Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Broken Balance for Judo Throws

Breaking balance (kuzushi) is probably the aspect of Judo that sets it apart from other martial arts. In order to throw your opponent with ease during sparing, randori or shiai, when they are also fighting back, one must learn this very important concept and study it well.

Judo ka are taught at an early stage to break there opponents balance by pulling or pushing them in any direction. However, performing this against a live opponent who does not want to be thrown is very hard if not impossible. So what does one do?

Thankfully, whenever someone moves, there balance breaks and it is up to Judo ka and any other martial artists wishing to throw there opponents, to recognise these moments and to act quickly upon them. Some of these moments when balance is broken are listed below.

Creating a reaction - This is probably the best known way of breaking an opponents balance in judo without pushing or pulling in the direction you want to throw. In fact, one pushes or pulls there opponent in the opposite direction they wish to throw them. The reason being is to defend, the opponent will resist the push or pull and lean towards the opposite direction. For example, if one wanted to throw there opponent backwards with o soto gari, a pull forwards would force there opponent to resist by leaning backwards allowing for a very easy o soto gari to be performed.

When stepping forward, backwards sideways – Once you have locked up with your opponent, movement will occur which will most likely be steps in any direction. Performing throws in the direction they are moving is much easier if they are moving there centre of gravity in the direction of the throw. Sweeps are good for this. One of my favourites, is when the opponent is stepping forward, block the back leg from stepping forward with your foot as you pull strongly his/her body forward.

After a failed throw – Once your opponent fails a throw, as he/she returns to a fighting position they are momentarily of balance. Performing a throw in the direction that they are moving will be much easier. For example, after a failed uchi mata by your opponent, as they move back into a fighting position, moving there balance in a backwards direction, one can apply a morote gari or another backwards throw much easier.

After getting up from the ground – Many times when two people are fighting on the floor, they stand up at the same time. When your opponent is standing up, use the momentum of them pushing with there legs to stand and perform any pick up technique. I have always like te guruma, but any will do. As long as you are quick with this and have good timing, it will work. Think of a squat in weight lifting. When they are pushing up with there legs to stand after squatting down, is when you must start the pickup.

In combination – You combine throws, in order to make the throw you wish to take down your opponent, much easier. For example, you attempt a foot sweep that does not bring down your opponent but takes them off balance slightly. Using speed, you then perform another throw quickly. Because your opponent is not fully balanced the second throw is much easier.

After an explosive burst – Imagine you have just bowed to your opponent during a match. As soon as you bow, you explode forwards towards him/her and take a strong grip. Completely startled by the rush your opponent takes his/her mind away from his/her balance for a split second. It is during this split second that you may be able to easily take down your opponent with ease. This has happened many times in competition even at the top levels. Usually people attack with morote gari although any throw will work as long as it is explosive and fast and takes your opponent by surprise. If it does not work, it should at least provide an opportunity for a second follow on throw.

Reading your opponent – This is the method of the top level martial artist. It requires one to study there opponents movements and actions very carefully to learn weather there is either a specific movement, set up or anything else which there opponent relies upon every now and then. If a movement is found, then you think of a counter throw to that movement and simply wait for your opponent to perform it, in which you then counter which should make the throw a lot easier. For example, if you have studied your opponent and have found that he/she steps back before performing any hip technique (something very common) you simply wait for them to step back. Knowing exactly what they are going to do next, you plan to throw with tani otoshi or another backwards throw, as soon as they step in and turn.

With regards to the actual throws themselves, one must be fast and catch there opponent before they get the chance to regain there balance. During randori, learn how to understand when your opponents balance is broken and the best ways to take them down during these critical moments.


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Lori O'Connell said...

Good post! Kuzushi is what makes Judo appear magical when done properly.

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