View Full Version : Poll: How often do you get to choose your uke(s) for your rank testing at your aikido dojo?

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12-19-2004, 12:34 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of December 19, 2004:

How often do you get to choose your uke(s) for your rank testing at your aikido dojo?

I don't do aikido
We don't have rank tests

Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=252).

12-19-2004, 04:01 AM
Well its always nice when your uke is someone who's put in alot of time and effort to prepare you for the grading, its easier to do techniques coz your used to their body movements and they to yours. but then again sometimes you dont have a choice in the matter (where i train ive always just seen people volunteer to be the uke). but then again Aikido is of such nature that its supposed to work on anyone..

12-19-2004, 07:23 AM
In the UKA and other places I've been it's more the ukes choosing the nage. I.e. Sensei says "5 ukes please", or whatever, and there is a mad rush to get to your chosen victim. Of course people often go for friends and this can be preranged to some extent, but it's alwasy a bit of a lottery, and after a few uke changes you've usaly run out of mates :)

One fun thing I saw one year at a BAF summer camp was the examiners rearange the ukes behind the backs of the testees. They all knew that one of them had a big, scary Russian 4th dan, but until they turned around they weren't sure who. The guy that did, did a great test though if I remember rightly, though the look of his face when he turned round to bow was priceless.

Personally I love to take ukemi for friends, I think its an honour and an intimate thing to be involved with. Like being best man, but the stag do is after :)

L. Camejo
12-19-2004, 08:05 AM
Hi Folks,

The way my Sensei conducted gradings was in a very formal manner where he would select the Tori and Uke and instruct what parts of the grading syllabus each one should execute. In the event that the Uke was of same rank and going for the same grade, both would take turns being Tori and Uke. However it was very possible to end up with a rank beginner who may not have the sensitivity and knowledge of how to move with the techniques and make them "look good." In this case if your technique was not sound it woul appear glaringly obvious as Uke did something out of the norm.

I had an interesting time this year when the class for my Nidan grading actually fell on a local holiday, which is a time that we do not normally train. The only person I was able to contact in time for the surprise test was a white belt who had some good ukemi skills from doing Jujutsu prior to starting Aikido. Things went off pretty well, but also had some interesting parts as my Uke had to react to certain techniques that he had only seen a few minutes before for the first time ever. Of course as a result of this I had to repeat the entire grading one more time with Shihan as my Uke so he could feel my technique. Scary I tell you.:eek:


12-19-2004, 01:56 PM
I've seen this creeping in to some of our gradings and it kind of bugs me. Sensei calls for uke and people just jump up. But as you go up the grades it becomes clear that some people are jumping to be with a certain person because it's been pre organised. Particularly from Shodan up. One of my students graded to Shodan last week, and when someone from another dojo asked her who her uke was going to be she just looked back at them blankly :-)
I graded the same day, and although I was sitting in front of shomen at the time, I could tell that when Sensei asked for uke's there was a bit of a pregnant pause before people started to come. I beleive this was either due to a personal hygiene problem I"m unaware of, or, that it being a relatively high grade everyone assumed I'd pre arranged my uke and were waiting for my chosen partners to leap to it.

I really don't like this. Grading has value for a number of reasons, one of which is it provides us a rare opportunity to pressure test. If your uke is pre arranged it's always unclear whether it's a pressure test or a dance. Even if they are attacking with full commitment and adding appropriate resistance etc. if it's someone you're used to you're going to be fully prepared for exactly how they move. If it's someone unfamiliar you'll need to adapt as you go which is what Aikido is all about.

I was fortunate to end up with two very good uke, one of whom was from out of town so I never train with. My grading didn't look as pretty as it would have if it had been my own dojo mates up there with me. But I did get the opportunity to show sensei adjusting from a failed technique into something else mid flight. Uke should not be prearranged, and if the grading body thinks that someone is a little to eager to uke for a certain person, I think they should probably be switched out. It's a grading not a demonstration.

Rupert Atkinson
12-19-2004, 06:19 PM
I attended a United Kingdom Aikikai (not my school) course, about 1990 or 91maybe, and trained all week. I was second dan at the time (still am!) but my 'system' was a little different - certainly the sword work. Anyway, come the last day, I volunteered to be uke for the dan gradings and things proceeded fairly well. Then came the partnered swordwork, they had an odd number, and guess who got called up. It's not like you can easily refuse. I have seen my fair share of bad ukes at gradings over the years and now it was my turn to be one. I was nervous and it wasn't even my grading. 'O-oh, what the hell do I do now!' rapidly went through my mind. Well, I had no idea whatsoever and there was no way I would be able to get out of it with all eyes upon us. Well, all I had to do was to figure out what attack I had to do - not easy when certain techniques involved several movements. Luckily, several pairs were grading at the same time - I claimed my space right between two other pairs and positioned my self just slightly behind those to my left and right. I attacked my partner just a moment after glancing at (without turning my head) those next to me - somehow, it worked and all went smoothly. At least some of the stuff they did we had practised that week, but each successive moment I had no idea what was next - it was quite nerve-racking at the time. No one wants to look the fool - I got away with it - nobody noticed. And as for choosing your partner - I think it was the first time I had met the guy. He passed :)

Hanna B
12-19-2004, 09:34 PM
I wasn't able to choose uke for my kyu tests, then I was assigned an uke at the start of the test. For my shodan test we who took the rank were paired together - but it was not so difficult to guess beforehand who it would be.

For my nidan, I thought it would be the same as for shodan but I was told the morning of the test to go find myself an uke for the test.

Joe Bowen
12-19-2004, 11:30 PM
I've seen it done both ways. When I tested for my Shodan, I was partnered up with another person testing for Shodan. Which in and of itself was pretty grueling, as you did the whole test one time as Nage and one time as Uke. It shows if you're not in good shape. For my Nidan test, I was partnered with another Nidan testee for the weapons portion of the test and got to pick my Uke (thank you Brian) for the set testing syllabus, and had a random Uke thrown in for the Ninin Dori Jiyu Waza (Two person Randori). I have fond memories of that test....
For the most part here, Kyu rank tests don't get to pick their Uke, but for the Dan ranks you can. I also consider it a honorable requests if someone asks you to be Uke for their test.


12-19-2004, 11:39 PM
Our tests are, almost without fail, with pre-arranged uke.

Usually two people who are testing work together during test training (anywhere from two weeks to a month). They also often get their own instructor for this test training time, this can be either an instructor who is participating in the class or someone who already has achieved the rank going for.

Sometimes, if there is only one person testing for a particular level, their uke will be chosen on the day, but still before the test.

For dan gradings, all ukes are still pre-arranged. There is one main uke and then two others for Futari Dori and Sannin Dori jiyuwaza.

I can see the benefit of having uke's be a surprise, but I would worry about knowing them and their ukemi. Even with an uke you know well it is easy to hurt someone. With someone you don't know, then the odds increase, especially if that person isn't in top form and ready for the test themselves.


12-19-2004, 11:43 PM
Just realized something. The question was "you get to choose". We don't always get to choose...often, but not always. Sometimes the instructor assigns an uke for you. You just know who it is going to be days or weeks in advance.



12-20-2004, 01:37 AM
A couple of people have mentioned things which touch on another point. In our style we test basic ukemi in the first grading. But I think it's important that at 3rd kyu ukemi should be a large part of the test. And not just in a "take ukemi for the other 3rd kyu applicant" kind of way. They should have senior grades pounding them into the mat with hard, difficult throws. In many styles 3rd is the point where you go from white to brown belt. I think when you see a brown belt you should have the confidence that they can handle whatever you dish out (within reason), and such a component of the grading would give you that confidence (no doubt some styles all ready do this).
Then when you get some random guy thrown at you for your shodan grading you don't have to worry about whether their ukemi is up to it, you can just have fun :-)

12-20-2004, 09:29 AM
We start to have taigi (set-piece series of techniques, usually six techniques per taigi) on our tests around second kyu, and by shodan the tester is choosing a couple of taigi from numbers 1-15. This means that uke has to be able to produce, on demand, the correct six attacks for any of those taigi. We don't practice taigi often enough for this to come naturally even to yudansha....

The upshot is, shodan candidates pick their ukes months in advance and the whole dojo spends time coaching both people on taigi! (And there was still a taigi with only five techniques in it, last testing. Nage passed anyway, with compliments on "keeping calm in difficult situations.")

For kyu tests we usually pick, but sensei is free to call in someone else, and occasionally does. I think if you don't seem rattled enough by the normal course of testing, he may try to rattle you a bit more.

At one of our sibling schools I saw a shodan test where sensei suddenly called for a folding chair. It was placed in the center of the mat, and the candidate sat down on it, visibly wondering what was coming. "Three techniques from ryote dori, without getting up." He did it nicely, too--not the wrist controls that it turns out sensei was expecting, but zenpo-nage, kiri-kaeishi, and something whose name I don't know that took uke right over the back of the chair into a roll. Mmm.

Mary Kaye

12-20-2004, 09:44 AM
We have the option of choosing our uke or being assigned one, and if htere are a lot of tests Sensei will rotate ukes without warning.
I didn't have much time to prep for my fourth kyu test due to outside influences. It turned out that of the three teachers on the testing panel, two of them wanted to see entirely different versions of shomeuchi nikkyo. sensei told me to use the one I was most comfortable with, however my uke was expecting the Other version, and even though she is nidan and sensei's favorite uke, she had trouble with that technique because she was expecting something other than what i was doing.I passed anyway!

Janet Rosen
12-20-2004, 11:03 AM
Where I used to train, regardless of who one prepared with, your uke was selected by the instructor and called up to join you at the bow in for the test. I liked this for a couple of reasons: made it more of an actual unrehearsed testing situation, and the instructor had a good sense of pairings--which uke would pose an appopriate but not overwhelming challenge for a particular student at a particular ranking.
Having said that, when I tested at my current dojo, the person I had prepared with was unavailable the day I was ready to test, so I did at the last minute ask somebody else to be my uke....and the test was very different from what I'd prepared for, but it was quite wonderful fun.

12-21-2004, 07:19 AM
At my club here in the UK, uke's are chosen by the grading panel on the day. When I was living in Japan, uke is chosen by the dojo cho, but chosen in advance so that you can work with them for a week or two leading up to the grading. Either way, you have no choice in uke's.



12-21-2004, 08:17 AM
Where I train we train with someone at our level. If we are of a level that nobody else is testing for we will get a more senior uke, or as in my last test, a barrage of ukes.

A lot of students volunteer to be thrown around on our tests. We are a very close school, like a family.

Either which way in the end, Shihan always picks our ukes. Once for a Christmas gift a couple years back he let me pick my ukes.

12-21-2004, 08:31 AM
We have the option to choose our uke, but Sensei sometimes brings new ones in at random as the tests go on.
I.e., they get to be fresh while we get tired :D

Nick P.
12-21-2004, 11:19 AM
At my club here in the UK, uke's are chosen by the grading panel on the day. When I was living in Japan, uke is chosen by the dojo cho, but chosen in advance so that you can work with them for a week or two leading up to the grading. Either way, you have no choice in uke's.


At our mother-dojo in Japan, like here, uke is determined in advance by the Sensei (how far in advance is the only variable).

12-22-2004, 08:32 AM
I've tested at summer camp, and it is truely awesome to have an entire herd of yudansha rushing out onto the mat, racing to get to any testee they can, and slinking back to the lines when they failed to be quickest. Sometimes the "yudansha rush" reminds me of randori! You always ended up with a high-caliber uke (someone who at least had enough energy to beat the pack to your side). Occasionally the uke/nage would be a serious mismatch (huge size difference), which meant that a new uke might be called up after just a few techniques, at the testing commitee's descretion.

In the smaller testing opportunities (less people), I've observed that Sensei's often assigns an uke in advance, to make sure that someone of proper caliber will be available as your partner. I've also found out that takeing ukemi for somone elses test is often an expectation when you yourself are testing. Plus, it sure breaks the tension.

12-22-2004, 09:03 PM
I saw a nidan test recently where the testing sensei got a big grin and suddenly called up, for jiyu-waza, the candidate's two school-aged children. From the expressions on their faces they had known this was coming (probably the candidate did too) but it still made for quite an interesting jiyu-waza. The kids were inspired by the huge audience and gave her a very hard time!

Mary Kaye

12-22-2004, 11:06 PM
We always get to pick ours. Kyu tests are posted in advance and most dan tests are known about ahead of time so you pick your uke well ahead of the test. Even on the surprise dan tests sensei will tell the nage to pick an uke because they are testing in 5 minutes.

Michael Fooks wrote:
if it's someone you're used to you're going to be fully prepared for exactly how they move.

Murphy's Laws of Combat (http://www.nightstalkers.com/mythology/murphy.html) #25: Tracers work both ways.

The uke for my last test was somebody I work with on a very regular basis. I know how he moves...and he knows how I move and what my weak points are. The bastard did his best to expose and exploit every single one...and I greatly appreciate it :D