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Old 12-15-2006, 04:48 PM   #1
Ellis Amdur
Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 809
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Ueshiba taking Ukemi

Terry Dobson told me that Ueshiba Morihei used to approach him sometimes and throw him in miraculous ways, and then say, "Now your turn." And he would carefully, ever so carefully, gesture in the correct technique and Osensei would creakily ease himself down to the mat, saying that he had to keep doing ukemi - it kept him young.
This came to mind reading some of the other threads which suggest that, with proper training, one is virtually "unthrowable," and therefore, learning to take ukemi can devolve into a dead-end tributary rather than a mainstream to both martial effectiveness and higher learning of ki/kokyu skills.
I agree with that - yet - noting that in traditional martial arts, the instructor or senior ALWAYS took uke's role, I ask if there is a contradiction between these two positions. I think not. If you have the ability to stop/counter/control any technique, you also have the ability to offer just enough opening so that the student will execute the technique properly at the peak of their ability. In other words, beyond the ability to stop a technique is, as a teacher, guiding a technique. Templating it, in other words. And as they get better, you give them a little more. And, particularly with weapons, this hones your own skills even further. I can create more dangerous situations for myself so my peak skills increase in a way that merely stopping or crushing my student would not. (I'm talking principal here - not directing this at any of the individuals who have posted about absorbing or stopping technique because I very likely have not seen the way they teach or the context - I'm talking about my own).
I think of watching judo teachers - adults - teaching small children. They "throw" themselves into the technique in such perfect form that the child's body conforms to the throw that they, only in theory, are accomplishing. Bit by bit, the student's body finds that line on it's own because they are used to it as the right line.
Which leads to yet another dilemma in aikido. It is fair to say that many students are taught ukemi to conform to the TEACHER'S ideal when the latter throws. Taking ukemi for many shihan at honbu entailed, on my part, divining what they wanted - not only in the attack, but in conforming to what they wanted to show/do.
It is easy to be trained into believing one is still moving with integrity when one is not. One can be forceful, strong, graceful and delusional all at the same time. In other words, one of the pitfalls of the revolution in martial arts that was Daito-ryu and it's off-shoot aikido, was the reversal of nage-and-uke roles. Which can often result in the dojo becoming a petri dish for the teacher's gradiosity.
Interesting that Ueshiba made the attempt to keep some perspective.
Finally, as I've suggested elsewhere, I believe that ukemi within the aikido context originally, or at least, potentially, had two elements which may have been lost to many.
1. That taking ukemi WAS a ki/kokyu training in building up the attachment points of the muscles and tendons - AND - in absorbing power and running it through the body. (One cannot counter a GOOD technique merely by going soft and blending - one needs to redirect and/or absorb
2. Training in instant responsiveness - Kuroda Tetsuzan uses ukemi (which he calls ukimi - floating body) to teach how to react without any "interferance" of any body part when a weapon approaches. I think it is possible that this element is inherent in aikido - although, unless one is consciously training to develop sensitivity to this end, one is just a rag doll.

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