Walid Sinno wrote:
I was wandering if someone can share with me his/her knowlege on front ukemi fall with Irimi Nage. What needs to be done to have the fluidity going allowing Uke to fall on Mae Yoko Ukemi?
This is a very good question. It is important to realize that this training takes about a year from when you begin to seriously set out on learning this type of ukemi. There are two main issues to contend with. Both relate to control. The first is to learn to control your body, mainly your hips, but at the same time, your legs, and feet. The goal is to get your hips to move straight up in the air. This occurs as you tuck your chin into your chest, and let your body (the center point between your shoulder blades) move backwards and towards the ground. The second issue is learning to control your fear - the fear of being hit in the neck, injuring your neck, and the fear of impacting the mat, backwards.
There are two levels at which to implement this instruction - basic and intermediate. Since I am not sure where you are at, and taking into account that others will be interested in this, too, I will start with the basic level.
The way to start out is with perfecting simple ushiro ukemi. Working by yourself, from a standing position, in hanmi posture, let your back foot come up off the ground and move your back leg forward so that the instep on your back leg strikes the back of the calf on your front leg. Remember, the most important thing is to tuck your chin to your chest
so that you protect your neck and the back of your head during impact. Continue to bring your shoulders back (behind you) as keeping the knee on your front leg bent. Now, slowly
sit down in place in a controlled manner such that your butt hits the ground just behind your front leg. Make sure to keep your hips pointing straight in front of you as you sit down.
You can augment this training regimen using a partner in the following manner. Have a partner slowly execute sayu-nage waza from your mune tsuki attack. Using Nage's rear hand, have him grab your obi (belt) and lift up your center to allow you to very slowly move your shoulders backwards and towards the ground. Hold your self in the arched position as long as you can to being to stretch out your back muscles and increase the strength in your thighs and calves. Again, from this position, sit down in place slowly, aligning your hips forward, and avoiding moving your hips any further back than midway between the midpoint of your feet in hanmi posture and the point at which the rear foot originally touched the ground before it moved forward to touch the calf on your front leg.
In this manner, you learn to train yourself to refrain from moving your hips backwards during the high falls that you will be taking sometime
later. You should do this twenty times on each side, gradually increasing the speed with which you sit down. Make sure that as you increase the speed at which you fall, that you implement the typical ukemi hand-slap using the center of the hand on the same side as your rear foot. Do this daily for several months to get a feel how to control your hip movement throughout the process.
I would like to mention one point about the slapping motion. Please take notice where on your hand you are impacting the mat. Try to avoid hitting the ground with either your wrist or your fingers. The center of the hand is best. The sound will be very different, and indicative of where on the hand you are actually receiving the impact. Also if you slap away from your body, you will impact your elbow, and this is a very easy way to cause permanent impairment to that joint. As such, move your arm so that you impact the mat along side your body. Too close, and you will also damage your wrist or elbow, do adjust until you find the comfortable distance relative to your body. This becomes even more important as you begin to add height to your ukemi. I will say more on that later.
As time goes on, and you begin to feel more comfortable, you move to the more advanced basic level. This is where you actually train in the above manner taking ukemi from nage's irimi. Yes, this is not for beginners, although ukemi is taught and practiced this way in many dojos. The advanced beginner level allows you to implement the tai-sabaki and koshi-sabaki (body and hip movement, respectively) that you have been letting your body learn from the consistent training during the "beginner basic" process. You use this part of the training to adjust your timing, distance, and posture so that you are never
being thrown. Rather, you are taking a controlled fall, one that you initiate taking into account the timing and distance of Nage's movement (waza).
The intermediate level training process is a paired process. There are two main issues to be concerned with. Safety is always of paramount concern, so choose a training partner whom you trust, implicitly, one who is not there to "throw" you, but rather there to help you train yourself. The two issues are timing and the height to which you can move your hips straight up in the air. Basically, as Nage executes more advanced techniques, uke is required to move quicker (not sooner) and have his hips move higher to absorb the forward and downward movement of irimi-nage.
There is an aside here that I will include for reasons that shall go unmentioned. Many people claim that Irimi is one of those techniques best left to individuals who are taller than their attacker. This is due to the way some execute the technique - that being in a downward direction, as if executing a yoko-menuchi strike that impacts uke where his neck meets his shoulder. When I was learning Irimi Nage and the associated ukemi, we were trying to mimic the movements of Seagal Sensei in the manner in which he executed the techniques on Matsuoka Sensei. Seagal Sensei is 6'-5" and Matsuoka Sensei is 5'-11". It always appeared that he was being cut down into the ground as he was moved backwards. However, no one could figure out how to move uke backwards as he came forwards to attack Nage... We began to realize this is not how the technique worked, because it is quite obvious to even the most closed-minded of individuals that you can't be moving backwards and forwards at the same time. Move ahead a few years, meditating on this very fact, and with a slightly more open mind the dual-pointed truth began to dawn on us. Point one - What moves up must come down.
Point two, and as important as it is subtle - What moves down then moves up.
! Now that truth being the answer, I will leave you to your training to figure out what the question is.
...Part II, continued
As you work with your training partner towards your goal of moving quicker and higher, you want to maintain your focus on controlling your movements and staying focused. You will find staying focused difficult, and there is a very good, one-word reason for this. Breathing
Did I mention that before... No, I did not. I will mention this later. For now, ask your partner, as Nage to stand in Hanmi posture, and not move his feet at all during the training. His forward hand and foot should be the same. He will execute Irimi Nage using his front arm. For illustration purposes, say it is his right arm. You, as Uke, will execute a right handed shomen-uchi. As your front foot (right foot in this case) touches the ground, Nage will lightly strike Uke just above the left breast. Uke responds by doing the flowing two things concurrently -- one
using his right arm, he reaches up to wrap his inner forearm around the back of Nage's right triceps so that he can two
helps to pull his center up and control the speed at which uke's shoulders descend to the ground. This is a process where Nage implements a gradual increase in speed between the moment when Uke's forward foot touches the ground and when Nage touches Uke's chest with his hand. The overall idea is that Uke transfers the exact form he mastered during his solitary practice to this paired practice, the difference being that the movement is occurring at a point gradually higher and higher off the ground.. This should be enough to keep you busy for about eight months if you train three to four times weekly.
I am sure that there are imperfections in my description of the process. However, if you take a look at the ukemi Matsuoka Sensei's takes in the opening dojo scene in the movie "Above the law" or "Nico" as it is known outside of the United States, you will have no doubt about the end result that can be obtained using this training method. Should you have any questions about any of this, please feel free to post them here, send me a private IM, or even send me a private e-mail using my profile to look up my e-mail address.
A point on breathing
There is a specific breathing method to employ during ukemi. As a physical activity, there are two overt aspects of ukemi - the attack on Nage, and the fall uke takes when he receives Nage's technique. Coincidently, there are two aspects of attacking, the attack and the associated breathing method employed when attacking. There is a definite relationship between the breathing methods to be learned during attacking and falling. Here is where the advanced aspect of the intermediate training comes into play. Learning to unite one's body movement and breathing method. This is said to be the most basic element of martial arts. My master, Seiseki Abe Sensei often expounds upon the familiar mantra, "What is basic is most advanced.." He means that in order to learn really advanced things, we must focus on mastering the basics. This is nothing new, and certainly not a revelation. However, it does mean one thing relevant to the process of learning ukemi, one that when it finally dawns on us, we are quick to be discouraged by. That is that now that we have learned to control our movement during ukemi, we realize we can't breathe, and we need to learn how to breathe to better control our movement. Only we can't breathe and move yet, so this is paradoxical. Just ask any of my students how they felt when this fact dawned on them. So we need to go back to the beginning and learn how to move - again
Only this time, we need to learn to move while controlling our breathing. Fortunately, we are not starting over in terms of Sabaki (movement) only in terms of using our conscious mind to control our breathing during the learning process. This aspect of the training is very personal. Students will often confront issues they did not know they had in terms of their commitment to their training. As such, this part of the training is best to be covered between a person, as a student, and their teacher, or a very senior senpai, either being someone whom the student trusts, implicitly, and who has the student's best interest at heart.