View Full Version : Being a good Uke

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08-06-2000, 09:37 PM
Hello! I am brand new to this board, and very new to Aikido as well. I just completed my second month and I like it very much so far. I posted a new thread earlier today but it seems to have disappeared so I'll ask my question again. :)

Recently I have becomes aware of people that I like to throw and people who are rather difficult to practice with. Although every single person I've met in my Dojo is extremely nice (some of the nicest people I have ever met) some of them seem to make it difficult for me to throw them and others just go with whatever I do. I really like it when senior students make it difficult for me because it makes it easier to find the correct way to apply the technique. If I am doing something wrong or applying a hold wrong, they will not tap or make it impossible for me to move them, then point out that I'm trying to use my physical strength to move them instead of momentum. This helps a great deal. However, some of the others make it too easy it seems even when I do not run the technique correctly. In wrestling we called these people "dead fish" because the just flop around and anticipate when their fall is coming and don't really offer much resistance. But that's not my problem. My problem is that often when I am the Uke, I find myself being the dead fish because sometimes I do not feel comfortable trying to thwart my senior students efforts, or challenge them. So, my question is: Is it more important to be a solid Uke when being thrown by senior students, or just anticipate the fall and go with it? Thank you very much for any advice you can offer! I appreciate it greatly. :)

Chuck Clark
08-06-2000, 11:42 PM
Deliver a commited, sincere attack and when (if) your center is taken (balance broken) then get your balance back in a natural way while staying commited to the intention of being dangerous.

If the technique is good...you won't be able to get your balance back and you'll have to fall.

If you get your balance back, it means you have control over your next action whether that is a counter or just feedback that the technique "had a hole in it."

E.J. Nella
08-07-2000, 01:36 AM
This is one of the toughest questions in Aikido practice in my opinion. I think it totally depends on who you are training with and the particulars of the movement each and every time you do any technique. It can be as broad as a "rank" thing, meaning I can depend on someone who has been around a while to be able to take care of themselves, to knowing you are with a beginner that you should take it very easy with. With either person we should do all practice remembering that they may not be physically or psychologically up to par. Just because Joe MyUke was able to take a high fall from this throw last night doesn't mean he wants to, or is able to take a high fall tonight. I try to start slowly and build up to faster speeds when my partner and I are in agreement, either verbally or physically.

Some folks are naturally stiff and are not flexible, try to give them a break. Some are not sure of their Ukemi, try to give them a break. Some of your partners are trying to work on being flexible. They have received feedback regarding their "stiff" Ukemi and are over compensating the compliance part of being an Uke because they are learning. Try to give them a break. Some are jerks that wish to dominate and show how good they are in comparison to you (I have not found very many of these, and if you asked me to point out an incident I would not be able to think of one), try to give them a break, and remember, you don't HAVE to train with them. Some may be intimidated by you, try to give them a break. You may often be frustrated with your training because you cannot find someone that you think is taking proper Ukemi for the throws you are trying to do. If you are training at a "young" school it will take a while for you and your partners to get the skill necessary to take the falls appropriate for "realistic" flowing motion. Be patient. I believe it is best to start slow and work your way up to fast and furious in all cases.

I have also found that the person I dread most to train with is often the one I need to work with. The reason is they are bringing up some "issues" with me personally, and I need to learn how to deal with them in an Aikido-like manner. Everyone has something to teach us (even if that "lesson" is to not train with that person again!).

The bottom line is, when we are in a class and trying to learn what the instructor is sharing, try to mimic what the teacher is doing. If your partner is not making it easy to do this, it is time to say; "Can I try it with you doing it this way this time?" Try to make your wishes and needs clear.

Aikido is an art that is very difficult to learn because there are so many variables. We are not standing shoulder to shoulder punching the air. We are not kicking the person in the head or punching them as hard as we can. When other martial arts are practiced they have to alter their techniques to make them non-injurious. Sometimes (as in Judo) they are almost purely a "sport art", one of points and fouls. We are not usually doing a Kata, because each and every time we do any technique, it is different from the one we just did 2 minutes ago or 5 years ago. This is why it takes around 5 years to get a black belt in Aikido and you can get a black belt in other martial arts sooner. Aikido is more complex. You are actually "sparring" almost every class. Some martial arts don't even allow students to practice with each other until they have been around a certain amount of time

I also believe Chuck is right when he says to "Deliver a committed, sincere attack...". Remember however, a committed, sincere attack does not have to be fast. Just clear, direct and full of intent.

With all of this in mind, we always need to pay heed to safety. One of the most powerful aspects of Aikido is the fact that we can practice full speed and complete each technique. We can practice these techniques and commit them to "muscle memory" without harm to our training partners. Most other martial arts teach skills that maim or kill the attacker, and though they are able to practice these techniques safely in class, they can never go all the way because it would maim or kill their partner. I am still working on what would happen if the person you are doing certain Aikido techniques to doesn't know how to take care of themselves (Ukemi) in a real life self defense situation.

Still learning myself.

08-07-2000, 07:28 AM
As someone already said, give a good, sincere attack, but always keep in mind the ability and mat-personality of the person you are attacking. Many people attack in relation to how they do their techniques. You don't usually see someone doing a hard, dynamic technique then turn around and give a flimsy attack. If someone attacks somewhat "weakly" they probably do so because this is the pace they want in return. I always try to give a solid attack with resistance to a level that they can handle. If the person has been in class for a while, they are getting the full deal, I don't go unless they throw me, period. You just have to know who you are attacking and what they can do.

08-07-2000, 09:05 AM
From a newbie point of view, I would feel slightly cheated if uke fell without my doing the right thing to get them to fall. It breeds a false confidence in what you are doing and that can lead to all sorts of problems.

The attacks from my sempai come at a pace indicative of MY experience not theirs, and if I do things right they fall. If I don't they either don't go down straight away (giving me a chance to correct what is wrong) or they call a halt in order to let me know where I am going wrong so we can do it again.

I don't recall anyone yet who has gone over/down if I didn't do it right!!

08-07-2000, 09:44 AM
Clark sensei, I believe, is giving you very sound advise. I also tend to tune my attack according to the level of person I'm attacking. Some of the more senior students like "more clay". That is, I attack harder and try harder to maintain my balance throughout the encounter. Obviously you cannot do the same for those just starting, but I will NEVER just "give in" to nage. I have also run into these kind of people and I avoid working with them. Sometimes I'll even say something to them depending on my mood. Regardless, nothing is learned and both people wind up wasting valuable training time.

Also note that just the opposite is also true. If you know what technique is going to be executed, you can stop just about anyone by pulling your commitment to the attack. I call this ego training, and it has no place in an Aikido dojo. This has the same result as the previously stated situation. Both problems result in wasted training time.


Dan Pokorny

08-07-2000, 10:42 AM
Thank you very much for the advice. I'll keep it in mind and try and offer strong attacks and remain balanced throughout the technique. Again, thank you for replying. :)

Chuck Clark
08-07-2000, 11:04 AM
Don't forget what the folks above are saying...

Strong is relative.

A sincere, commited attack does not mean hard, fast, strong, etc. It can (and should) include those qualities when appropriate.

There must be energy to work with. If there is no energy affecting the partner, then there is no need to do aikido. (At higher levels of sensitivity the intent to attack and affect the partner is enough.)

Don't think about the technique the person is supposed to do...think about your attack and continue to be "dangerous."

09-04-2000, 06:53 AM
I wouldn't like to think people avoid practicing with me because my uke is not good, sometimes I fall not when needed (=when a well experienced aikidoka wouldn't) for various reasons, attack clumsily etc. I'm here to learn !
If you are not happy with my uke talk to me, point this out to me, show me !
If you leave me ('give me a break') I won't learn.


09-04-2000, 09:35 AM
I haven't time to read the whole thread at the moment, but I think good ukemi and in particular following a technique is one of those things that needs to be felt out by repetition. After you've done that, verbal advice might be useful too, but it's a thing you need to be shown repeatedly, not something that can be explained by words alone.

Practising Suburi (sword cuts etc) will help you learn to relax your shoulders and in turn let you offer resistance while remaining relaxed. It helped me a lot.

E.J. Nella
09-04-2000, 03:22 PM

I may not have explained myself skillfully enough in the particular case you referred to from my post. In the part that I think you are reffering to:

I wrote:

"ůSome are jerks that wish to dominate and show how good they are in comparison to you (I have not found very many of these, and if you asked me to point out an incident I would not be able to think of one), try to give them a break, and remember, you don't HAVE to train with them."

You wrote:

"I wouldn't like to think people avoid practicing with me because my uke is not good, sometimes I fall not when needed (=when a well experienced aikidoka wouldn't) for various reasons, attack clumsily etc. I'm here to learn ! If you are not happy with my uke talk to me, point this out to me, show me ! If you leave me ('give me a break') I won't learn."

My only point was in the specific situation where during class, you are working with someone that is not helping you learn or is making it difficult to concentrate on the technique shown. You either don't have to train with that person, or just deal with it. In my opinion, there is a time and place for everything. Unless the instructor is specifically asking the class to resist or whatever, we should try to help each other learn the technique being taught and how to receive it.

If allowed by the Sensei, and it is mutually agreed upon, do anything else after class.