View Full Version : What is good ukemi?

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John Matsushima
12-01-2004, 04:15 PM
Hello all,
How would you best describe (technically or philosophically) "good ukemi"? I have begun to look at ukemi not just as a way of rolling, or receiving a technique without harm, but as a way of receiving, period. As nage, I learn to receive an attack without fear. When I get hit, I learn to receive without panic, or anger. When I fail in my technique I learn to receive the uke's resistance without stubbornness or a desire to fight. So, to me good ukemi is receiving with appreciation. What does it mean to you? :circle: :square: :triangle:

12-01-2004, 04:56 PM
To me it means getting up again.

12-01-2004, 05:16 PM
Assorted definitions of good ukemi, some directly from conversations with senior instructors of the UKA, some just me waxing on and off lyrical:

What enables your partner to practice and improve, and you to continue to practice.
Not just the rolley, slappy bit.
A sincere attack followed by good contact.
Not giving up.
The important half.
Violence surfing.
An action of trust.
What can make aikidoka arrogant and makes them humble.

Favorite at the mo:
Ukemi is the method by which we practice aikido (generally),as opposed to say kata or competitive sparing, and the genius of aikido.


ps. I like the term "appreciating" John.

Michael Young
12-01-2004, 06:41 PM
If you haven't read this, you should



Jordan Steele
12-01-2004, 07:08 PM
To me there are three different kinds of good ukemi. Good ukemi for nage. Good ukemi for uke and realistic ukemi. For nage, ideally you are light, springy, and your body can handle a substantial amount of abuse. For uke, you don't fall to soon, you can keep up with nage, and it doesn't hurt. Realistic ukemi and the kind that should be practiced above all others is feeling for weaknesses in nages technique and exploiting them. To me good ukemi is falling in a controlled fashion with the understanding that your opponent has thrown you and you haven't just fallen for him.

12-01-2004, 09:15 PM
What is good ukemi?



Lan Powers
12-01-2004, 10:09 PM
Hi Mark
I like your list.
(especially * Violence surfing.*)

Quite nice. :D

12-01-2004, 10:25 PM
I'd say good ukemi is the same as good "nagemi." The more I look into it, there's no difference between the two roles...

-- Jun

12-11-2004, 05:52 PM
I agree with Jun.

I used to just want to avoid being open while taking ukemi. Then, I developed more flexibility and awareness and found it difficult to not to have those "fly away" too early tendancies. Now, I still work towards being more flexible and strong in the attack, and still not open (or I suppose less open). If I'm working with an atemi happy uke I usually will treat that like they are the uke and do a (reverse) technique. Something not usually mentioned but important about ukemi is getting up instantly and attacking again - lots of people kind of have a tea party on the mat between each throw.

The best uke I ever saw was in Takeda sensei's dojo. Takeda sensei was standing maybe 3 feet from a wall, and the uke (a 6th dan nicknamed "Mr. Aikido") came to attack like a freight train. Takeda sensei basically threw him up and back over his shoulder at the wall. I have no idea how he does anything so I can't describe the technique very well. The uke magically absorbed that energy into his body somehow and not only avoided splatting into the wall, but also landed, turned around, and instantly attacked again. All I could do was gasp. Takeda sensei laughed and started trying to throw him into walls - and couldn't. Then he started calling up other people and throwing them at the walls. Several of his ukes could avoid the wall too (though they didn't run in as fast as the first guy). I also got a turn. I bounced off of every wall in that dojo. (They weren't hard impacts, but I couldn't avoid them.) That was several years ago now, and although I made a lot of improvement, I still think I would be splatted into the wall given the same situation today.


12-17-2004, 05:34 AM
Just small hint about ukemi. It's good to look at tori (nage) during all uke's part of technique, including ukemi. Beside other things it helps to find good body settings during the fall (roll).
And one more thing, perfect ukemi is useless without good work of uke before ukemi. We need to be in right place in right time to be able to perform good ukemi.
And it is not only exit point of technique, but also (can be) entry point of another technique, another attack, or defense. I often seen an uke, who can be good in preparation phase before ukemi, and starts ukemi properly, but then his attention is getting low and at the end of ukemi he is not able to be ready to get his balance in time.

Greg Jennings
12-17-2004, 06:12 AM
Second what Jun said.

I also want to add that, to me, ukemi is the complete art of being a good training partner in the uke role.

I emphasize this to my students that they are not nage's throwing dummy.


Kevin Kelly
12-25-2004, 10:23 PM
I'm doing my best to learn ukemi as I am still fairly new to this. I know that it's not all about rolling, but I did do that incorrectly and separated my shoulder. My Sensei told me I'm not allowed to do rolls for awhile. I need to get with someone and practice low and slow.

Janet Rosen
12-26-2004, 12:27 AM
Hi, Kevin. I don't know of any specific research, but certainly anecdotally, shoulder separations are a not uncommon newbie injury during the learning of forward rolls. Your instructor is right to make sure you don't resume working on rolls until this soft tissue injury heals completely. It DOES get better, and it DOES get easier, so hang in there!

Chicko Xerri
12-26-2004, 04:04 AM
Good Ukemi is higher level Ukemi which is not simply rolling back or forward. It is becomming sensitive to changes within movement, All movement. The Universal is in the relms of Ukemi. Ukemi is next to Aiki. When Uke is at a very high level of developement, his techniques when applied become painless and invisable to his attacker. The effect through his technique on an attacker is capable of controlling, openning or locking the (Mind Body Center) This should be ones guide for technique developement.

I hope I am of some good to you.

12-26-2004, 07:58 PM
Hi all,

Last week at practice, I just had a one to one talk to a newbie in class. He absolutely loves the high flying flipping ukemi he sees on videos but is afraid to do them. When he practices, he will always ask the tori/nage to go slow and a very erractic technique ensure due to his absolutely frightened state of falling. This half hearted and frightened falls results in a very dangerous and unflowish type of aikido.

However, I told him, forget about the nice looking ukemi you see on the videos... those are mainly for shows. The principle function of ukemi is to protect yourself so that you will be able to get up again. So I went with him a series of basic ukemi, nothing fancy, just old fashion fall. I think his confidence came through. I saw him able to take kotegashi falls later (not the flip over type but those that does not end up with him suffering with wrist pain).

In summary, my 2 cents on what is agood ukemi is any ukemi that makes you able to get up again after being thrown.


12-26-2004, 08:12 PM
being able to get up from a throw without having to pick your teeth up would be my idea of a good ukemi...... :D

I used to practice ukemi while holding a bokken or jo. It made me be very aware of my body position, the positions and movements of those around me, and made me come up in a relaxed, ready-to-fight position and, more importantly, ready-to-fight frame of mind. Of course, beginning to train like that with ukemi did have some unfortunate side-effects (remembering the words of the sensei 'did you mean to try and disembowell yourself, or was it an accident?' as I lay crumpled on the floor with the bokken sticking out from under me - ah, those were the days! :confused: )

12-26-2004, 09:25 PM
Hey Kevin-
Two years ago last week I started training. Two years ago this Wednesday I did my second forward roll and subluxated my shoulder.I trained one-handed for a month,took another month to learn to roll Properly,and I am two tests down the road now and learning how to do the big breakfalls.You'll be fine

12-26-2004, 10:36 PM
Some of my sempai can take ukemi in a manner that makes me perform the technique properly. This is amazing to me.

But I also like when they attack with an 'empty mind', and just go where the energy takes them.

Then again, sometimes I also like when they attack with the intent of foiling my technique.

Sometimes at work I'll be having a conversation with a customer, and one of my coworkers will, picking up on something pertinant, go and grab a product or do something for them while we're still talking, before I even start to move. It's very aiki. This is my favorite associate to work with.

Oh, so anyhow, it seems to me that good ukemi is very much like good waza, and the two go together like a tag team. :D

12-27-2004, 12:31 AM
I started out trying to take falls as soon and as soft as I could, out of fear. Didn't lead to very nice ukemi. Then I got a bit more confident, not to say arrogant, and began resisting throws. It was fun! But one day I was practicing tanto-disarm shihonage with a favorite senior student. I managed to regain my balance and stand pat through his shihonage, and felt very smug for about two seconds until he popped the tanto out of my hand and poked me all over with it. Of course I was flatfooted, stiff, and completely unable to defend myself. We had a good laugh about it, but I thought, hm....

So I'd like to be like the senior students: light on my feet, quick to move when necessary, not giving throws for free but never stiff or stuck in place either. They can turn into a mountain and somehow still move when they need to. Or, as a sensei from another school told me, "Go down 100% to come up as quick as you can: don't do things halfway."

There's a more serious answer, though, which involves a story about that same senior student. Twice I've been in the position mid-throw of realizing he's about to throw me into an ukemi I'm not altogether sure I can do. But we have a level of trust between us such that both times I've been able to relax and go into the fall, knowing in my heart that he wasn't going to hurt me. That's at the heart of ukemi for me--the rapport between partners that allows you to really stretch your abilities, confident that the other person is there with you.

I think the first of those experiences was the moment I knew I was going to stick with aikido.

Mary Kaye

12-27-2004, 01:00 AM
When you can get up again.

Alvin H. Nagasawa
12-27-2004, 09:31 PM
Re: What is good Ukemi?
When I started in 1970. I observed my sempai demonstrating their extreme Ukemi falls.
My impression as beginner was to be like them. Oh, I had my injury's and knocks on the head. At 24, coming from a Karate background. It was hard to adjust taking Ukemi, The concept of taking a break fall and flips into the air like a feather amazed me.
But I had to find out myself in the long run, Protect yourself, learn Ukemi first before you can be a nage. Get that exposure of Ukemi from the top instructor you encounter in your Aikido practice.
Been thrown and taking the ukemi for a top instructor is your accomplishment and even been throw by Doshu, Waka Sensei, S. Masuda, Seki Sensei, Tanoue Sensei, Akita Tohei, Maruyama, Osawa and many other ranking instructors that taught in Hawaii on there travels all over the world.
As a Uke you have to read your nage, Be as one, what may be a 3 minute demo. over in seconds.
As you develop, your focus is now been to be a Nage. You have accomplished one side of the spectrum. Now you have to polish the other side. Yin & Yang is a example.