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Old 08-23-2007, 04:34 PM   #1
bob_stra
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What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

There's an interesting thread on judoinfo to which I'd appreciate your (aikiweb denizen's) input.

The thread originated with me (for all intents and purposes) writing "hey - check out this sweet ukemi". Like most net things, it's evolved into "so how come this type of ukemi exists, if it can't (?) be readily applied"?

AFAIK, Beautiful things don't exist in a vaccum or for no reason, so...yeah. Whyfore and howcome?

I'd appreciate your input, either here or there.

Here's the thread (with youtube clips embedded)

http://judoforum.com/index.php?showtopic=19343
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Old 08-23-2007, 05:17 PM   #2
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

I didn't go through all the posts, but most of that is what I call soft ukemi. Some call it wide-leg ukemi. Others might just call it good ukemi.

***

So far as I know, there are two lineages of this kind of ukemi. One starts with Frank Ostoff, in Germany and Jan Nivelus, in Sweden. They studied mostly under Tissier and Endo, I think. They "invented" a unique style of ukemi and throwing that includes falls like the ones pictured, and another one, which is similar, but involves flipping over nage's front leg during the throw, almost like a backwards koshi nage. I have been to a couple of seminars, and it is fantastic. Unfortunately, it's so different and dependent on a different relation between nage and uke that it is hard to apply it anywhere else.

The other lineage starts with Donovan Waite. He may have gotten hints in Europe that seeded his ideas. No one seems to know for sure. Wherever he got the ideas, he developed his own, almost systematic take on them when he was uchi deshi for Yamada. The story is that Yamada was so rough with him that he developed it as a form of self-protection.

***

I think the main purpose of it is to fall more softly during practice, and reduce the wear and tear on the body vs. harder falls. I have seen both Waite and Ostoff say this explicitly. When I first saw it, I didn't want anything to do with it. Now I'm addicted.

Once I started doing it a lot, I noticed that there are other advantages. One is that it allows you a lot more options as far as falling in odd directions. Traditional rolls are mostly forward and backward, and you roll along a slight diagonal from opposite shoulder to hip. With soft falls, you can fall in a whole array of additional permutations that usually involve rolling straight across your shoulders. With traditional ukemi, I have seen people panic and land on their shoulder or outstretched arm when thrown in a direction not along their standard rolling axis. Usually the way to deal with this is to turn really fast an re-orient oneself for a forward or backward fall. I find it much nicer to stay relaxed and be comfortable with falling in almost any direction.

The side-backward version has additional advantages over backward rolls, namely better protection of the neck and head, and multiple directional options in getting up.

The breakfall has an additional advantage. Since it makes straight-down throws that require a breakfall less harsh on uke, it makes people more likely to practice and use them.

Many people don't like the falls because they seem to involve turning one's back to the person who threw you. There is something to this, but I see them as more of a practice tool and adding additional options to your falls. I also think the criticism has problems: someone who is really good at them isn't there for long, as the roll allows for simultaneous falling and getting up. Also, usually they are done when the person is throwing you away from themself, not following you to the ground. One can also chase someone down who is doing a forward or backward roll, and this is very difficult to do without tripping them up and actually hurting them, so it seems to me like it might be an even bigger problem for the traditional falls.

Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 08-23-2007 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 08-23-2007, 05:18 PM   #3
Basia Halliop
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Actually I think I've seen some of those videos on youtube, with explanations. Some of what they're showing is exercises to learn to breakfall, so there are intermediate steps that aren't so much there for their own sake but to break down the steps and help you practice where to put your arms/how to twist your body/etc do you can progress to breakfalls.

But where do you do breakfalls??? If people find that they can 'roll out of everything' than I can only imagine that they just practice somewhere that has chosen to only teach techniques that can be rolled out of. There are all kinds of techniques I'm used to that involve flipping uke over your shoulder or knee or back or otherwise being flung from a height in such a way that it's physically impossible to roll without asking nage to modify the technique.

Also some kinds of joint locks...

Last edited by Basia Halliop : 08-23-2007 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 08-23-2007, 05:43 PM   #4
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Actually, the belly-flop thing is not something I'm familiar with... but the first video is just one type of breakfall.
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Old 08-23-2007, 06:41 PM   #5
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote: View Post

I think the main purpose of it is to fall more softly during practice, and reduce the wear and tear on the body vs. harder falls. I have seen both Waite and Ostoff say this explicitly. When I first saw it, I didn't want anything to do with it. Now I'm addicted.
I'm all for that

Kevin, in your experience, are you able to use this kind of ukemi against throws which project you straight downwards whilst nage holds on / 'stays in touch'?

Eg - something like this



Or even



Does 'soft falling' depend on seperation between the two parties?
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Old 08-23-2007, 07:16 PM   #6
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Yes and no. The Waite-style soft breakfall works well falling in roughly that way, except in Aikido, the throw is usually not done with the leg sweep. I think it would be easier from the second throw. In the first, it looks like uke is being hauled over in such a way that there isn't much choice about uke guiding his own trajectory. What the blue guy would be doing, if it could work, would be reaching out for the mat above and behind him with the free arm instead of dragging it along nage's arm. Also, the body is more relaxed and less taut. The legs are separated wide, so that uke can keep the trailing one on the ground as long as possible to provide control. The outstretched legs and arms also serve as adjustable outriggers to provide more control over the distribution of weight, momentum, etc...

In general, it works well for straight down breakfalls where nothing is in the way - not so good for koshi. I'm not so sure about in-between, sweeping/tripping stuff. The higher nage holds on to the throw/pivot arm during landing, the less soft it tends to become. The softest falls are not even really falls, as you do not get airborne or fall down, but instead lower yourself to the mat, albeit in a funny shape.

The front-side fall itself doesn't look that different from what is pictured, except that the rotational axis is more along the body's frontal plane rather than the transverse - in case you know the anatomy - and the body flips in a tighter circle. For this reason, it also allows for an unusual kind of throw which is similar but instead of taking uke's arm just down, you can cut it back into them at about thigh level, forcing the tight flip.

The Ostoff-style falls are completely different, but they mostly involve pressing oneself into nage and rotating around their hip/leg. Being separate from nage is definitely not part of what is going on there.

Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 08-23-2007 at 07:19 PM.
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Old 08-23-2007, 11:10 PM   #7
eyrie
 
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

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Bob Strahinjevich wrote: View Post
Kevin, in your experience, are you able to use this kind of ukemi against throws which project you straight downwards whilst nage holds on / 'stays in touch'?
Also, wot if nage not only holds on, but "pulls up" at the end of the throw... not only is this "soft" type of ukemi nigh near impossible, it is highly impractical.

Which leads me to question the assumptions that the purpose of such "high level" ukemi serves the same purposes as say, judo ukemi.

Ignatius
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Old 08-23-2007, 11:23 PM   #8
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

I think it is safe to say that high level Aikido ukemi absolutely does not serve the same purpose as judo ukemi. Depending on your judo goals, good judo ukemi is designed to either provide crisp punctuation during ju no kata, OR keep you from being injured during regular judo training, OR make your partner's throw look worse so that they do not get a full point for their effort. These are the realities of modern judo training. Aikido ukemi does intersect with judo ukemi in the area of keeping you safe during training, but it furthermore provides a vehicle for the artistic realization of human movement. In some ways Aikido ukemi is its own purpose, lending strange and wonderful faculties to its adepts.
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Old 08-23-2007, 11:36 PM   #9
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

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Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
Also, wot if nage not only holds on, but "pulls up" at the end of the throw... not only is this "soft" type of ukemi nigh near impossible, it is highly impractical.

Which leads me to question the assumptions that the purpose of such "high level" ukemi serves the same purposes as say, judo ukemi.
It isn't impossible. This is exactly what I was talking about with holding the arm up high. The higher they hold it, the rougher the fall, but this also goes for a standard breakfall where you tense up and smack the ground to dissipate the momentum. Standard breakfalls are very nearly that rough whether the leading arm is being held up or not. If nage pulls up enough, you won't really fall, just crash into their legs like a rag doll, no matter which style you choose. If nage just pulls up some, the soft ukemi will result in at least one heel smacking the ground hard, but it doesn't seem horribly worse than a standard breakfall, even when the standard fall is practiced in the air, with no one throwing at all. I have tried the falls when nage really pulls up on a free breakfall and it was a little bit less pleasant than falling with a normal breakfall but not hazardous.

If someone was really yanking on you hard, or really driving you down, I could see how being tensed up and curled up into the standard chair position would be safer. One situation I've experienced where the soft style was definitely worse was when someone really pounded me down into the mat hard with accelerated irimi nages. It felt like there was a definite whiplash effect on my head and neck. The guy who did it made my skin crawl though, long before the incident, and the few before it. Come to think of it, he's one of the people I experienced pulling up sharply on my arm during a free breakfall - some kind of weird, gladhandlingly repressed sadism going on there. I wouldn't take someone like him lying down on a regular basis.

Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 08-23-2007 at 11:38 PM.
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Old 08-24-2007, 12:43 AM   #10
Mike Haftel
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

I know this is slightly in another direction...but:

In my opinion, uke should not have a choice of what type of ukemi they do.

Ideally, uke should fall, take ukemi, or breakfall because they have no choice about what is being done to them (otherwise, it's just dancing). Being able to choose how and when to fall would mean uke is not really being controlled (in a purely martial context)...they are merely falling down for nage.

If I am applying...let's say...kotegaeshi...and uke can consciously choose the way he breakfalls (be it a roll, sideways breakfall, straight down breakfall, flip, etc.) then I'm not really throwing him. He's just falling down for the sake of Wa (group harmony).

This is fine for beginners or for going slow or for focusing on a specific aspect of the technique. But, at a higher level, ukemi shouldn't be a choice. It should just happen. Yes, you can train yourself to instinctively fall a certain way, but that's not my point.
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Old 08-24-2007, 01:32 AM   #11
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

We have been working a lot on these types of ukemi in our dojo and have been playing around with it for quite a while. Though I am far from being an expert on it I would say that e.g. the Ostoff type of falling can not be applied against all types of throws or rather against all ways of being thrown into a breakfall. However, the way I see it, they are just more tools for me to add to my ukemi - and IMHO the more tools there are in my toolbox the better for me and my ukemi. If possible, I try to fall as softly as I can, which is where both Waite senseis as well as Ostoff senseis ukemi comes in - it simply feels great and is much easier on the body.
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Old 08-24-2007, 04:18 AM   #12
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

The "falling leaf" ukemi feels a little bit dangerous, but for the rest: smoth ukemi = more energy for practice.
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Old 08-24-2007, 05:56 AM   #13
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Quote:
Mike Haftel wrote: View Post
I know this is slightly in another direction...but:

In my opinion, uke should not have a choice of what type of ukemi they do.

Ideally, uke should fall, take ukemi, or breakfall because they have no choice about what is being done to them (otherwise, it's just dancing). Being able to choose how and when to fall would mean uke is not really being controlled (in a purely martial context)...they are merely falling down for nage.

If I am applying...let's say...kotegaeshi...and uke can consciously choose the way he breakfalls (be it a roll, sideways breakfall, straight down breakfall, flip, etc.) then I'm not really throwing him. He's just falling down for the sake of Wa (group harmony).

This is fine for beginners or for going slow or for focusing on a specific aspect of the technique. But, at a higher level, ukemi shouldn't be a choice. It should just happen. Yes, you can train yourself to instinctively fall a certain way, but that's not my point.
Absurd. Uke always has choices. Even if your uke weighed 40 pounds and you just plain picked them up and chucked them down they would still have a choice about how they oriented their body when falling... even if you taped their wrists and ankles together first.

The kind of 100% "control" you claim to seek has nothing to do with reality. To start with, it's impossible. If you had ever handled animals, you would know it's often nearly impossible with an animal weighing as little as 10 pounds, much less a resisting human being. A good throw is not about imposing your idea of what you want to happen onto uke with complete dictatorial control. In fact, quite the opposite - it's about blending with their energy, finding their weaknesses, their balance. It's a lot more about paying attention to and working with them than it is about "total control".

The idea that Aikido is either some kind of brutal rape of uke or "dancing" is a false dichotomy. Likewise the idea that the former is 'advanced' and the latter just for beginners. Frankly, this just sounds like a bunch of insecure macho chest-thumping.

Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 08-24-2007 at 06:06 AM.
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Old 08-24-2007, 06:33 AM   #14
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Excellent ukemi skills there. Excellent. However, I do hope they also learn how to take hard falls, especially when young. If not, they would be pretty vulnerable to a heavy throw. For example, as tori I could let them roll out, or, make them fall hard and fast straight down. Still, those ukemi are excellent!

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Old 08-24-2007, 07:51 AM   #15
Ron Tisdale
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

I like those ukemi a lot, but my main issue is how to move to them once trained to yudansha level in another style of ukemi.

That said, even my own Yoshinkan instructor is beginning to teach portions of that style of ukemi along with our traditional one. I have seen Donovan Waite Sensei's waza and ukemi...especially for his kind of whippy, high power, extend uke in interesting directions kind of throws, this ukemi is probably the best. It allows you to safely fall when torqued and thrown through a full extension of shite's and uke's body. And it reduces the impact of most falls greatly. It can also lead to some interesting positions for sutemi waza, something that I think is greatly worth exploring. In the one seminar I took with Waite Sensei, I noticed how he often pulls his body back up from uke at the zanshin to counter the possibility of getting drawn down with uke. I must say, I really like his waza...

I'll probably never be good at this style...too much is already ingrained, and I'm 46 and can't afford the time off that confusing the two styles might entail. Injuries suck. But some of the easier methods are starting to take hold even for me.

Best,
Ron

Last edited by Ron Tisdale : 08-24-2007 at 07:53 AM.

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Old 08-24-2007, 08:52 AM   #16
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote: View Post
Absurd. Uke always has choices. Even if your uke weighed 40 pounds and you just plain picked them up and chucked them down they would still have a choice about how they oriented their body when falling... even if you taped their wrists and ankles together first.

The kind of 100% "control" you claim to seek has nothing to do with reality. To start with, it's impossible. If you had ever handled animals, you would know it's often nearly impossible with an animal weighing as little as 10 pounds, much less a resisting human being. A good throw is not about imposing your idea of what you want to happen onto uke with complete dictatorial control. In fact, quite the opposite - it's about blending with their energy, finding their weaknesses, their balance. It's a lot more about paying attention to and working with them than it is about "total control".

The idea that Aikido is either some kind of brutal rape of uke or "dancing" is a false dichotomy. Likewise the idea that the former is 'advanced' and the latter just for beginners. Frankly, this just sounds like a bunch of insecure macho chest-thumping.
I don't know if I agree with you there or not. I do know I can control how I fall when my nage is being nice. But in randori I rarely have time to do more then exhale and try to slap. I've also noticed I have the distinct ablity in a few throws (harai goshi, ippon seonage, etc) to actually control the direction and orientation of the uke. If I wanted to, I could for example spike them directly on the top of their head or force them to land face first or belly down. They really have no say in this. It's only by the good grace of nage that they are pulled though and not thrown forcefully down on the top of the skull.

- Don
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Old 08-24-2007, 08:56 AM   #17
Ron Tisdale
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Hi Don,

It depends on the level of uke for some of that. There are/were arts that specialized in taking that kind of throw and turning it into sutemi waza. Yoseikan at it's best is a fine example of this. One of Mochizuki sensei's first arts was one that specialized in this.

Best,
Ron

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Old 08-24-2007, 09:22 AM   #18
David Orange
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
Also, wot if nage not only holds on, but "pulls up" at the end of the throw... not only is this "soft" type of ukemi nigh near impossible, it is highly impractical.
Not to mention cases in which tori follows the throw by landing on top of you!

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
Which leads me to question the assumptions that the purpose of such "high level" ukemi serves the same purposes as say, judo ukemi.
Most of what I saw him doing looked more like "sensitivity to the ground" exercises, enabling you to "merge" with the ground instead of colliding with it. No matter what the situation, you're better off with a high degree of that kind of skill than without it, I'd say.

Best to you.

David

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Old 08-24-2007, 09:39 AM   #19
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

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Not to mention cases in which tori follows the throw by landing on top of you!

Most of what I saw him doing looked more like "sensitivity to the ground" exercises, enabling you to "merge" with the ground instead of colliding with it. No matter what the situation, you're better off with a high degree of that kind of skill than without it, I'd say.

Best to you.

David
In all aikido ( ukemi and nage waza) we eventually seek to lose form and join with the void. I have seen people who are so ready to jump into the void and live in the creative auspices of take-musu instead choose to 'advance their level of skill". Usually through another form. Just as in good nage waza, we need to master to our level and then free ourslves on that level. The true form of the universe awaits our listening and intuitive and educated ukemi will help us. But we can't keep shutting out the expression of the void through our insitence on something 'new and better'.

All that said, I see the purpose of this type of ukemi training, but not as a replacement for good, relaxed, committed, entance based in aiki principle. I see it simply as another beginning point for those who need to begin ( or begin again).

The exit is at the end of the hall. Please don't run.

Last edited by jennifer paige smith : 08-24-2007 at 09:42 AM.

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Old 08-24-2007, 10:38 AM   #20
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Forget all the spiritual and metaphysical stuff, I just want to throw people as hard as I can at the ground, and pull/twist/hyper extend their limbs and cut the blood off to their brains.

Whatever kind of training allows them to survive that so I can do it more often, I'm ok with.

Currently we teach some basic breakfalls, then they either develop some skill out of a need to save themselves from harai goshi, or they give up and go find another art. We've had a big push lately to try to address that and focus more on how to fall.

I learned to roll in aikido over a 2 month peroid. I do that fairly well. I learned to breakfall with about 10-15 minutes of instruction and worked out the problems by being brutally thrown at the ground by my first judo partners. I'm not too sloppy, but I can't say I was formally taught.

- Don
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Old 08-24-2007, 11:04 AM   #21
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Quote:
Jennifer Smith wrote: View Post
All that said, I see the purpose of this type of ukemi training, but not as a replacement for good, relaxed, committed, entance based in aiki principle. I see it simply as another beginning point for those who need to begin ( or begin again).
Here we run into a confusion based on the loose use of the word "ukemi". What we are really discussing here is a different type of fall, or rather a different class of falls, in which the body turns on different axes and meets the mat differently. It makes no sense to say it is or is not a replacement for what you are talking about - committed attack, pressing, looking for openings, yielding, etc... This stuff is really the important part of ukemi, and should not be different whatever style of fall you choose. As far as the idea of advanced vs. beginner ukemi, I define it in these terms. Beginner ukemi is almost wholly yielding and cooperative. There is more willingness to give up balance, possibly with a lighter initial attack. Advanced ukemi involves being less cooperative but not "resistant": this means less willingness to give up balance, actively neutralizing things nage is trying to do to you, and seeking/executing reversals.

Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 08-24-2007 at 11:09 AM.
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Old 08-24-2007, 11:07 AM   #22
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

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But in randori I rarely have time to do more then exhale and try to slap.
That sounds like ukemi to me... of course you don't have an infinite or even a very large amount of control, it's just that you do usually have some, even if it's the choice between one or two things you can usually do to fall a bit more safely (like in your example slapping, or rocking your body on impact, trying to spread out your arms and legs, or being more stiff or more floppy, etc), and a couple of different ways of splatting badly.

The guy in the videos is doing it by himself rather than being thrown, and he might not be from a very hard throwing style anyway, so maybe makes that breakfall look unjustifiably 'flakey' or something, compared to if the demo was showing someone thrown hard.
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Old 08-24-2007, 11:13 AM   #23
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Quote:
Basia Halliop wrote: View Post
That sounds like ukemi to me... of course you don't have an infinite or even a very large amount of control, it's just that you do usually have some, even if it's the choice between one or two things you can usually do to fall a bit more safely (like in your example slapping, or rocking your body on impact, trying to spread out your arms and legs, or being more stiff or more floppy, etc), and a couple of different ways of splatting badly.

The guy in the videos is doing it by himself rather than being thrown, and he might not be from a very hard throwing style anyway, so maybe makes that breakfall look unjustifiably 'flakey' or something, compared to if the demo was showing someone thrown hard.
I agree, you have to do the best that you can with what you are given. I've been thrown in ways where I had no free hands, and my partner was in the air with me about to crash down on top of me. My choice of ukemi there was to close my eyes, tuck my chin and pray. It worked out for the best.

- Don
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Old 08-24-2007, 11:52 AM   #24
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

I am not a fan of the 'soft' ukemi thing. I think it presumes far too much that nage will set uke up for a soft and safe fall. It's been my experience that this stuff only works in very cooperative environments. It can be OK for teaching some sensitivity stuff between uke-nage, but I don't like it as a primary way to fall down safely. We had a guy train with us briefly who had studied the 'soft ukemi' at the Aikido dojo he was concurrently training at. We were bad mouthing it, he defended it saying that it could be applied to a lot more falls than we were giving it credit for. We asked him to take soft ukemi whenever he felt he could during class to demonstrate this. He didn't take a single 'soft' fall. Mind you, we weren't purely trying to prove him wrong, this was just working through class. If he found a place to use it, he was encouraged to use it. After about a month of class, he still hadn't found a place he could use it safely. Not once. I look at it like this:

If you are taking your own fall, you can probably work it in.
If you are being thrown, it is not a very good way to fall safely.

Your mileage may vary.

Chris Moses
TNBBC, "Putting the ME in MEdiocre!"
Budo Tanren at Seattle School of Aikido
Shinto Ryu Iai-Battojutsu
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Old 08-24-2007, 12:22 PM   #25
Chuck Clark
 
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Re: What is the purpose of this type of ukemi?

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
I am not a fan of the 'soft' ukemi thing. I think it presumes far too much that nage will set uke up for a soft and safe fall. It's been my experience that this stuff only works in very cooperative environments.

If you are taking your own fall, you can probably work it in.
If you are being thrown, it is not a very good way to fall safely.
Chris, I agree completely. I have yet to have someone be able to do this sort of ukemi when real kuzushi, tsukuri, and kake is working. When the effects of this sort of waza are felt the attempted recovery of balance and structure is hard-wired and is not a choice that is made by uke.

Another point, if uke makes a choice about which "ukemi" is appropriate, what if tori changes the effect of the waza after uke's decision? I think this accounts for a number of training injuries.

Best regards,

Chuck Clark
Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
www.jiyushinkai.org
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