Kuzushi: illusions crumble, certainties rise

In Martial Arts, we soon become familiar with the principle of kuzushi (崩 し). It is a term that we may translate  with “imbalance“. Yet the verb from which it derives, kuzureru, has a deeper semantics: collapse, crumble, demolish …

An interesting etymological work by Noriko Williams helps us to understand the birth of the radicals of the kanji 崩, which we reported in the image of this post. Looking at it, we can see quite clearly that the kanji contains the ideogram yama (山, a mountain) and tome (朋 which according to Williams does not mean “friend”, but is the “wrong” graphic transposition of the drawing of separating necklaces. This perhaps it was clearer looking at the archaic ideograms).

Beyond etymological discussions, the fact remains that kuzushi is much more than an imbalance. It deals with the collapse of a mountain, with the destruction of what we believe to be more solid.

In these days and in the forthcoming months we (will) experience strong imbalances and partial collapses of what we believed to be our certainties while, probably, it was a matter of comfortable habits deemed due. Being able to go how, where and with whom we liked. Being able to open our eyes and assume that we have beloved ones around us. Being able to work and dispose of the superfluous of the superfluous.

On the tatami there is no possibility of preserving one’s position forever. Movement is itself a dynamic imbalance. Attacking is a total jump outside our comfort zone. Receiving it in order to rise up again means detaching ourselves from everything we believed and rediscovering the boundaries of who we are.

We learn that, because this is what we are: explorers of imbalance. We fall and we rise, we fall and we rise.

Better: we destroy our illusions and build our certainties.

This is why we are convinced that this precarious situation can be the real medicine we all need.
Because it may well be that, in a certain way we discover that we are bearers of very few certainties. Maybe none.

We can discover, thinking back to our practice, that we actualy were skilled liars suffocating with form what every fall, every wrong technique, every kuzushi done and received had to say to the truest part of us.

So, welcome kuzushi! At the end of all these falls we will all be a little more smashed and tired but we will be more true.

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