integral to mastering Judo standing techniques.