Item number four in the Master Steve Armstrong's Code of Isshinryu Karate stipulates "A person's unbalance is the same as a weight."
In Tai Chi Chuan, it is commonly held that "One ounce can move a thousand pounds."
These principles are of profound significance as one reaches mature understanding into martial arts. With
the perceived indestructibility of youth, it is perhaps understandable the early years in arts such as Karate and Kung Fu are primarily physical, with an emphasis on speed and power and an early focus on striking,
kicking, blocking and basic strategies. Knowledge of the principles of balance represents the "fine wine" of martial arts, and usually takes years combined with maturity (and experience), before it is
ready to be served.
To nudge you down the path of understanding, we have prepared several video clips which present the basic guidelines for breaking balance, offer insight on how best to grasp or hold the
opponent while attacking balance, and finally, show several examples of how balance breaking starts to look when applied with expertise.
The fundamental balance breaking techniques start with the four
cardinal points. You can think of them as North, South, East and West or as Front, Back, Left side and Right side. Once those basic four are well understood, the off angles are taught. On a grid, the off
angles would be Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest. Don't worry too much about the description, or the directions, it will all be clear in just a moment as you view the video. Be mindful, the
four cardinal points are like the "primary colors" of balance breaking. The second four, or the off angles, though considered to be among the eight fundamental techniques, are actually angular
combinations of the first four balance breaks. Before I get you too confused, take just a moment and view the first video clip. That will clarify what we're talking about.
Carol and Terri demonstrate the basic moves
Proper gripping technique goes hand-in-hand with basic balance breaking concepts. Keep in mind,
when you're attempting to break someone's balance, you should be fully committed to the act, and your technique should afford no escape to the opponent. When you grip an opponent's Gi, or
his/her clothing, you should be able to maintain the hold. That means, in addition to understanding the basic balance attacks, you must also know how best to grip and hold the
opponent. The second video clip addresses that issue, explaining proper gripping technique as applied against fabric. The second clip also revisits the fundamental balance breaking techniques,
providing further insight and explanation. Though this portrayal is a simplification, bear in mind the principles of gripping apply in the same way, even when you are gripping other extensions of the opponent's body.
Bill explains grabbing with Terri's help
Over time, you'll come to understand that controlling the opponent goes far beyond gripping
technique. For those at Master level, a grip isn't even necessary. The balance break may be triggered by a glance, an inflection of the voice, a distraction, a physical lean, bump, touch, block,
parry, or fade. Seeing the balance breaks applied by someone at that level is like viewing the skills of a sorcerer, nothing short of magical.
More advanced applications
While we all plow through the follies of youth, get our bumps and bruises, and
learn the lessons of life, and of our martial arts, the tenets first stated hold true, and over the course of years become profound in their implications. For the
Master, once an opponent's balance is broken, the fight is over. At its highest level, the theft of balance by a Master is so subtle and acute, it is not even
perceived by the attacker. Against the Master, once the attacker's balance is lost, it is never regained, until the opponent is flat on the ground, incapacitated, and
restored to natural equilibrium. Only then will the attacker know what the Master has known all along.
A person's unbalance is the same as a weight. A force of one ounce can move a thousand pounds.