View Full Version : Can you learn without ever being UKE?

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10-17-2006, 12:48 AM
I have a friend, a long time aikidoka as well, who recently had the misfortune of suffering from a condition that caused him to give up any form of strenuous physical activity.

Doctors tell him to lay off exercise, jogging, push ups etc. basically anything that can cause physical fatigue, and anything that'll get adrenaline rushing.

He hopes to continue training in Aikido depite all that. I keep advising him to obey the doctors, but he asked me something that I'd like to ask you all.

He believes that since Aikido teaches us to conserve energy and and to be calm (~Munen Mushin~) right? He said that the only really strenuous aspect of Aikido trainning is whenever you are the Uke.

He basically wants to continue trainning only only as Nage, because of his condition. I was wondering, can anyone learn without being uke? Is that even advisable?

Please share your thoughts. :)

Mark Uttech
10-17-2006, 03:15 AM
This is just my personal opinion, practicing only as nage is to have a 'half-practice'. A person (even a longtime aikidoka) cannot hope to study or understand without the experience of being uke; and why? Because there are so many things to forget! This may be a time for your friend to focus on breathing exercises, or individual weapon suburi (without force). Your friend could also practice tenkan and irimi exercises. Our physical condition is always the ground for our practice, and an opportunity to be creative. Good luck.
In gassho,

10-17-2006, 05:34 AM
we've had the uke question thread before some-time, but not with a direct problem like this.

I don't feel qualified to answer this - since I've always done my uke obligations.

However I would say yes, you can learn effective technique without being uke, just as you can learn to drive without being a piece of tarmac.

I think though, even as nage, there is potential for injury, stress and physical demands. It is probably a matter of degree. If this is not probing too much could you tell us the exact nature of the condition - it seems that there would be long term health effects associated with not exercising and not having stressed. It is likely that, if they can walk, they can do aikido in some form, but they may find it frustrating trying to concede to these conditions of no-stress/no exercise. Also, is someone prepared to be uke for them without being nage?

Amelia Smith
10-17-2006, 06:07 AM
My doctor has recently ordered me off ukemi for a few months, and I am not happy about it! However, I am planning to go to weapons practice (your friend should be able to do that, too) and take an occasional class in which I will just be nage.

Most of the really high-ranked, older instructors, the Shihan, hardly ever take ukemi, at least as far as I've seen. They seem to keep learning and developing their aikido anyway, but I don't think it's a good idea at lower levels.

Maybe practicing as nage only is better than not practicing at all, but if it were a permanent condition, I would probably go over to an art that I could participate in fully, like Tai Chi or Iaido.

10-17-2006, 10:18 AM
I think to get the full deal you should do both sides. That being said I think there is a lot more to being uke than taking a fall. If his training partners are informed and sensitive to his condition they could practice a little control and only take him to the point of a balance break.

He may have to deal with the fact that his practice will drastically change. A gentleman in our dojo had cancer, after all the chemo and radiation he just wasn't able to train with the same intensity. He was faced with the choice of quitting or accepting his new current level of ability and attempting to work up from there.

He may also find that another style or an entirely different art that won't demand so much physically may be the way to go. Better to do something different than to waste away on the couch.

I wish him luck,


Eric Webber
10-17-2006, 10:53 AM
Regardless of the philosophical implications of the question, I think the physiological question must be considered for your friend. I get cranked up when throwing. Yes, I know, I am supposed to be relaxed all the time. But you know what? I'm not. I have to learn to stay relaxed, which means I have to go from being not relaxed to a state of relaxation. If my doctor told me not be adrenalized due to health conditions, I'd stay off the mat, or be prepared to drop over dead doing what I love.

10-17-2006, 11:28 AM
Doctors tell him to lay off exercise, jogging, push ups etc. basically anything that can cause physical fatigue, and anything that'll get adrenaline rushing.

Sounds like aikido is out based on what you wrote there. Even as nage, he's going to run into situations that will cause physical fatigue and get adrenaline going. Perhaps he should look into tai chi. Similarly some forms of iaido can be very relaxing/contemplative. Others like the one I study are typically a harder workout than your average aikido class. Sorry to hear about your friend's condition.

Kevin Wilbanks
10-17-2006, 11:46 AM
Ever take a kyu test? The testee is usually not asked to take ukemi, yet almost everyone gets worn out by them - gasping, sweating, and red heads abound. Throwing can definitely be stressful.

My concern is with the diagnosis. It sounds fishy to me, unless it is a very short-term thing. Going through the rest of one's life in fear of a 150 bpm heart rate is practically a prison sentence. No sex, no exercise of any kind... it would even prohibit doing simple work or playing with a dog or kids, probably. Like someone else said, being absolutely sedentary is terrible for one's health. It leads to heart disease, obesity, deterioration of bone, muscle and connective tissue, and all kinds of resulting/related problems. I think your friend should seek other medical opinions.

10-17-2006, 12:46 PM
And who is going to train with him?

There's only so much bending over backwards (yeah there was a feeble attempt at a pun) that your partners will be willing to take.

You throw me I throw you - give and take. I just see a total drag on the rythm of the class.

There are forms of yoga that could give you the same benefit as non-physical aikido - you sure can not learn any useful aikido without some sort of physical effort on both tori and uke's end.

Janet Rosen
10-17-2006, 05:10 PM
there was a one yr period between knee injury and surgery when i felt too fragile to fall/roll or to commit to doing full throws as nage. my training agreement w/ my partners was, regardless of role, to move slowly (rate of breathing) and take any given encounter to the point of kuzushi then back off. So as uke I might have my balance taken to the point where i'd stretch nicely, maybe have to take a step, maybe bending to slap mat w/ a hand or just tap my thigh loudly, etc and as nage i'd work on openings and position and center and connection etc. this may not be a longterm ideal practice for the young and fit :-) but anybody should be willing to train w/ a partner this way for 10 or 15 minutes, and your friend may find it eminently satisfying. I sure learned a lot!