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I had a good class last night even though my ankle injury had flared up. Among other things, we worked on one of the suwari waza techniques required for my next test. I did okay, but cornered my instructor after class, asked him to take ukemi for me, and only then figured out (with his instruction) what was going slightly awry. We also did some techniques after working on the sword movements that are similar to them.
Lastly, I got nailed in the nose while helping sensei demonstrate a technique. I simply did not see his arm coming in. Luckily, I did not bleed, and it didn't hurt much after five minutes or so. But, anyone who says that aikido is too soft ought to train with us for a bit. We have very few injuries at my dojo, and this particular one was just one of those things that happens. I told my instructor afterwards that I just did not see his arm at all. He said that he thinks my arm was blocking my vision a bit (a natural consequence of the technique), and he probably should have gone slower the first time or two he demonstrated. Live and learn.
This brings me to my discussion on the relationship between uke and nage. I'm not going to argue that getting injured, or even just hurt but not damaged, is desirable. However, for our training to really work (i.e. for it to really lead to mastery of aikido), there must be good, strong, ukemi. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that good ukemi is more difficult to master than good technique -- especially in the early years of training (where I am now). Good, strong ukemi can occasionally lead to uncomfortable pops in the nose.
The relationship between nage and uke, at its base, is like a kata. We have a predetermined attack and a predetermined response. So, if we're practicing katatori ikkyo, you know I'm going to grab your gi, and I know you're going to perform the ikkyo technique and pin. I don't know if you're going to go ura or omote, and I don't know how you plan on opening (blending with my attack and off-balancing me), but after a while, I've experienced the different ways of doing things, so I'll pretty much know what could happen.
Yet even knowing what's supposed to happen, a good uke will not try to anticipate the technique, thereby ending up ahead of nage. Instead, uke attacks with strong intent in a centered manner (not overbalanced). He or she then needs to continue after the initial attack. If nage succeeds in taking uke's balance, and provides a good lead for uke, then the next step will be for uke to fall safely. But, nages mess up pretty frequently. A good uke will be sensitive enough to feel when he or she is back on balance and/or can launch a second attack. Sometimes I can hit my nage before he can throw me. Sometimes I get hit. Sometimes I can reverse, sometimes uke reverses on me.
This leads to good training for nage. It is important to feel one's mistakes which trying to perform a technique and a good uke will show them to you. What we don't do is intentionally try to stop a technique just for the sake of stopping it. With beginners, I moderate my ukemi a bit. I still won't go if my nage is making a big mistake (e.g. if I'm on balance and he's not), and I'll sometimes reverse (not often), but I won't be as aggressive. I'll focus more on providing smooth follow-through from my initial attack and less on landing a second one.
Nage's responsibility is the inverse of uke's. He or she much blend with the attack and be sensitive to uke's energy, be nage is also responsible for not breaking uke. The best way to not break uke is to not force the technique, and to be aware of uke's ability to fall. In short, nage must perform proper technique, lead uke's balance, and throw or pin in an efficient manner. This leads to safe aikido; much safer than muscling a technique or trying to force uke into it.
The most important thing to realize is that uke is nage's teacher. This is why I think it is harder for to be a good uke than a good nage. Uke must learn to teach well. Nage must learn to learn well.