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Old 11-15-2013, 11:16 AM   #1
hughrbeyer
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Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Over on Aikido Journal, Francis Takahashi Shihan has an article up talking about the lack of real kuzushi in modern Aikido. It's being discussed in the IS forum, but I thought Takahashi's critique deserved wider consideration and discussion. IS folks, of course, have our own interpretation of his comments--what do others think?

My thoughts;

Here we have a mainline, senior, respected Aikido shihan making critiques that others have made in the past--and which have generated all kinds of controversy. Takahashi says that there's a "widespread lack of knowledge or understanding in the Aikido training community of what kuzushi really is all about", that such understanding was "forgotten or carelessly ignored", that as a result modern Aikido (his term) may not be "real, credible, and workable", that much practice "smacks of 'collusion'", and that a deeper understanding of kuzushi was originally how Aikido techniques "achieved their authenticity."

This is pretty serious stuff, no?

Takahashi identifies the core problem here not as some failure of technique or martial reality or some other external factor. Instead, he identifies it as a loss of understanding of an internal driver of Aikido, the taking of balance. This isn't just a technical flaw--it underlies everything we do on the mat. If it's broken, everything is, to some degree, broken.

There's been a lot of heartburn in the past when outsiders or more marginal voices made similar criticisms of Aikido--but they were easier to ignore. Now that one of our own is raising these questions, how do we respond?

Does anyone have a diagnosis of the problem, or a potential solution? Dan Harden replied to the post, so you can see a response that a bunch of us understand and think is correct. Detailed discussion of the points he raises should probably happen over in the Internal Training forum. But is that all there is to say? Does anyone have a different diagnosis and solution?

Evolution doesn't prove God doesn't exist, any more than hammers prove carpenters don't exist.
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Old 11-15-2013, 12:00 PM   #2
SeiserL
 
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Whenever Takahashi Sensei speaks, we should listen.

IMHO, musubi (connection) and kuzushi (balance taking) is as important as Tohei Sensei's 4 principles.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 11-15-2013, 12:23 PM   #3
Budd
 
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

It's an interesting discussion. Is the general consensus that there is an ideal way to train musubi and kuzushi? Is it as much individual teacher based interpretation or even more up to each to student to figure out for themselves? Are these discrete things or dependent on tai sabaki and ma-ai considerations as well? (note, not making any mention of buzzwords found in the internal strength discussion)
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Old 11-15-2013, 12:47 PM   #4
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Quote:
Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
There's been a lot of heartburn in the past when outsiders or more marginal voices made similar criticisms of Aikido--but they were easier to ignore. Now that one of our own is raising these questions, how do we respond?
Now? These questions have been raised by direct students of the founder since the 60's.

Quote:
Does anyone have a diagnosis of the problem, or a potential solution?
Maybe listening to what these outsiders and marginal voices have been saying for years could help.

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Old 11-15-2013, 12:51 PM   #5
sakumeikan
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Dear All,
In days of yore when I was a callow youth I studied judo under many top class judoka.Great emphasis during this training period involved learing how to break the balance of an opponent.Failure to do so meant you had to use excessive force/power and expend energy ,You could of course throw a guy without taking his balance but this was hard work.If however your kuzushi, tsukuri , waza and timing were ok, you needed the minimum amount of strength to throw your partner.
Kenshiro Abbe 8th Dan for example was not a big man.His judo was remarkable.He could take on a line up of 15 men , all Dan grades, some much bigger than him , and throw them to a man walmost effortlessly.No brute force used, just good old Judo principles.Same applies in Aikido, take the persons balance and its easy peasy.Try and throw a man who has maintained good balance is tough. Cheers, Joe.
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Old 11-15-2013, 01:57 PM   #6
Lee Salzman
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear All,
In days of yore when I was a callow youth I studied judo under many top class judoka.Great emphasis during this training period involved learing how to break the balance of an opponent.Failure to do so meant you had to use excessive force/power and expend energy ,You could of course throw a guy without taking his balance but this was hard work.If however your kuzushi, tsukuri , waza and timing were ok, you needed the minimum amount of strength to throw your partner.
Kenshiro Abbe 8th Dan for example was not a big man.His judo was remarkable.He could take on a line up of 15 men , all Dan grades, some much bigger than him , and throw them to a man walmost effortlessly.No brute force used, just good old Judo principles.Same applies in Aikido, take the persons balance and its easy peasy.Try and throw a man who has maintained good balance is tough. Cheers, Joe.
I don't mean to steer too much towards what is already better left to discussion in the internal version of this thread, only to draw towards a large question of what aikido should be. But do musubi, kuzushi, and throwing have to be separate things?

That is to say, if you can train the body to move in a way that it is always connected, that kuzushi happens to anything that comes into contact with it that is connected to a less degree (or not adequately prepared) - the kuzushi and the throw are thus one and the same - what then is left of this model of first take balance, then throw, as in judo? Is that more ideal than than judo recipe, is it just the same thing, or lesser - or none of the above?

Should aikido be just a process of learning how to mechanically throw a person (and, as Mr. Takahashi points out, can we even call it effective at that anymore?), or should it be a process that changes a person's mind and body so that, well, it just so happens people get thrown on contact?

All the same, some return to effective practice is called for, but to what ends and by which means I can't answer except beyond my own personal preferences.
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Old 11-15-2013, 02:11 PM   #7
RonRagusa
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Quote:
Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
Takahashi identifies the core problem here not as some failure of technique or martial reality or some other external factor. Instead, he identifies it as a loss of understanding of an internal driver of Aikido, the taking of balance.
Unless I can out muscle uke, I can't throw him without taking his balance. Before I can take the balance of another I must first learn to establish and keep my own balance; of forces within me, of mind and body, of motion and stillness. One aspect of Ki development work focuses on enabling me to learn to do just that.

Technique practice is the proving ground for putting ideas into practice. Once I have mastered my own balance, I can use those skills to affect uke's balance such that doing so facilitates my ability to neutralize his attack and bring him to the mat via a throw or immobilization.

Ron

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Old 11-15-2013, 02:45 PM   #8
hughrbeyer
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Quote:
Budd Yuhasz wrote: View Post
... Is the general consensus that there is an ideal way to train musubi and kuzushi? Is it as much individual teacher based interpretation or even more up to each to student to figure out for themselves?
If I understand Takahashi S.'s article, he's saying that just letting each student figure it out for themselves hasn't worked. So we need a way to train it explicitly. So your first question might be rephrased: Is there an ideal way to train these skills for Aikido? Should that be to any degree standardized? And what is that ideal way?

Evolution doesn't prove God doesn't exist, any more than hammers prove carpenters don't exist.
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Old 11-15-2013, 03:14 PM   #9
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Maybe students aren't taking (or being given) the time to really learn to "listen" to their and their opponents' bodies when engaged. What about using kokyu-ho more fully as a starting point for learning both musubi and kazushi? It is a non-threatening (i.e. "safe") form of practice that allows students to experiment with what works and what doesn't. Maybe not enough time is being spent on these sorts of practice drills? Mobility training for kuzushi can come later; these "static" suwari waza and standing exercises are a good way for students to learn to physically and mentally listen and feel without any distractions. That's how you develop the skill to sense and changes and openings, or to know when to best create and seize advantage of them, IME.
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Old 11-15-2013, 04:22 PM   #10
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Funny you should say that Cady, I was reading Shioda's Dynamic Aikido on the importance of kokyu dosa last night and thinking I really should spend more time on it; it's in our grading syllabus at 3rd, 2nd and 1st kyu and I'm only just starting to see why...

Last edited by PaulF : 11-15-2013 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 11-15-2013, 05:36 PM   #11
Budd
 
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Quote:
Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
If I understand Takahashi S.'s article, he's saying that just letting each student figure it out for themselves hasn't worked. So we need a way to train it explicitly. So your first question might be rephrased: Is there an ideal way to train these skills for Aikido? Should that be to any degree standardized? And what is that ideal way?
Well since it's an Aikido general specific board on an aikido forum I figured asking specifically about aikido to be even more extra redundant
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Old 11-15-2013, 05:38 PM   #12
Budd
 
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Cady, I actually agree about kokyu ho/dosa in the context you describe just about 100 percent. Then after the seated/kneeling part gets clean upgrade it to standing for variations on kokyu nage.
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Old 11-15-2013, 05:50 PM   #13
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
What about using kokyu-ho more fully as a starting point for learning both musubi and kazushi? It is a non-threatening (i.e. "safe") form of practice that allows students to experiment with what works and what doesn't. Maybe not enough time is being spent on these sorts of practice drills? Mobility training for kuzushi can come later; these "static" suwari waza and standing exercises are a good way for students to learn to physically and mentally listen and feel without any distractions. That's how you develop the skill to sense and changes and openings, or to know when to best create and seize advantage of them, IME.
That sounds like standard Iwama style training methodology....

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Old 11-15-2013, 06:32 PM   #14
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Quote:
Budd Yuhasz wrote: View Post
Cady, I actually agree about kokyu ho/dosa in the context you describe just about 100 percent. Then after the seated/kneeling part gets clean upgrade it to standing for variations on kokyu nage.
That's what I was thinking, too.
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Old 11-15-2013, 06:39 PM   #15
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Kuzushi, an aiki perspective

Quote:
Paul Funnell wrote: View Post
Funny you should say that Cady, I was reading Shioda's Dynamic Aikido on the importance of kokyu dosa last night and thinking I really should spend more time on it; it's in our grading syllabus at 3rd, 2nd and 1st kyu and I'm only just starting to see why...
I'm almost completely certain that Shioda was doing these exercises using aiki (and in particular, aiki-age)... which is what allowed him to unbalance and kuzushi his uke without having to use shoulder/upper back muscle strength or to have to try to create an opening. Now that you have experienced some of that dimension, Shioda's writings may start to bear a new significance. But even without that aspect, an aikido student still can learn a lot about sensing, creating and exploiting change from kokyu-ho/-dosa.
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