Frank A. Ramos (faramos) wrote:
Recently, a new aikidoka asked me this question "How to I learn to take Ukemi?" My answer, "I can't really tell you, it just kinda happens". That was about the best answer I could give.
I think learning how to take "good" ukemi (whatever that may be where you train) shouldn't just be relegated to "something that happens." Ukemi, I think, should be approached in the same manner as the rest of aikido.
Ukemi I've learned is something that involves how well one connects with their partner, and more importantly, themselves. Good ukemi, if I understand correctly, is about being able to adapt to any situation to the the best of our abilities.
My line of thinking these days is that the same exact principles which makes one a good nage translate directly into ukemi. You could substitute "nage" for all instances of "ukemi" in what I just quoted above and it would still be a good statement (to me, at least).
So to get better at ukemi then, I guess the one thing that has helped everyone I've talked to, is having watched other people take ukemi.
Yes -- watching how other people take ukemi, especially the "naturals," is a great way -- just like watching someone good at nage.
However, I think it's also very important to start becoming aware of what you're
doing during ukemi. When do I stop my motion? How tense are my shoulders? Are my feet always moving? Is my center always connected with nage? And so on.
This sort of awareness is sometimes difficult in a "regular" class situation as nage is often applying their technique faster than uke is comfortable taking ukemi while
thinking about those things. It's often a good exercise, I think, to have nage slow things down to a point where uke can
think about those things while taking ukemi -- just like nage sometimes slows things down to think about their movements and such.
To me, the point of ukemi is twofold. One (and I think this is the primary) is to stay safe. As someone once said, "Ukemi isn't the art of falling, but the art of being able to get back up." This includes things like being able to fall safely, reacting in a fluid manner, being aware of your surroundings (walls, edge o the mat, other people training), and so on.
Secondly, as George Simcox sensei said, "Ukemi is the art of allowing your partner to learn aikido techniques." THis includes things like providing a good attack, maintaining good connection all throughout, creating and holding a center-to-center connection, being aware of nage's openings and taking advantage of them when appropriate, remaining resilient in your movements, and so on.
That's my thoughts on ukemi in a nutshell...
-- Jun, off to do the ukemi class at the dojo in about an hour...