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Old 03-14-2014, 07:16 PM   #1
Dave Sampson
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What does being an Uke mean to you?

I try to help tori as much as i can, as Uke, so they get better. I have noticed that i tend to give my time to people so they can practice their techniques on me so they may advance and get better. This is not at the cost of me and my time, mind you.

I just like aikido whether it is as uke or tori. If i can help somebody with some extra time to practice their technique i am ok with that. Since i am a white belt i still feel like i am getting the better deal even if i let them practice their tori techniques on me. My practice does not suffer as a result of my actions. I am fortunate to be able to warm up properly on my bicycle and to come home afterwards and stretch properly for at least 30 minutes a day. That is when i am able to start my own aikido studies at home. I feel lucky that i do not have commitments that others have taken up. Kids, school, demanding work schedules.

Are we not meant to help our partners? I give constructive input when i feel that my tori did not handle me like my sensei did when i was used as an example. I make my tori do it over till it feels similar to way it felt like when i was uke'ing for sensei..

Tonight, i think, i helped one of our redbelts who does not have tons of time for aikido remember a technique better by having sensei come over and explain to him what was different about the way he did it to me and the way sensei did it to me.

I did not have to go out of my way to call sensei over to explain what was missing. I told sensei, while lying on my stomach, that the "snapping back of the arm" was missing in his technique so he showed it to my tori. After that this was present in his technique. Learning, at the time, felt to me like it was a collaborative effort and it made me feel good to be on the end of a successful technique that we came up with as a unit.

What other ways can i help tori as an Uke? Aikido is, after all, a collaborative effort.

I am grading this weekend for 8th Kyu so i wont be white for much longer provided i pass and don't choke
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Old 03-15-2014, 11:58 AM   #2
Edgecrusher
 
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

Being a good Uke is important for the growth of the Tori and yourself. I have always been under the impression that it is my job as Uke to sell the technique and help assist Tori with learning. It helps everyone when resistance is applied. Obviously most Tori's will not be as proficient as the Sensei but, we are all learning.
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Old 03-15-2014, 03:15 PM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

Quote:
Kenneth Hannah wrote: View Post
Being a good Uke is important for the growth of the Tori and yourself. I have always been under the impression that it is my job as Uke to sell the technique and help assist Tori with learning. It helps everyone when resistance is applied. Obviously most Tori's will not be as proficient as the Sensei but, we are all learning.
I agree we help each other learn but disagree that resistance is part of the learning process.
To use an instructor's analogy: do we help beginning drivers if the instructor in the passenger seat applies the brake every time the learner in the driver's seat applies the accelerator?
I believe my job as uke is to give honest feedback with my body by going exactly where tori is putting me. With a beginner I will stay a little ahead of tori in order to help guide them IN the right direction and magnify this feedback so they can see and feel where WE are going.
For non-beginners, if their intent-driven small movements are beginning to have an affect in shifting my weight, I let my body move with that (rather than readjusting or regaining my balance) so they see and feel they are on the right track and don't feel they have to add muscle to "make" me move. I add verbal feedback too if it seems needed - "you have my balance now" or "you disconnected there."

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 03-16-2014, 08:57 AM   #4
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

I'm going to wax philosophical for a minute here, on the subject of helping people. I've had the experience of wanting to help people, being desperate to help people -- and knowing the right answer -- and yet being unable to help them. My answer, my right answer, my 100% correct answer, simply didn't...didn't what? Didn't work for them. Didn't help them.

I have experienced this with people who couldn't get a mathematical concept. I have experienced this with people who couldn't learn how to roll a kayak. I have experienced this with a loved one whom I would have died to help, but whom I could not help to get free of addiction. It didn't matter that I had the right answers. My answers were not their answers; my way of seeing the answer (my path up the mountain, to use a popular metaphor) didn't make sense to them; they were not yet ready to accept my help, or my kind of help.

If you want to help someone, being right helps. If you have the wrong answer, you can't help someone. Sincerely wanting to help also helps -- meaning that all you care about is helping them, and not about showing off how smart or skilled or clued-in you are. But they're not always enough.

Being truly helpful also requires the wisdom to know when your help isn't helping. I think that in aikido as in many other things, you can quickly get to the point where you can spot the flaws in what someone else is doing. It takes longer to get to where you can offer good solutions (and I think this point comes some time after the point at which you think you have good solutions). And it takes still longer to get to the wisdom of knowing if your solution will help this person at this moment. So many things can get in the way.

That's all by way of saying that I think partners should help each other, but be certain that you have a solution to offer when you point out a problem (and be sure that it's the correct solution!), and quick to recognize when you help isn't helping. I think if you offer help, that's your responsibility. I don't see the role of uke as a license to teach. Assuming that sensei is doing his/her job of supervising practice, I think that the role of uke is to help as Janet describes -- by giving feedback with your body (not resistance) -- and not so much by teaching.
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Old 03-16-2014, 01:39 PM   #5
SteveTrinkle
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

to me, uke is about learning how to find my center so I can begin to move from center and, to that end,I depend on Nage,usually my sempai, to move from their own and then, throw me from mine so, being ukeis, in my opinion about becoming sensitive

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Old 03-16-2014, 01:42 PM   #6
SteveTrinkle
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

if I am not sensitive to myself when i am uke ,how will I become sensitive to my uke when I am nage?

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Old 03-16-2014, 02:49 PM   #7
Walter Martindale
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

It's depend. I agree with a lot of what Mary says.
When uke, if I'm with someone who's got a clue about what the movement/principle is, I like to go with the flow and learn what that person's version of what we're doing is, in case I can learn yet another variation on a theme.
When with someone new or significantly less experienced, I also go with the flow until I find a point at which I can help them be more effective (if, indeed, I can identify such a point) and depending on the situation, I'll mention "try this", or I'll stop them at the weak point in their movement and help them past it, or I'll ask the sensei/shihan over to help identify what's holding the person up, or.. or..

One of my sensei in the past said that you learn more from beginners than from experienced people. it took a while but I think I understand where he was coming from. You also learn a lot from teaching/coaching.

The folks in the "intrinsic learning" circle of research into how people learn say that teaching people by providing lots of instruction isn't that great, and that teaching by guiding the discovery through repetition and approximation (closer and closer with repeated attempts) of the ideal, people learn more slowly but better. As well, "errorless" learning, where the task starts simple and slow, getting more complex and fast as repetitions progress is also a better, more robust way to learn.

So... as uke, I like to see if I can guide the nage into really good movements (if they're less experienced), and to see if I can guide myself into better ukemi with either type of partner...
W
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Old 03-16-2014, 08:37 PM   #8
SeaGrass
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

means I'm the teaching side, so I'd try to teach, help, and not jerk my partner's chain. I would push my partner to get better but consciously try to not counter his technique so he/she can learn.
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Old 03-17-2014, 03:17 AM   #9
Eva Antonia
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

Dear all,

to me, being uke mainly means a big challenge. I am not sensitive, I have zero intuition, I do NOT feel what tori intends to do and in which direction he tries to direct or unbalance me (once I'm unbalanced, I fall, but I don't see it come), and my only instinct is resistance and counter technique. Surprises always come as surprise and catch me unawares. So for me being uke is the most challenging peace of learning.

Knowing about this handicap, I always fear that having me as uke is not exactly a learning opportunity for tori, and sometimes I am sorry about people having to train with me. As tori, I think I'm up to my level, but as uke...sorely behind.

Strangely enough, although I'm bad at it, I love being uke, and I enjoy all sort of ukemi.

All the best,

Eva
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Old 03-17-2014, 10:38 AM   #10
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

Interesting, I think there is no one answer here. One of my favorite exercises when I teach a mixed class of beginners and folks with a few months experience, is to have uke lead. They move as if the nage is doing it all perfectly and actual nage is to just be along for the ride. I like to use ikkyo for this. Later nage does the technique and as long as nage is doing anything right, uke moves as if it is all right. Much later say 4th kyu up, I like to provide a little resistance to see if nage can find where they can move and have no resistance. Much much later we start talking IP at which I am just a beginner exploring the possibilities. It is all good and all run
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Old 12-09-2014, 10:19 PM   #11
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

Quote:
Kenneth Hannah wrote: View Post
Being a good Uke is important for the growth of the Tori and yourself. I have always been under the impression that it is my job as Uke to sell the technique and help assist Tori with learning. It helps everyone when resistance is applied. Obviously most Tori's will not be as proficient as the Sensei but, we are all learning.
I agree with Kenneth here!

Chris Sawyer
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Training day is every day
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Old 03-02-2015, 07:34 PM   #12
S Ellis
 
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

I agree with much that Janet, LBB, and Walter said. If I am uke, I am feeling nage out. Through feel, it is obvious where they are at in their training, and you adjust accordingly. If I am taking ukemi for a beginner, I try to orient myself in a manner that will let them feel the technique work, even if they themselves are not positioned correctly. I will actually orient myself so that the technique will work and "feel" right. The purpose behind this is that through "feel" they will understand connection, and will know when they have achieved a solid connection and when they have not. It doesn't take long for a beginner to say, "No, that wasn't quite right," once they have felt a technique work correctly. On the flip side, when fortunate enough to take ukemi from a shihan, I am feeling everything, watching everything, taking in everything, I possibly can. Sometimes it is so small and so subtle that it takes everything you have not to scream in delight!

It is our job to help the beginner in their practice. It is our job to help the shihan demonstrate the art. Everything in between is a judgement call, but it should be pure delight. If there is anything more fun than being uke, I am not sure what it is. It is half of our art, and is often neglected. To quote Mitsugi Saotome Shihan, "the best ukes make the best technicians."

Ps. Sorry for the edit. Someday I will learn to proofread.

Last edited by S Ellis : 03-02-2015 at 07:44 PM.
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Old 03-03-2015, 07:16 PM   #13
Jonathan
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

For myself, I believe a good uke is one who is honest about his/her response to what nage is doing. That is, ukemi is performed in a manner that does not artificially add to nage's action nor takes advantage of a foreknowledge of nage's technique to resist it and which adheres as closely as possible to a natural and yet martially prudent response to nage's technique. This can be tricky, in part, because many of us are not honest with ourselves about why or how we are interacting with nage in the way we do. For instance, I remember years ago a sixth dan giving me grief about tai no henka. I did not perform the movement exactly as he did and he was determined that I should. I was advanced enough in my training to recognize that his problem with my technique was stylistic rather than practical. I let him go on fussing about my form, even testing it to show me why his form was superior to my own. Finally, I asked him to let me test his form as he had just tested mine. I did to him exactly what he had done to me and, as I knew would happen, he had the same "problem" that I did. Instead of admitting that his reasons for taking issue with my form of movement had nothing really to do with martial practicality or effectiveness, he made excuses for losing stability and reminded me he could easily have resorted to another tactic to compensate. Well, I could have done the same thing! In this instance the feedback from my uke, his ukemi, was really quite dishonest, arising from a desire to be seen to be superior rather than from a simple focus on whether or not my movement actually moved him in the way it was supposed to.

Beginners in the role of uke have a wonderful capacity to expose bad technique. They have not yet been completely schooled into the "right way" to take ukemi. As a result, they move, by and large, fairly honestly in response to what is done to them, which often means that a technique that works wonders on more advanced uke has little to no effect on the beginner (or has an effect that is unexpected). But this is good! Nage sees important things about their technique - things that may often get obscured by "skilled" ukemi - when this occurs.

It is important, of course, to teach beginners how to receive technique safely, but doing so often degenerates into mere choreography rather than developing proper martial responses. This highly stylized, overly organized kind of ukemi is, in its own way, just as dishonest as the ukemi I got from the sixth dan. Unfortunately, after ukemi training has gone on for a while, generally the no-longer-beginner Aikidoka flows comfortably and compliantly - but utterly unnaturally - with nage through technique. Many times I have seen uke passive, waiting for nage to execute steps in their technique when ordinarily they would be acting to move free of nage's actions. Again and again, I have observed "good" uke adding their own energy to nage's movement to exaggerate its effect. Hundreds and hundreds of times I have watched "high level" ukemi where uke's attack is grossly unskilled, unfocused and tentative but the falling bit is wonderfully gymnastic and light. In each case, the ukemi is, in my opinion, in some or all respects, quite dishonest.

Now, don't get me wrong: there is a place for uke recognizing that accommodating ukemi is more productive to nage's learning than a more honest ukemi would permit. But such accommodating ukemi should not, I think, be the norm. Barring some mitigating disability, an Aikidoka who has been ranked to sankyu should be working with ukemi of the kind I described at the beginning of my post.

So, do all you can to help nage but don't neglect to consider your motives for how you are taking ukemi for nage. Why you are interacting with uke as you are isn't always as clear as you might think. And this will show up in the kind of ukemi you give.

Last edited by Jonathan : 03-03-2015 at 07:21 PM.

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 03-03-2015, 09:11 PM   #14
kewms
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote: View Post
Beginners in the role of uke have a wonderful capacity to expose bad technique. They have not yet been completely schooled into the "right way" to take ukemi. As a result, they move, by and large, fairly honestly in response to what is done to them, which often means that a technique that works wonders on more advanced uke has little to no effect on the beginner (or has an effect that is unexpected). But this is good! Nage sees important things about their technique - things that may often get obscured by "skilled" ukemi - when this occurs.
If the beginner has experience in other martial arts, yes. Otherwise, not so much. Beginners do not, in general, actually attack. And so their responses tend to be completely unrelated to anything that a real attacker -- skilled or not -- would attempt to do.

Katherine
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Old 03-03-2015, 09:42 PM   #15
Jonathan
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

Quote:
If the beginner has experience in other martial arts, yes. Otherwise, not so much. Beginners do not, in general, actually attack. And so their responses tend to be completely unrelated to anything that a real attacker -- skilled or not -- would attempt to do.
Well, this may be your experience but it hasn't generally been mine. There are beginners who are very tentative as uke, but there are others I have encountered - particularly males - who, having no formal martial arts experience but recognizing that they are practicing a martial art, do exactly as you say they tend not to do. Maybe the beginners I attract are just from a rougher, tougher demographic...

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 03-03-2015, 10:13 PM   #16
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote: View Post
Well, this may be your experience but it hasn't generally been mine. There are beginners who are very tentative as uke, but there are others I have encountered - particularly males - who, having no formal martial arts experience but recognizing that they are practicing a martial art, do exactly as you say they tend not to do. Maybe the beginners I attract are just from a rougher, tougher demographic...
That could be.

Katherine
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Old 03-05-2015, 01:15 AM   #17
dps
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

Me having fun taking ukemi.
dps
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Old 03-09-2015, 12:24 PM   #18
ramenboy
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

every once in a while, the question of ukemi comes up. and i always have to mention this, written by one of my sempai. i couldn't phrase ukemi any better than this:
http://www.aikiweb.com/training/tomoleoni1.html

practice hard
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Old 04-05-2015, 10:37 AM   #19
JP3
 
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Re: What does being an Uke mean to you?

After basic courtesies, the first thing one learns in the throwing arts is how to fall. This makes sense. If you are going to throw a partner, he’ll want to have a turn too. So the better you learn to fall, the better your chances of getting up when it’s your turn again. But beyond basic self-protection, there is that breed of practitioner who practices falling (ukemi) as if it were actually an art itself! Oh, by the way.... IT IS!
The more you fall (correctly), the more you learn about guiding the fall of a partner when it is your turn to throw. The more you are accustomed to a good roll out, the easier it is to pick out where your partner has erred in his delivery. The better fall-guy you are, the better your general athletic coordination and the more daring you’ll become. The contortion type of throw will no longer make you whimper with anticipation, and, lo and behold, you’ll achieve greater skills in the Aiki arts.
A good fall-guy gives the thrower (tori) the correct feeling of throwing, which he can then gradually achieve without the help of the faller (uke). And when tori finally achieves the near-perfect throw, uke, experienced faller that he is, will be able to let his partner know, since he has been taking a near-perfect fall from this technique months before tori perfected his part.
The first requirement of a good fall-guy is to get to like falling—not just tolerate it, not just make it look pretty, but actually like it. Think of each fall as a cross between an Olympic High-Dive on which you will be graded, and a roller coaster ride, which you will take just for the fun of it. Of course, this means that the basic falls have to be learned and learned again.
Beginners can get away with adequate falls, but a good uke must have consistently excellent falls. Details such as curvature of the lead arm, push of the toes and ankles, trajectory, position of the legs when rising and the timing of the slap on landing are not important; they are imperative. Once basic falls can be done correctly when somnambulant, one should graduate to more and more difficult ukemi.
There are several good exercises for rolling falls:
1) Diving rolls, gradually increasing the length and arc of the dive.
2) Rolls off the opposite leg.
3) Sideways rolling.

For improving falling the following are suggested:
1) Jumping a partner.
2) Handstand break falls.
3) No hand break falls.
But falling by oneself is merely the first step. The next is falling for a tori and feeling the surge of his throw. At first uke should just allow himself to be thrown in a relaxed, but not droopy, manner. Then the student should experiment with selective tension.
Certain techniques have segments during which a slight tension on uke’s part will actually help the smoothness and velocity of the throw. In hip-throws, for instance, a slight stiffening of the waist as uke rounds the crest of the technique will actually help tori’s performance and uke’s fall. Hyper-relaxation at this same point will help deaden the movement calling for additional muscle from the thrower and a less-circular fall.
Once selective tension is mastered, the good uke then tries to anticipate slightly the actual movement of the throw, getting himself airborne as the technique is happening rather than after it is attempted. At this stage, uke falls with the technique and not because of it.
Many techniques are preceded by lead-ins, sometimes short, sometimes quite involved. It is important that the well-trained uke flow with these movements as well as with the final throw. It is this skill which makes Aiki arts seem downright staged. The spectator tends to nudge his comrade as if to say, “Good show, but don’t expect me to believe it”.
It’s true that in most cases the uke at the end of the instructor’s long lead is cooperating with his teacher. But it is also true that he is doing this for logical reasons: it is a good habit for purposes of training lower-level throwers, it is a good habit for self-training in relaxation, sensitivity and coordination, it makes one’s fall and his limbs much safer, especially when the person thrown is falling fast and hard for a fairly high-ranking practitioner. Ukes often get with the movement in order not to feel it. In Aiki arts, sloppy movements (either by tori or uke) work, but they tend to hurt more.
To practice following leads and falling from them with correct timing, one should not only perform the required technique a number of times as uke but also as tori. When the motions can be replicated without much deliberation, the faller then tries to make tori’s work totally effortless. An excellent drill for this is shadow-practice. In most combative arts, “shadow” implies that one practices alone, but in this exercise one practices with a partner first going through a given technique (preferably a long or somewhat complicated one) with maximum fluidity and minimum effort. Next tori barely touches uke but performs the identical motions. Finally, both partners act their roles without contact at all.
This requires coordination and balance and an acute sensitivity to acceleration and deceleration. When the partners can perform the technique smoothly without contact so that it appears that they are attached by some invisible energy field, the exercise is then reversed: first with non-contact execution, then with minimal contact, finally regular contact.
A modification of this exercise involves changing speeds. Initially the partners do the shadow practice very slowly, then at medium speed, and finally at fast speed. If there is normally a section of acceleration during the performance of the technique, tori should accelerate but only in proportion to the predetermined pace of the technique.
Ukemi is an art in more than one way. Certainly the good faller makes practice easier for everyone, demonstrations conform more readily to the ideal technique, and makes feedback to training partners more accurate. A good faller is safer, is willing to try more advanced techniques, and develops better general athletic skills. This is all part of the art of Aiki, but more specifically, experience in falling leads directly to upper level countering or reversal techniques (kaeshi-waza).
A partner throws you in a hip throw, but since you are experienced in the fall and can conduct your own movements while airborne, and because you are sensitive to the timing of the technique, you hit the mat turned over a little more than usual. Your arms and energy extent a little more than usual just at the right time. The thrower suddenly becomes the thrown. Caught in the velocity of his own throw, he finds himself thinking that he had studied ukemi as well as you have.

(I did not write the above, it was provided to me about 20 years ago now by my first Tomiki Aikido instructor in a sort of handout , though he sent it to me electronically, on how to become a good uke. The lessons still hold true and solid. I'd attribute the actual author, but I am actually not certain who it might be, though it was from Sensei Geis' association, so perhaps Nick Lowry at least had a hand in it, being an accomplished writer in his own regard.)

I find it interesting that the kanji character for kuzushi illustrates a mountain falling on a house.
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