Thread: Punishing Uke
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Old 06-01-2006, 04:43 PM   #1
David Orange
Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,511
Punishing Uke

I find something very disturbing in modern aikido. It's the idea that the uke (not the opponent, but the training partner) must be unresistant and, if he is not, he is to be punished. On various boards, I've read all kinds of comments about "What I do" if uke resists. "I'll just break his knee," one guy said. I've read of people slamming ukes around for resisting, hard atemi, etc. And in going around to many dojos, I've taken some nasty shots delivered in the middle of a technique when I wasn't resisting at all.

I find this dishonorable and a perversion of the idea that "in aikido there is no resistance."

To me, "There is no resistance in aikido" means that NAGE never resists anything UKE does.

The other way around, it's like practicing archery with an assistant who rushes the target around to where your arrow is going.

It's like practicing marksmanship with a machine that automatically places the target where your bullet is going to be.

An uke who always falls no matter what slovenly, unrealistic "technique" we apply is just lying to us. And if we require that he lie to us, we're lying to ourselves. And that seems to be common in modern aikido. I guess that's why there are so many discussions about whether aikido "really works" and whether it really is a "martial art." People have lied to each other so much, they do not know anymore.

My teacher, Minoru Mochizuki sensei, an uchi deshi to Morihei Ueshiba before the war, always said "Truth can only be built on truth."

That, for me, is the North Star of training and attitude. And what that means is that the uke MUST be realistic both in attack and in response to the aikido efforts of the nage or it isn't real aikido.

That means that uke must NOT throw himself physically off balance. I spent a lot of years training in judo, karate and sword and I do NOT go off balance when delivering an attack. Not easily. Of course, Murai sensei would laugh at that statement. One of Mochizuki sensei's earliest students (now judan, head of seifukai), he is about 4 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing no more than about 90 pounds. He could always throw me with the lightest touch. Lots of my American training partners said I resisted too much, but tiny Murai sensei said "You fall too easily."

Well, I couldn't help it. Whatever I did against him led me to the floor very quickly. I could never feel anything to resist in his technique. And if I did feel something and resisted it, it took me to the floor. That's the way aikido should be.

The actual definition of aiki is attacking the "ura" of uke's kiai attack (omote).

The "omote" of a kiai attack is pure strength and immovable balance. Facing that kiai, you can hardly beat it, but that is only true of the "front" of that form--the omote. Going around to the back or side of the kiai attack, you find weakness and unbalance. So aiki is employing the ura of a kiai attack. Kiai/aiki. They're opposite sides of the coin.

But this tells us that nage and uke cannot BOTH be "doing aikido" because aiki ONLY EXISTS AS THE URA OF KIAI. If the attacker does not have kiai, the defender does not have aiki.

Also, think about it: aikido is an art of self-defense. The attacker is not "defending." He is "attacking". So what he's doing is NOT aikido. NAGE does aikido and uke does kiai.

Besides a lot of aikido, I've done a lot of dancing in my time. I used to really enjoy Cajun dances, waltzes and square dances. In all these, the essence of the movement is balancing weight and momentum. What makes aikido different from dance? It's that our partner is not cooperating. If the partner cooperates too much in aikido, it becomes bad dance. In good dance, one never throws his partner to the ground.

Well, even being on the mat together is "co-operating," but anyway, uke should not cooperate more than an archery target. He shouldn't rush to make himself fall down just because nage flicks his hand. And he should NOT throw himself stupidly into his attacks because only an idiot does that and you don't even have to defend against someone that stupid.

For aikido training to be meaningful (for it to be even good misogi), uke must at least deliver a meaningfully shaped attack with speed, focus, a definite target and good balance. If you really want to know if your aikido will work as self defense, a friendly karate man is a good person to know. He won't throw himself off balance with his attack and unless you really do good aiki, you won't get him off balance by your own efforts, either. Same for an experienced judo man.

But no one seems to want a realistic uke at all. Realistic ukes seem to be both feared and hated to the point that any time some people miss a technique, they blame it on uke's "resisting" and their thoughts turn to slamming, striking or in some way punishing uke. And that is just wrong.

Thanks to the heavily resistant training I underwent, (uke resisting--not nage), I learned to not resist the resistant uke, but to change techniques or the direction of my ongoing technique. And if he resists that, I switch to something else. Uke can resist me very heavily before I get the sense that I need do anything remotely forceful or violent. I can remain in aiki far past the point where uke resists very heavily. If I strike, it's focused and never contacts more than very lightly. This was the way Mochizuki sensei taught and the randori in his dojo was just incredible. It was scary and awe-inspiring, but it was powerfully beautiful. I've never seen such randori anywhere else.

Someone among these discussions said sometimes we just have to have the grace to admit that we blew a technique and start over. I think that's the best attitude to have.

Uke is our partner and we will also serve as uke for him (or we should). When uke "resists," it may be an involuntary nervous system response. Such responses are there for our survival and it would be foolish to condition them out of ourselves or out of our partners. If our aiki techniques are causing such involuntary resistance, it's bad technique and, invariably, we find that it is nage who is resisting and not uke.

I know that in this modern age, it is very common to teach uke to throw himself off balance with his attack and never resist nage's technique. But if he CAN resist nage's technique, it's NAGE's mistake--not uke's. Rather than having an evil, punishing attitude toward uke, we need to look closely at ourselves.

Best wishes.


Last edited by David Orange : 06-01-2006 at 04:53 PM.

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"
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