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When you begin training, the role of Uke is purely functional and deliberately contrived. It has simple and pragmatic meaning. You push so that Sh'te may practice from a push. You continue to push because this must be followed to fruition in order to really learn the principles of dealing with a push.
For me personally the role of Uke is much more than that and I would like to explain a little of how this often overshadowed part of Aikido training is having a huge affect on my entire life.
Writings on Uke are not so prolific as that of the role of Tori, or Sh(i)te. I think this is because understanding of it is difficult to explain, especially in western culture. In its pure form it can seem sub-servant to an onlooker. Which is unattractive even amongst martial artists. Especially when martial arts (including ourselves) boast the growth of your self esteem and confidence as a pinnacle selling point.
The cultivation of a correct internal state as uke is vital for your long term education in Aikido. It is the key to becoming powerful, controlled and fast. It is the secret to learning true honesty and sensitivity in a moral, tactile, kinesthetic, combat effective, and spiritual sense.
I get upset sometimes when people assume certain things of me. Students at our Dojo sometimes think I am not afraid of falling because I find it easy. Others think that I'm not afraid to give myself because I am tough and hard to hurt. None of this actually holds any truth. I am often scared and often risk injury, but I give myself anyway. I think this is the proper heart for an Uke. This should hearten anybody who may be timid of falling, not discourage them. The way you feel is the norm and not in any way weak. It's how you deal with it that counts.
Its not a case of 'manning up', I'm not bound by such base misogynistic bravado. If it seems that way then I apologise and will work on my manner. I don't care what size or shape you are, or what injuries you carry, it's your mind that makes you a good Uke.
The mindset required to genuinely 'give' yourself to a partner disregarding trust, fear and confidence, eventually gives rise to sensitivity. This manifests itself in different ways. you become more able to feel what is being done to you, more aware of yourself physically. You become more aware of your partner physically also, massively changing your approach to Shitewaza.
Practically you will seem more fluent when in fact what is happening is real time and always different. So essentially you are becoming fluent in constantly adapting to a new situation.
The sensitivity has direct relationships with Kime and Zanshin and is an absolutely vital part of the martial training in our 'martial art'.
So the sensitivity becomes transferred to our lives if we are mindful. Some reading this may have witnessed instructors apparently rushing around for senior grades. Sometimes without being asked. You may have deemed it as sycophantic or unnecessary. It is in fact an essential part of advanced training, and something that cannot really be taught. I am personally struggling with this part of my training. I am not nearly aware enough of myself. With time I will improve and thus my Uke, and Aikido, will improve also.
So if you want to be a good Uke, learn to give yourself. I'm not writing this because I feel I have mastered it. I have merely observed it and once or twice, experienced it for myself.