Balance breaks – or kuzushi – are an extremely important aspect of aikido. An effective balance break at the beginning of a conflict can stop an attack before it really begins. When an opponent is off-balance, it is easier to keep him off balance and use this to your advantage. In contrast, an attacker who remains on balance is much more difficult to default. When both the attacker and defender remain on balance, it becomes a fight and the stronger person will most likely win. To effectively do aikido, you must learn to take – and keep – an opponent off balance.
In a way, good kuzushi is a mind game. When someone attacks you, he “knows” in his mind that his attack is going to be successful. However, this “knowledge” doesn’t make it so. If you can take an opponent off balance after this initial attack, he has to regroup his thoughts and attempt to regain his balance. It takes him off-guard mentally just as much as physically.
One of the wonderful things about aikido is that we train to achieve the greatest results with the least amount of effort. This applies to balance breaks also. If an attacker is coming at you, he is already moving in a direction. All we need to do is follow along with their motion – they aren’t expecting that. The attacker moves, and we follow. In the best cases, a good initial balance break can end the attack immediately.