Thread: Punishing Uke
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Old 06-12-2006, 10:18 PM   #31
David Orange
Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,502
Re: Punishing Uke

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

Robert Rumpf wrote:
You're advocating the path of least resistance to uke's actions...This means that uke (in your model) dictates the terms of the encounter.
No. It means he dictates how he steps into the manhole. The aikidoka is supposed to control the terms of the encounter. And that's from a sword perspective.

Still, I'm sure that many in Aikido would agree with you that nage is mainly supposed to be receptive, and lets assume that this is a good attitude for training.
You may misunderstand my point on this. I'm referring to the situation I've found where everyone assumes that "there is no resistance in aikido," it means on UKE's part. Uke is never supposed to resist. I say that's backward. Uke can do what he wants. Nage turns it back on him. We let him choose his approach, but we should already have turned the terrain to our advantage. We should already have disadvantaged him by where we stand, etc. But when he attacks, we should tailor our response to his movement so finely that he can feel nothing to resist in our movement. If he does feel something to resist, and feels the natural impulse to resist it, he may. Nage will realize that he has lost the lead.

And the title of this thread points to that moment: when uke responds, perhaps involuntarily, to a weak point or failure of lead in Nage's technique.

There was talk in another thread of smashing uke in the face with a powerful backfist, or breaking his knee with a shattering kick. Why? For not falling down, no matter what nage does.

So I'm not saying that Nage must always be a teddy bear, but we shouldn't punish people physically for failing to be hypnotized by our astonishing technique. Uke is our training partner. And that brings up another side of this: what goes around comes around. It's bad to punish uke because soon we will be his uke. Do we want him to break our nose or our knee?

And it should be clear that both Nage and Uke are not "doing" aikido simultaneously. Of course, they're training in aikido together, but only Nage is using aiki. Uke must use kiai or Nage cannot even develop aiki. Aiki is the ura of kiai. So without kiai, there is nothing for aiki to be the ura of.

For aiki to develop, uke must begin with kiai and as nage's aiki becomes clearer and stronger, so must uke's kiai. As nage's aiki technique becomes cleaner, sharper and better timed, uke's kiai technique must become sharp, clear and powerful. And nage's aiki will become finer and stronger. So I should say that Nage always does aiki and Uke always does kiai. So it's important for him to resist if he can. We have had a pretty good discussion on this point in the "tricky uke" thread in this forum.

I like this attitude a lot when trying to learn jiyu-waza and randori, where nage is able to just respond to uke in the way that uke's attack dictates... but randori and jiyu-waza are not typically all, or indeed most, of the training that I have experienced in any dojo - and with good reason.

Its very hard to train that type of training well without it devolving into wrestling or at least people ignoring technique until all practitioners are at least somewhat skilled..
I'm refering to levels where all practitioners are very skilled.

For the most part in class, I find myself practicing kata, and I am attempting to work on the fine details of the movements and timing of a given principle by practicing the kata as demonstrated by my instructor. If I end up outside the kata, I tend to try not to go far.
By "kata", do you mean a practice technique or a formal kata? I know that my teacher used many formal kata, but when practicing technique, we called it waza or kihon waza practice. We only called it kata when it was a paired demonstration form.

If my partner is inexperienced, I'm just trying to get them to put their feet into roughly the correct positions and to follow along without hurting me or them, all without micromanaging or contradicting the instructor... trying to help the novice to learn the kata...
I guess I should be clear that I'm mainly referring to black belts with several years' experience. Beginners are always an issue at a dojo, but that is almost a side issue. How to learn to move the body can be a trying issue but I'm referring to development at the level of art.

Ideally, in order to be consistent with what you're advocating (and what could be "real") and to allow for precision practice and learning in a kata environment, uke should attack precisely and repeatably in a way that provokes the response that the instructor is trying to emphasize in the kata practice, while pretending that they don't know what you're going to do in response to their attack..

Well, I've never had an uke who was able to do that.
I think that makes it complicated. If uke has good falling skills, he can make the attacks and maintain the katachi of the attack to allow himself to be thrown. But where I trained, "good falling skills" means that you can safely fall from being thrown when you don't expect it. Many places I've seen define "good falling skills" as being able to fall down spectacularly when Nage did nothing to cause it.

So the root of aikido training is an uke who can attack with strong kiai and fall well to protect himself from pretty much any throw or pin. He gives the Nage a good strong attack and if nage does his technique correctly, he will not be able to stand. If Nage makes a mistake, this kind of uke will not move. And it would also be unwise to try to punish such a person for not falling, both on the level of pure karma and for the fact that he won't be easy to hurt. And you just might make him counterattack, which, if he has good kiai attacks, might be something Nage would regret.

In Japan, uke would attack and if you didn't instantly throw him with a clean technique, he might punch again, or kick or sweep your feet or grab your hand and do kote gaeshi--whatever you leave open. That often did devolve into ground work, but every aikidoka should know that any encounter could end up with both people on the ground. Rather than punish uke, we have to sharpen our technique against his resistance--not forbid him to resist us. When you do that, the strong people fade out and weak people run the show and, lacking strength and experience, they create a self-contained world of consensu reality which is not healthy.

Most of the time, I get attacked shomenuchi in a way that lends itself to sankyo or koshinage, and I am told to do ikkyo by the kata and the instructor. Or I get attacked shomenuchi and I'm told to do ikkyo, but the attack is specifically designed to prevent ikkyo because uke knows it is coming. This happens even more often with pain-compliance techniques and that type of teaching - one of the chief reasons to avoid pain-compliance.
Well, that's where it gets tricky to say that we have to train cooperatively. Cooperation is as you described it a few lines up--uke presents a strong, precise attack and leaves himself available to be thrown. And as your aiki grows, he tightens up little by little until you are able to deal with a deadly attack using non-resistant aiki that will wrap him up without his knowing how it happened.

Sometimes, the instructor comes along to help when I can't get the kata to function and, surprise surprise, uke's attack and attitude changes as (a) his partner is different (b) he is more aware as it is the instructor (c) he believes the instructor will make the technique work.
Sounds like it's not good behavior from uke. That's wasted training time for both of you. What do you suppose stimulates that kind of attitude in the uke?

I suspect most ukes are not able to be precise and repeatable. This could be, in part, because they are not trained to be so consistent - I know that I am not so trained. I've considered taking karate so that at least I could punch consistently.. but I haven't. It could also be that such a precise attack would be seen as being "staged" and therefore uke believes it is useless.
Well, a good, single karate attack is excellent for training in technique. Uke can deliver a very powerful and meaningful technique with "CONTROL" that an untrained uke cannot match. To me, clean punches, kicks, head butts, elbow and knee techniques are half the necessary basics for uke. The other half are excellent rolling and flat-falling skills in every direction and for a wide range of throws and joint locks. In Japan, we had several sacrifice techniques that ended with uke taking a full flat fall with Nage applying a full neck choke at the same moment. It really takes that kind of falling ability to train with masters and that is really the only way to find aikido at the level of art.

[quote... your instructors tell you to polish your technique and work on the fine details and your ukes decide that in order to "help" you as a shodan, they need to be more resistant and more anticipatory of their response... I don't need resistance in kata to sort out details; I need consistency..[/quote]

Yes, to practice set techniques, the attack should be precisely repeated. Uke should enter with good balance, speed, focus and power and should not throw himself off balance in the process. As Nage, you must cause him to lose his balance by moving your body in time and in harmony with his attack, while redirecting his attack into a throw or joint lock.

As I mentioned the tough training in Japan, the surprising thing about it was that the techniques were always very clean and the Nages NEVER hurt me. When they were uke, if my aiki failed, they would immediately follow into follow-up attacks, but, while the fighting would get fierce, it was NEVER injurious and none of those teachers ever hit me with a "dirty" shot.

So at shodan, you should appreciate the resistant uke and learn to make your aikido finer with his resistance.

In any case, getting an attack that naturally leads to one thing, where that thing is not what is in the kata at all, is the cause of much of the frustration that you see on these forums directed towards uke..
Well, again, that's not cooperative training. That's like he's trying to express something else and that is bad practice. He's wasting his time.

Well, depending on why he does it, he may be wasting his time. If he simply is too grossly uncoordinated to attack with consistency, it may be that your group just needs to work on specific training in attacks. Anyone who knows basic karate can give you the specific form you want to practice on and it's easier to practice when the uke is precise. But if we think that karate men are just brutes, we fail to learn about kiai and so our aiki fails to form up.

A technique, an argument, a piece of software, a relationship, or whatever system you choose that is constructed by you (with or without other participants), that is flawed (and they all are) has flaws that are self-evident to an accurate and perceptive observer who is trying to exploit such flaws.

Becoming such an observer (learning how to attack your own technique) is, I believe, one of the potential ways in which martial practice can be brought effectively outside the dojo.
Yes. That is one of the major functions of budo training.

By uke pointing those flaws out gratuitously, uke is robbing me of my ability to grow perception of my technique failures on my own.
Unless you're talking about someone who tries to foul up your basic technique practice by "resisting" your technique, uke should respond naturally to what he feels or senses of your technique. Some resistance is involuntary, coming from irreplaceable nervous system reactions that it would be foolish to try to eliminate from our systems. Without such natural response (or by using an uke who has trained himself to be unnatural), how would you ever know that you have technical flaws? Uke speeds that process for you. That's fully half of budo. Rocks become smooth and round by tumbling together for a long, long time. Without other boulders colliding with it, how long would it take a rough boulder to become round?

It would never happen.

My ni-en dama for tonight.

Best wishes,


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

"Eternity forever!"
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