Sugano Sensei on Ukemi
I thought this was really interesting in light of the current tendency towards highly stylized ukemi, particularly the 1st short paragraph "Ukemi at present..." and also "It gives you a certain exercise, and that gives the conditioning for muscles, so forever you need to roll to maintain that conditioning, but that's the only reason you teach rolling backward and forward.".
the original interview is at http://www.aikidosphere.com/sseintpt4.cfm
Can you say something about ukemi?
Ukemi at present is also affected by developing an idea of teaching something or developing a system to teach, as well as the student also expecting to have instruction. That all has affected the idea of ukemi, and of how to do ukemi.
Originally there was no such system, just you attack, you get thrown, so you gradually develop the perception of how to do it, and you have to be receptive. Ideally, if you start younger, you don't have to worry about it, it takes care of itself automatically whatever situations come up. In that case there isn't a system or way to develop ukemi, it's just naturally there. But now some people are thinking more about how to do ukemi in what situation. Already it is influenced by the idea or notion of teaching and getting instruction. Particularly with ukemi you have to be receptive.
So again, ideally you're supposed to be younger so it's physically possible to take care of yourself if someone throws you or something. If someone just starts training it's probably not the same as for the young ones. You're just training, so automatically your body becomes more receptive to the movements. There's no need to have uke have to move this way or that way.
I think that's the way we first learned ukemi, if I can remember back that far.
Now, I don't know, people start talking about how to do ukemi. Even in Europe, in some groups they teach people to jump. They teach the uke, for iriminage, jump forward. Ideally it should be you just train, and it just automatically takes care of itself. Ukemi is basically a heightened perception and reaction of your body. Once you formalize it, it's already artificial.
One thing is that obviously you have to be able to roll backward and forward. The main idea for backward and forward rolling is to condition your muscles because you're not used to such training. It gives you a certain exercise, and that gives the conditioning for muscles, so forever you need to roll to maintain that conditioning, but that's the only reason you teach rolling backward and forward. That's how your muscles get to know how to react, and your body is not used to moving in that way. Once you establish that into the body, you roll forward or whatever, it's physically easy to take ukemi.
Hitting the mat isn't necessary, unless you really need it. Without knowing exactly why, people get the idea from judo. In judo they have reason to slap the mat, that way they reduce the shock. But in Aikido's case, we use rotary movement to reduce the shock, so the two approaches are different. But once you make habits, it's difficult to stop.
Re: Sugano Sensei on Ukemi
As a kid I started off in Judo and the last thing anyone wanted to do was ukemi as it meant losing. Of course, we practiced on soft mats etc. but the thought was it was always for our protection. Nothing else. I liked Aikido right from the beginning and had no problem with the stylized ukemi though I have long seen it as just that. It takes a long time to get beyond that in Aikido. So, of course, done well, ukemi has real meaning in Aikido. I am however a little uneasy about the new wave of teaching super-stylized ukemi that is just ukemi for ukemi's sake. I too like to look good, but my Judo experience grants me a suspicious eye. At least when I'm doing stylized stuff, I am aware that it is so. I suspect that many are not. I can't really see the point in spending hours learning how to fall when in reality, it just happens anyway if tori throws you properly. For me , learning how to throw remains more important. But to be fair, most of those I see doing fantastic ukemi are usually pretty good toris too - the enigma of Aikido!
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