KUZUSHI

Sanjay Kabir Bavikatte

Photo credit: Airbear Photography

Photo credit: Airbear Photography

Kuzushi is a Japanese word that is repeated like a mantra in Judo. It can be translated as ‘breaking balance’ and a good judoka is adept at retaining his or her balance while breaking the opponent’s. Maintaining one’s centre of gravity while being pulled and pushed with sudden velocity is the essence of Judo. But there is more to this.

Randori (sparring) in Judo is like an engaging discussion- it is dynamic, views are expressed, points are countered, new facts are presented and unexpected insights emerge. So to stay balanced isn’t just about maintaining one’s centre of gravity at all cost, but also responding effectively to what unfolds.

Centre of gravity in Judo isn’t static or pre-existing but is achieved amidst dynamic circumstances. Nothing can or should be anticipated in a randori, since the centre of gravity is created through the interaction. This means a judoka’s balance is achieved not in isolation but in response to the forces acting on him. The old Judo masters refer to a mirror like tranquillity that is a pre-requisite to balance. One does not project or anticipate, but responds to what occurs with equanimity.

There is a lesson here for life. Too often we make the mistake of letting events or people destabilize us because we assume that our centre lies somewhere out there. At other times, exhausted from this fool's errand; we decide that our centre lies only within us. Here we emotionally withdraw from the world and refuse to passionately engage with it viewing it as a source of misery.

The truth however is that when it comes to balance, our centre lies neither in a monk’s cell nor in the clamour of the marketplace. It lies both within and outside us. It is constantly comes alive through a randori, conversation or a dance between our selves and the world. It is the still point that exists only in perpetual motion. T.S Eliot says it best in the poem Burnt Norton. He was writing about life, but he could have been writing about judo.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only dance.
— T.S. Eliot