View Full Version : Working with too easy an uke

Please visit our sponsor:

07-17-2002, 04:11 PM
On the flip side of the threads about working with an uke that is always resisting, how do you work with an uke that you donít even have to take the balance of?

There is a new girl in my dojo. She used to study in another style, and from the way she trains, Iím sure that where she used to practice, all uke were completely compliant. When she attacks, she does so with absolutely no energy. There is no attack. When I attempt to do a technique, she falls without my even having moved her. And when I set up a technique, letís say I tenkan around her attack, before I even move her, she hops around me to go where I want her to (and sometimes in a completely different place.)

Iíve spoken to her, asked her to turn up the intensity, and to not move unless I move her, and even my instructor has spoken with her several times. Iíve attacked her the way that I want to be attacked, and since most of the people in my dojo attack with intensity (Sensei insists upon Ďrealisticí attacks), Iím sure sheís seen examples of how we attack, and when we resist and when we follow. Sheís been around for about a month now, and hasnít altered her attacks, so I think that simple observation is out. Now I know that some will probably say that she doesnít need to change her attack, and that different people do things differently etc., but the thing is, when Iím paired with her, I canít learn anything. Iím still under a year in practice, so I canít control an uke that is three steps ahead of me in every technique. Any advice would be appreciated.


07-17-2002, 04:29 PM
It is very hard to find good a good Uke.:rolleyes: And it drives me nuts.

We have many bad Uke in our dojo (we do have some good), what we try and do is attack them the same way they are attacking us. sometimes that helps.

We have some that are a bad uke, then they complain that you cant do the on them.:rolleyes: So then you have to explain to them that it is the fact that their is no attack their. no need to do a technique if their is no attack.

thank you


07-17-2002, 04:42 PM
without getting judgemental , try this:

next time you're working with her and you're doubting the attack, just stand still and let her do her thing. It'll be pretty obvious that the attack is non existent. then ask her to please hit you :D . If the strikes are falling short, if she's pulling the punch, if the grab is so soft and useless it'll make the situation pretty clear.

Now, don't mind if you get bonked or kicked, or pushed over; that's what you're trying to get done.

don't sweat it. she may eventually come around, and in the meanwhile you're blessed with a majority of intense partners.

Sometimes people are a bit hesitant especially if their falling skills are not yet confident.

Carl Simard
07-17-2002, 04:46 PM
Sometimes it happens... One of my sensei has given us a good advice when that happens. If the attack is very bad, simply take a step backward or on the side without doing any technique at all. The other will try to attack you again, and you do the same thing. At some point, the other will certainly ask you "what are you doing?". You then simply answer that the attack doesn't require more from you then doing a step backward to neutralise it. Why should you do a complex technique when only a step is enough ? Then tell that you will do the technique only when you feel that the attack has enough intensity to actually require it... Usually, the message pass...

07-17-2002, 08:59 PM
sometimes ukes fall before you throw them because they are new, and want to have better control over their falls. Increasing your intensity if this is the case will only make them more likely to fall early.

Or she may just never come around to the usual dojo way of things.

It may also be that you are incorrect in your assesment of her ukemi: if she is ahead of your technique, perhaps it is because her ukemi is good enough to stay connected to you and move to maintain her integrity. Or you may be larger and over muscling the technique, and she is making sure she stays enough ahead that you don't break her. SOme folks want an uke that resists with all their strength, even past the point that any intelligent person would take the fall to regain advantage. If you are bigger than your uke, they are just not going to be able to give you that kind of resisitance, never mind that it is stupid to do so anyway.

Or, she's "just not doing it right." When I have a scared uke that falls early, what I get out of working with them is figuring out how to reassure them (smooth, gentle technique) so they don't feel the need to rush to the fall. You might try saying "it would help me---note: not 'you're doing your ukemi wrong'--it would help ME if you could not take the fall quite yet, I'm working on the part just before and want to focus on it." If she says she can't help it, she's already lost her balance, then hooray for you, you are actually throwing her and perhaps missing it because she's so much smaller it seems too easy. Or she may try to help you by staying upright a bit longer.

Pam Callea
07-23-2002, 01:34 PM
Never having been in a physical fight, or physically attacked someone before starting Aikido, I had to learn how to attack. My attacks were pathetic at best. I also learned the stronger Uke attacks, the faster they come out of the technique done to them. Iíve only been training a year and for the most of that time been a very compliant Uke. I was respectful (fearful) of the techniques (not of my Nage(s) but of the potential of what a technique could do to you). Not understanding the dynamics of the movements, I felt more comfortable never resisting for fear I would do so at the absolute wrong time and really get hurt. A year later, after doing certain moves again and again, Iíve begun to feel more comfortable about providing some resistance and providing my Nage with a more realistic attack.

Some folks are just more hesitant, not willing to be sincere (aggressive) in their attacks or ukemi. Colleenís advice above is exactly what helped me get over the incredibly uncomfortable feeling of not being in control of falling. Nageís at our dojo go real slow with new folks so they, as uke, can wait until they are thrown and still set up for taking that backward or forward roll. Since this gal has only been there a month, regardless of the fact that she came from a different style, please just consider her new and donít expect just because youíve explained and demonstrated means she feels comfortable changing how she does things only after a month. Wait to see how she is doing after 6 months, or after a year.

07-23-2002, 03:44 PM
IMHE too many people get confused when attacks are discussed.

If it does not look dangerous to begin with people dont recognize it as an attack.

IMHE too many people think that a strong muscular uke resisting is more dangerous than a soft uke surfing along on the technique all the time.

As if when one does not feel it does not exist.

BTW I move without being moved for I will never allow someone to stand behind me or to stand in my dead side.

I also move automaticaly when training with beginners. It is just another way to teach beginners the form.

07-23-2002, 08:00 PM
I know that I used to have this problem when working with higher ranked students. It mostly came down to figuring out "if I resist, this really hurts!" and not being able to stay relaxed and extended at the same time. With a choice between resisting and dead, I was choosing dead as it was less painful. Luckily, I figured it out on my own through the course of practice (kinda) and can now try and deck someone and still survive all the way through the pin/fall.

If the student is trying to attack sincerely, she/he will get there eventually. If the student is doing it on purpose after being talked to by the sensei, and in doing so impairing the ability for other students to learn, the sensei will take care of it. Until then, consider it training for when someone blown out of their mind "attacks" you in slow motion and in a completely unbalanced way. ;^)

07-26-2002, 07:00 AM

I'm new to the net but not Aikido, 32 years experience training and teaching, so I hope this observation is taken in the spitit it is given.

Learning Aikido is really hard and takes a lot of time and help from many people along the way. Often those ukes which we find to be problamatic from both sides of the too hard/too soft coin turn out over the years to have helped us learn some of the hardest lessons.

I understand that young woman very well. See if you can distill your attempts to 'do' aikido to her by simply trying to locate her center when you are paired. At least it will be something and you might come to look forward to training with her. Every single person on the mat can teach you something. Every one. You really have to look outside the box, sometimes, but it will be there.

As for too soft ukes, I think it is a great way to train for feeling intent. Often an attacker will hide his intent or not even be aware of it building in him. If we learn to seek out subtle intentions and movement we become more able to deal with these things. It keeps us from being surprised. It also turns lemons to lemonade on the mat.

07-26-2002, 07:24 AM
We have somebody who doesnt really attack as much as tickle in our dojo but if you get into the swing of things he can get quite aggressive and the attacks are good,

have you thought that she may be scared of hurting you? it is a possibility, we used bokkens for the first time last night and having the technique done to me first i felt a little off doing it to my uke, who is like 3rd Kyo and can take it easily anyhoo but there we go, of course later on i was fine just wacking the technique on cause he's hard so he says (on your knees boy)

oother then that she may just be shy? have you jsut asked her to attack you like you just burned her favourate pet alive?

it works trust me


Deb Fisher
07-26-2002, 10:15 AM
Like Pam, I also had to learn how to attack (actually, I'm still learning). In our culture hitting someone is usually wrong and bad. This is not a gender issue - there are lots of people who don't want to hit anyone (generally a good thing) and therefore have a hard time providing a truly committed attack.

Be patient with this person and help her learn a skill that is actually quite counterintuitive, and realize that this really could take her the better part of a year - it's certainly taken me that long to feel comfortable.

07-26-2002, 11:18 AM
I know that my attacks as uke are sometimes weak when I am not confident in taking the ukemi for that particular technique or when I am not confident that nage will guide me down close enough to the floor.

Hanna B
08-06-2002, 03:59 AM
Both of you have my sympathy.

It is quite normal that an attack that is considered correct at one dojo is found to be completely useless in another - and within the context of each dojo, both are right. Changing uke behaviour isn't done over night - and ideals vary a lot. Resistance/compliance is only one of the factors that vary.

If what you ask of her would give her scolding from her previous instructor, it might take time to mentally accept this new way of doing things! Of course, it is the people in your dojo who know how things should be done in this very place. In the long run, of course, she will adapt - or leave. Still, two people on the tatami have to work with what they are, not what they should be.

When you give her the attack that you would like her to give you, she might actually find that you make her practise difficult. Maybe she too finds it hard to learn when paired up with you - and then, maybe, with major parts of the dojo population.

When you are uke and she does the technique, have you tried softening up yourself? Not that you have to buy her way as the right one, but you could offer her something in between for a while. If you offer her this, maybe she will be more willing to try to offer you what you want. It's not about being right or wrong, but about offering a possible meeting point.

But of course, I'm just guessing.

Best regards,

Hanna BjŲrk

Kevin Leavitt
08-06-2002, 07:33 PM
Can certainly appreciate frustrations with "too easy uke". Run into it all the time.

I had the fortune (or misfortune) to have spent a fair number of years fighting "for real" in many situations (competition and for real).

Also study hard style of karate where young bonehead bang each other up. (BTW Aikido works very well on these guys!!)

Back to the story...

We have many, many new students in our dojo. They do not know how to attack properly. I figure it takes quite a while to learn how to be a good uke.

I try to teach them by being a good uke for them. As Senior students and Yudansha, you have an obligation to work with them as best you can.

Sometimes I talk to them if they are receptive and I "feel" they are at the point of that being the right thing to do.

Sometimes I kick them or hit them if they need it. (lightly of course).

But most of all, I try and set a good example at all times by taking proper ukemi for them and others.

And to be quite frank, sometimes I ignore them and just get through it and move on.

But I try never to be mean spirited, condesending, or rude...that would be the worst thing you could do.

Sometimes I wait till after class to pull them aside and work with them, if they are receptive to doing that....but never, never do I lecture or soap box. I always say something like....your really doing well...let me show you something that works for me... and leave it at that.

Deb Fisher
08-06-2002, 07:50 PM
Actually, you know what really drove it home for me? My problem has always been strikes, and so a few yudansha that I had lots of experience and comfort with started standing still when I would strike them, so I could see that I was veering waaayyy off.

This was a great tactic because it was foregrounded with a lot of work on things I do feel comfortable with, like breakfalls. I felt confident and comfortable with these guys, and knew they had my progress in mind.

It was also really gratifying to hit them once I got it! (haha)

This would have been a really combative and mean thing to do if a comfort level hadn't been reached, if I didn't know that they take me seriously. Kevin's advice about receptivity makes a lot of sense from this side of the fence.

08-06-2002, 09:00 PM
...I figure it takes quite a while to learn how to be a good uke.


I try to teach them by being a good uke for them. As Senior students and Yudansha, you have an obligation to work with them as best you can.


But most of all, I try and set a good example at all times by taking proper ukemi for them and others.

My thoughts exactly Mr Leavitt.
...Often those ukes which we find to be problamatic...turn out over the years to have helped us learn some of the hardest lessons.

...Every single person on the mat can teach you something. Every one. You really have to look outside the box, sometimes, but it will be there.

As for too soft ukes, I think it is a great way to train for feeling intent. ...If we learn to seek out subtle intentions and movement we become more able to deal with these things. ...
Thank you for your comments Mr Linden. I think you make some interesting and pertinent observations.

As for my personal experiences (for what they are worth), I've found that learning to be Uke seems to be more challenging than being tori. No only do you have to provide the energy for a "sincere" attack but you also have to be sensitive to nage's technique, understand the subtleties of the technique being performed, provide honest feedback to nage, sense nage's intent and direction and then do the breakfall.

My sensei and I were talking about this over tea one day after two wonderful hours of kaishi(sp?)waza and henkawaza. He said that being a "good" Uke can be more technically, mentally and spiritually demanding than being nage.

IMHO, Mr Andrew Clark's uke is on a challenging and rewarding journey of discovery. I think the characteristics of a "good" uke will come with practice and time.

Happy training all :)

08-12-2002, 08:00 AM
Working with an easy uke is at times very difficult. I understand this for the simple fact that when I first began to train, I was one of these. Yet, after some time I began to realize, people didn't want to pair with me for that reason. Soon afterwards, I began to strike harder and faster, not moving UNTIL I was moved. Shortly after this new plane of existence, lol, I was nicknamed "Uke #1" in my dojo. I love to be thrown, and put into locks. My Sensei says the best Aikidoist are first great ukes. So for those who are timid, just give them time, they might come around. And after some time, if not, just go hard on them and they have no choice but to go hard back. BUT BE SAFE!! lol. Later!

:ai: :ki: :do:

08-14-2002, 12:53 AM
Hey guys,

What about if its the other way around. My partner constantly resists both locks and throws. I am afraid to add more power to my locks as I might hurt him. Everytime I try a 180 deg technique or a throw, I have to compensate his resisting arm/body by adjusting my steps.

Any advice please?

08-14-2002, 01:48 AM
Romuel, depending on your level of skill, I see that as less of a problem than 'too easy' a uke. Properly done, a technique should work (ikkyo, for instance) whether or not uke chooses to go along - in the long run, your aikido may become more effective with a resisting uke.

My own uke difficulties have elements of both too easy and too hard: The only guy in the dojo that's newer than me. :) He's coming along very well, but his one main difficulty is he wants to try too hard as uke - instead of being led through the technique, just holding on to nage's wrist in kokyunage, for instance, he takes the initiative, moving himself into what he thinks is coming next. Since he has only a tenuous grasp of what's coming next anyway, he's liable to go wiggling off in one of a hundred completely unexpected directions - it's hilarious to watch. :D

Still, it helps, in an oddball fashion. I was practicing ikkyo-irimi on him, and the second I moved to rotate the arm, he twisted away in what he thought was the right direction. I continued with the technique anyway, (slowly, to avoid accidentally hurting him) modifying the line of force to compensate for his movement. The technique worked well; he went down on the line I'd chosen, regardless of where he thought he was going. It was a good lesson to me of ikkyo's effectiveness.


08-14-2002, 03:47 AM
....in the long run, your aikido may become more effective with a resisting uke.
Thx DaveO, I will try to remember what you've said and keep adjusting my footwork to compensate for his resistance until everything is refined. I am a newbie to aikido, only less than 3 mos.

08-14-2002, 04:58 AM
Kewl, Romuel, just be advised; my experience is in other fighting arts - I'm new to Aikido as well; so my own opinion may or may not be correct. :)

08-14-2002, 06:31 AM
DaveO, I am very impressed by your reply. You are completely right about the fact that the uke doesn't have to go along. Your technique alone should make him go wherever you want him to, but gently with little force. Good reply DaveO, especially for a somewhat newcomer, I have been in it for a couple of years. Train safely!

08-14-2002, 07:29 AM
Thanks, Uke4life, that's appreciated.

Ideally, when being uke for a newcomer like myself, you don't want to throw extra variables into the mix by resisting too early in learning the technique. With an inexperienced uke, though, that's not always possible - they resist too much, or they turn into a jellyfish. Or, they'll do something you simply don't expect - My own big mistake is forgetting which leg to fold when going over backwards - I just go with it now, but the first few times, I'd wind up just standing there saying 'er.....left foot or right?" :D

Properly performing the technique should insure successful resolution regardless of what uke's doing at the time; 90 per cent of ukemi is, I think, for the protection of uke, not for the success of nage's technique.

08-14-2002, 09:19 AM
Yep, IMHO when we complain that an uke is too easy or too resistance we put the responsibility of our effectiveness on them, not us. Flow with the ones who are too easy, reverse the flow with those who resists. Attackers in the real world don't take direction well. Ultimately, your training and effectivenss your your personal response-ability.

Until again,


Bruce Baker
08-14-2002, 01:30 PM
A couple of weeks ago, we had a visit from our friend, Butch, sometimes known as Sensei Butch Chernofski who is know to travel about with Sensei Y. Yamada of NYC. Over the last four years of his visits I have been learning to not use my physical strength, which can grab most 200 pound partners by the shoulders and lift them off the ground ... no matter what technique they are doing.

The case of the too pliable uke is one of tactical blending to overcome the opposite of to stiff an uke who remains like a rock or a tree necessitating exagerated movements to cause movement.

In the case of using mechanics with extension, the same movements of normal practice felt like I was holding absolutely nothing while my training partners were unable to balance themselves.

Normally, I allow most partners to maintain a 20%-30% balance so they don't feel like I am going to rip off their arms or crack open their heads with ukemi. Sensei Butch has been visiting long enough to get me to become relaxed without being pliable, yet in that relaxation I have become even stronger than when I use the strength of a blind rage. Relaxed strength I can understand.

Pliable ukes present a training problem as far as creating a danger to themselves and others because they try to stay very far ahead of a technique. When they are locked into an unescapable hold, they pannick. I can name at least four occasions when I have had to work with very loose wirery ukes and when I locked them up they did absolutely the wrong thing to ease the pain. They did, in fact, increase pain and damage to themselves by not training properly in using ukemi to "go with the flow."

If you get a chance, to get a teacher who has been around, who will take a couple of classes to give you a few of the basic mechanics of Aikido that your practice lacks, get to class and take in any and all advice.

As for the pliable uke ...

Either learn enough to cause the proper lockups before rushing to the throw, pin, or completion of a technique, or sit down and watch just what the pliable uke is doing to thwart your techniques in practice.

When you discover why your practice is not working on the dancing, non resistent uke, then you will have learned another lesson from varied partners practicing together.

Either that, or you will learn a few more pain distractions that help uke to move where you want them to be ... not always Aikido like, but realistic for the real world.

Sometimes we make opportunity, sometimes we take the opportunities that are given to us.

08-16-2002, 12:18 AM
I'm not sure whether this should be a separate thread but I thought it relates to being too hard or soft an Uke.

I hope I can explain this clearly enough.

After training, over tea and choc chip cookies, we were discussing the connection and relationship between uke and nage in the dojo.

We got to talking about "feeling the techniques" as both Uke and Nage. Sensei made the comment that both Uke and Nage are trying to nuture the energy during training and not "destroying" it. By that he meant not slamming Uke to the floor so that Uke is reticent about training but rather guiding Uke into proper Ukemi. Uke creates the energy from a committed attack. All the while maintaining clear intent whether we be Uke or Nage. In this way we are training cooperatively.

Now that got me thinking about the people that I have trained with in the past and currently.

Scenario 1

There have been those where it has been a joy to ukemi because their intent as Nage was so clear. No matter how vigourously I attacked or how powerfully I was thrown I was always in the correct position for the Ukemi. I would hit the mat hard, but I would get back up and think "WOW!! How did he do that? That was great" and then continue. I would never feel at risk of being injured and in this way training was an absolute joy.

Scenario 2

There have been other times training with other people where I would hit the mat hard and get the wind knocked out of me. I didnt feel confident and sometimes I would be in fear of serious injury. Training would be just as vigourous but the feeling would be very different.

I was wondering if anyone in this forum has felt that way during vigourous and rigourous training.

Also I've read some comments on this forum that O'Sensei could be quite harsh with his uchi deshi. On the other hand I've also read on this forum that training should be joyous. So is there a contradiction here? (I guess the assumption that I'm making here is that the harsh treatment by O'Sensei was no t acceptable by his uchi deshi).

Is the first scenario a valid means to practice aikido as a budo form or are we fooling ourselves? Is that sense of "putting ourselves at risk" (for want of a better phrase) and tension a necessary part of training?

Anyone got any thoughts about this?

Ta Kung
08-16-2002, 05:42 AM
We once had a person in our group. He never attacked me (nor anyone else) with any effort. Not even my Gi would move if he'd hit it. It turned out that he wasn't all that keen on practising, but it was his father that wanted him to practise. We don't take studens younger than 15, and this guy was probably not a day over 16. He never said much and was very timid. My guess is that he was very "hard kept" (can you say it like that in English, or does it make no sence?) by his father... Eitherway he quit after a year.

I have no deep thoughts about this subject, but perhaps there are sometimes more reasons for a persons behaviour, than meets the eye.