It is oft claimed that one of the distinguishing points between Kano's Judo and the schools of Jujutsu that came before was that he introduced the concept of kuzushi ("balance breaking") into throwing techniques.

However the following quote from Kano seems to suggest this was already a concept in pre-judo jujutsu:

A main feature of the art is the application of the principles of nonresistance and taking advantage of the opponent's loss of equilibrium; hence the name jujutsu (literally soft or gentle art), or Judo (doctrine of softness or gentleness).

Did Kano invent this concept as applied in Japanese martial arts, or was it a pre-existing one he adopted?

2 Answers 2


From Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano by Brian N. Watson, Trafford, 2014 p.37

When one makes a detailed comparative study of traditional jujutsu with Kodokan judo, big differences between the two system soon become apparent... The essential point of difference though, is mainly in the methods of upsetting the opponent's balance. These tactics are unique to Kodokan judo. No matter what technique is to be applied, only after successfully disturbing the opponent's balance should one pursue one's attack.

Whether you think this qualifies as inventing is debatable. It is clear that Kano thought his interpretation was significantly different. The trouble answering this question is that existing jujutsu today is influenced by judo; the jujutsu of today is not the same as the jujutsu Kano studied.

From personal experience, it's common for judo practitioners to ignore the kuzushi element if a throw is good enough to successfully put the opponent on the ground. I imagine this situation is similar to how jujutsu was before judo.


Jigoro Kano did not "invent" the concept of Kuzushi. The concept of Kuzushi existed long before Judo split off from Jiu Jitsu. What Jigoro Kano did do is create a Martial Art that focused on certain parts of Jiu Jitsu and enhanced them. The result is having a lot fewer techniques than Jiu Jitsu, but all of them being applicable by anyone of any stature.

Jiu Jitsu focuses on takedowns and the ground fight is the core. Judo focuses more getting your opponent cleanly on the ground without using your own strength. Jiu Jitsu has these as well, but that's not where the focus of Jiu Jitsu lies.

So in short, Jigoro Kano did not invent Kuzushi as a concept, he mainly named it and focused on it.

To avoid hearsay, here are some links to martial arts that predate Judo by an entire time period that incorporate Kuzushi.

Kogusoku: https://youtu.be/-nfufg3Fh_U?t=347 It's an Ippon Seoinage.

Kumiuchi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M75YHIvTJ0I This is very similar to Jujutsu, but predates it.

Nihon Koryu Jujutsu, or Japanese Old Jujutsu.

Japanese old style Jujutsu, or Nihon koryu jujutsu, dates back to the Muromachi period in Japan between 1333 and 1573. This old style of martial arts training was focused on teaching the unarmed or very lightly armed warrior to fight a heavily armed warrior.

Fighting a heavily armed warrior, including heavy armour, requires not strength, but Kuzushi. This was applied in Nihon Koryu Jujutsu in the Muromachi time period.

Judo on the other hand was founded in 1882. As such, the concept of Kuzushi, which by definition is also used in Kumiuchi, Kogusoku and Nihon Koryu Jujutsu, was not "invented" by Jogoro Kano. It was however given a name by Jigoro Kano.

  • 1
    Do you have any sources supporting your claims? We are not quite fond of hearsay answers here. Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 12:16
  • I added sources that predate Judo by about 400 years.
    – Sjana
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 18:00
  • I could probably find examples of Kuzushi that predate even the Muromachi time period, originating in China. That would take quite some time though, since accurate and reliable information on it is hard to find.
    – Sjana
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 18:07
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    Well, nobody would say that there hadn't been the thing we call kuzushi today. But just because people do it it does not mean that they conceptualize it the same way. And the question is about the concept, not its referent. That being said, historians point out that most of the "style dates back to xxx" stories are unfounded and mostly made up in the 20th century. While there certainly have been martial arts back then, distinct styles and lineages can solemnly be tracked down to this time. Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 10:22
  • A concept is a concept. The concept has existed for a long long time, it was just never named specifically. It was part of their daily routine without having a distinct name for it. The question was if Jigoro Kano invented it. He did not invent it. He named something that existed. It's like saying Columbus invented South America.
    – Sjana
    Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 10:57

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