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Old 12-13-2002, 03:03 AM   #1
Edward
Location: Bangkok
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The "Coward" Uke ?

In the recent past, I have mentioned in a post that I hate training with beginners. I have rightfully received a lot of heat for that post. Now I admit that I was completely wrong and I apologize to the people offended by that post. I have come to believe that the real issue is not about beginners or advanced, it is more about the "coward" uke, no matter the rank.

I have been noticing that the uke who do not cooperate, do not follow, who pull instead of pushing and do not deliver honest attacks, are just afraid of falling. They seem to have some kind of a falling complex. Recently I escaped very serious injury caused by such uke, and definitely they were no beginners. The first time, I was doing a kokyunage when the terrified uke grabbed me with both arms around the waist in a failed attempt to avoid the fall. Result: we both fell violently on the mats, me on top of him, and I pulled a muscle in my back, which is still painful untill now, but it could have been worse. The second time, I was about to do a kotegaeshi, when uke, wanting to anticipate the fall, threw himself at my feet, in exactly the opposite direction to the intended throw. I had not even started the technique. Result: he landed with all his weight concentrated in his knee on my big toe and smashed it. Luckily I escaped with only a broken nail which is going to fall off soon, no broken bones.

Now the matter is that I have seen even black belts who are still terrified by falling. In a martial art based mainly on throwing techniques, it is absurd (and pathetic)that one should attain a high level in this art while being afraid and refusing to fall.

Any thoughts on this subject?

Last edited by Edward : 12-13-2002 at 03:06 AM.
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Old 12-13-2002, 04:38 AM   #2
Sam
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Hi Edward,

Well, I can see your point and I am sorry to hear of your injuries. I think the thing one has to bear in mind is that when training the first and foremost rule should be to look after your training partner. There is usually a good chance that you know the standard of your uke's ukemi and whether you regard it as adequate or not, you should stick within the limits of their ukemi ability, or risk hurting them (or yourself) and becoming unpopular.

Also, if somebody has hurt you before or appears to be struggling to get the throw working, often your ukemi will reflect your feelings as you worry about being hurt again.

I think one of the problems with learning ukemi is that as a skill, people tend not to be pushed to develop it like other skills because they don't see it as part of self-defense (even though it is!).

If I train with people with bad ukemi, I try to help them by gaining their trust and gradually increasing the intensity of the technique - if they are a higher grade than me then I usually just keep quiet
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Old 12-13-2002, 06:39 AM   #3
erikmenzel
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Hi Edward,

I can understand that not being able to do the techniques you want to can be frustrating. As for having stupid accidents happen, it is partialy your responsibility to train at a level you partner can cope with. And yes having uke land on your feet or legs or whatever realy sucks, but it also offers you a challenge in guiding this partner towards safer ukemi. I think that it is important to remember that both trainingpartners share the responsibility towards safe practice. Training partners can never be blamed for the level of experience or confidence they have.

We at our dojo teach people always to make complete ukemi, no half ukemi, no "I dont dare this". If someone has some problem somewhere just bring the speed and intensity down to such a level that they can do the ukemi. But always complete ukemi (Either backwards or forward, but no stopping halfway !!) Even trust in ones own capability has to be learned. Here also having advanced students in the beginners classes will help very much. Beginners can already begin to trust the advanced students. (So they dont experience any culture or trust shock when the enter the more advanced classes. And it also teaches the advanced students to train safely with beginners, hopefully) It also provides them with examples and hands-on experience on ukemi (Which often will help the advanced student to grow even further in his development of ukemi).

I am not a big fan of rank anyway so I dont consider that a good indicator for level and experience. (In our club everybody wears a white belt, beginners,yudansha, sensei, and even the hakama is not rank related. Imagine the shock for some visitors. No visible hierarchy) Better to work with what you see and feel from your training partner than to asume things from the color of the belt. I know, this is more difficult, but IMHO also more rewarding and honest, both towards yourself and to others.

Enjoy training

Erik Jurrien Menzel
kokoro o makuru taisanmen ni hirake
Personal:www.kuipers-menzel.com
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Old 12-13-2002, 07:01 AM   #4
rachmass
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I agree with what Erik and Sam have said above. It is everybodys responsibility to work together, and when you are working with a timid uke, work with them and help them get over some of their fears.

That said, I am a pretty good uke, although I have a technique which freaks me out and I don't take good ukemi for (but I am learning, slowly but surely), and I ask my training partners on this one to try to take it easy with me and walk me through it. The technique is koshi nage, and in my background we almost never practiced this technique and therefore I never really properly learned the ukemi for it (plus the fear of further hurting my torn ACL, for which I wear a brace, and that hurts to land on it!). Now I am in a situation where I have to learn to take that ukemi, and I've had very patient folks working with me on it when the time comes (which is only at seminars for me). I can't load someone up on my hips/back for this one either as my knee threatens to give out.

So, not everyone can easily take all the ukemi that is out there, and some experienced people can't take certain ukemi (but are learning).

Communication really helps.

If I don't trust someones techniques, my ukemi is going to be a bit less trusting. That is also something to think about.
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Old 12-13-2002, 07:33 AM   #5
GregH
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Hello all....I am lucky enough to have a sensei and senior student who "work" at my beginning level. I have gotten the feeling from them that if there is a certain technique or ukemi required (breakfalls mostly), if I slow down they slow down, if I speed up they speed up. Basically matching the intensity of my attack to accomodate my skill level. I am greatly appreciative of that, as each time I do a break fall I still feel like my arm is going to be ripped off, but I trust them with it and work through it.
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Old 12-13-2002, 09:34 AM   #6
Kevin Wilbanks
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R,

That's too bad about the koshinage. It seems many people get a complex about it. I don't think the ukemi is really that big of a deal if you learn it right from the beginning, just like any other technique. In places that do, people generally don't have a complex about it.

Throwing koshinage is a whole different matter though, in my view. I think it is one technique that is definitely made difficult, dangerous, or even impossible for nage if they don't have adequate squat strength. Doing the "T" version slowly also requires significant upper body strength in some cases. I take tentative ukemi for koshinage when I can tell that the person is too weak or unstable to hold the position with my weight on top - but more for their safety than mine.

A related issue, which I also see as a shame, is the fact that few people I have run into seem to be as proficient at koshinage as at other techniques. Most (including me) seem to need to slow down to get the proper postioning, etc... I have rarely seen people training where both uke and nage can zip right through the technique dynamically like one would do a kaitennage or something. This is too bad, as it seems to be one of the best moves in Aikido. I have always had trouble hooking up with people who can take the fall well enough for me to develop it the way I want.

Of course, you now have a chronic injury, which is a whole different matter. Have you tried working with an athletic trainer (not just an average personal trainer, but someone with at least a Kinesiology degree that works in conjunction with physical therapists)? I have heard of cases where people have gotten back surprising knee function after a tear, through dilligent conditioning (i.e., way more and way longer than your average Physical Therapy Rx).
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Old 12-13-2002, 09:39 AM   #7
MattRice
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the half ukemi thing is pretty dangerous. I watched a guy, who obviously was afraid to take the breakfall from a koshi. Instead of folding over the small of nage's back, he would go halfway, then roll OFF nage's butt to the rear. Broke a leg doing it, because there was no good ukemi to take from this position. Afraid of the wrong thing I guess.

Hey Harrisburg! (Greg) where do you tain up there? My folks live in Mechanicsburg, I go there often to visit. Need a place to roll!

Matt
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Old 12-13-2002, 09:43 AM   #8
MattRice
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or maybe where do you train?
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Old 12-13-2002, 11:53 AM   #9
kung fu hamster
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My ukemi is lousy and I balk at it a lot, but maybe because of my fear of koshinage people have forked over some pretty good advise. Relax as much as possible, drape yourself over nage's koshi loosely and let your head hang down. The lower your head, the lower the height that you really have to fall from, as your body will whip around your head, and your head will essentially function as an eye of a hurricane. Some people have even told me to tuck my head downward practically under nage's belly, but I find it helps me to stay more relaxed if I just drape it downward as loosely as I can. My big problem now is to figure out which part of nage to clutch as I'm being thrown, sometimes the throw comes so fast I don't really remember if I'm supposed to grab the front of the gi or the crook of their arm.
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Old 12-13-2002, 02:14 PM   #10
Doug Mathieu
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Hello

My personal feeling about ukes abilities is that at the 1st black belt level the student should be able to take most ukemi well including from Koshinage, Shihonage, Iriminage and Kokyunages.

I do agree there will be Yudansha students who for one reason or another may have a problem with a particular ukemi. Its great when they recognize that and are working it out or telling their partners of their need for caution.

If I go somewhere and don't know the students I am definetly carefull with Mudansha. Until I see they are okay with vigorous ukemi I won't assume they can do it. Even with Yudansha I probably will do the 1st few sets of a throwing technique softly until I can tell how they do with ukemi.

If I want nage to know I am comfortable with the required ukemi I can let them know by how aggressive I attack.
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Old 12-13-2002, 02:50 PM   #11
ToddDJones
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Edward, contrary to the claim you make at the beginning of your post, you haven't learned the lesson yet, and you got what you deserved. In fact, you got off easy. Let's review:

You say, "I have been noticing that the uke who do not cooperate, do not follow, who pull instead of pushing and do not deliver honest attacks, are just afraid of falling." Simply put, you've got the wrong perspective:

1. Uke need only "cooperate or follow" at the kihon level, from there on it's up to nage.

2. If uke is pulling or pushing, you aren't doing aikido; your execution is flawed.

3. Regardless of their rank or ability, it is clear that you are not trusted by your uke.

4. Uke has no reason to hold back when nage can be trusted.

5. Most importantly, as nage, you are responsible for the safety of your uke.

It is further disappointing that you mention only your own injuries, neglecting any concern for the well-being of your partners. This is the root of your problem; you are selfish. Unless and until you learn to care for your training partner, you will continue to be dissatisfied with aikido keiko; it sounds as if you should try an art that necessitates greater parity between partners (e.g. judo, karate, or jiujutsu).

Bottom line: stop blaming others for your inequities. Rethink your approach and listen closely to the consistent response from the preceding posts.

To everyone else, again I apologize for my abruptness, but this conduct cannot be condoned or consoled. Good luck, Edward.
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Old 12-13-2002, 02:53 PM   #12
rachmass
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Well, as a yudansha with close to 20 years of practice, I can tell you that some folks have some issues with some techniques (me included in regard to koshi) and that certainly doesn't make them not warrant their dan grades. I started to learn koshinage ukemi only a year ago, as it was rarely if ever practiced where I trained. I am learning it, albeit slowly, and right now only with folks I trust.

I was first taught how to take breakfalls with the idea that you should never have to take a breakfall, and that if you take your ukemi correctly for the most part you don't have to. Koshi is an exception. I don't know how you can take ukemi without taking a breakfall from koshi. Try taking repeated breakfalls with an ACL brace on and tell me that you really like to do it.

Sorry if this sounds a bit defensive, but the last post got me riled up with the comment about "My personal feeling about ukes abilities is that at the 1st black belt level the student should be able to take most ukemi well including from Koshinage,.."
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Old 12-13-2002, 03:38 PM   #13
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So, rather than focusing on the problem...

What can we do to help these people who have these kinds of issues with ukemi?

-- Jun

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Old 12-13-2002, 04:36 PM   #14
rachmass
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Okay Jun, good point, and I'll unruffle my feathers here.

I find myself working with beginners a lot, and sometimes have to walk them through ukemi. If you don't abuse your uke by giving them more than they can take, generally they will trust you and be able to let you lead them to the right spot from which to take the ukemi without fear. Then gradually increase the speed and intensity and they typically get right with it. I don't find people pulling, but what I have found often is a tightening up of muscles due to fear. Again, if I can get them to trust me, that will lessen.

As for myself, with regard to my koshi phobia, I've worked quite a bit with Charlie McGinnis Sensei and one of his senior students (thank you Susan) who took me aside at summer camp and spent a good part of an hour just throwing me around. I really felt much more confident after that in being able to take the ukemi, although its been awhile and I will probably freak out again next time I'm confronted with it unless they are there again (hint, hint if you are reading this). As long as my partner has nothing to prove, and just wants to help, and I really get that feeling from them, I am game to try this. For me, it really comes down to trusting my partner to have enough control of themselves and the technique.

best, and sorry for the defensive manuevering from my previous post.
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Old 12-13-2002, 04:41 PM   #15
BC
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I'd say the solution is to help them improve their ukemi.

I received some good advice just yesterday about ukemi for koshi nage. The instructor basically was stressing that instead of just reaching for nage's abdomen to grab their gi or obi, uke should try to reach as far across the front of uke's abdomen, which will help smooth our their ukemi. Rachel has pointed out her discomfort with her knee, and koshi also presents some risk of injuring the shoulder if uke's ukemi isn't correct. Basically, ukemi for koshi nage is a roll over nage - uke just doesn't touch his or her arm and shoulder to the mat. I've found that with a well executed technique, the ukemi for koshi nage is actually softer than breakfalls from other techniques. Then again, almost anytime nage performs a well executed technique, the ukemi is easier. IMHO.

Last edited by BC : 12-13-2002 at 04:47 PM.

Robert Cronin
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Old 12-13-2002, 04:45 PM   #16
BC
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Rachel:

Come down to Chi-town for the seminar in January and have Rock give you some pointers on koshi while you're here. He's also pretty good with that one...

Robert Cronin
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Old 12-13-2002, 11:03 PM   #17
Edward
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Well, Todd, the point of my post was to discuss a problem which exists obviously in aikido and try to find a solution. It was not meant as a complaint about my own uke.

Just for the sake of clarity, I am one of the softest nage not only when I am practicing with "reluctant" uke, but also in general, I do use the minimum required strength to execute a successfull throw.

As for the cooperation point, please note that I practice aikikai style, in which uke is required to follow since the very first class. If uke pulls back instead of following, there is definitely a problem.

As for my uke's injuries, there were none as far as I know, otherwise I would have mentioned them. Please note that I have mentioned these 2 incidents to illustrate my point. This does not mean that they happen often, just that I was unlucky enough to have them happen in a row. I do not wave my responsibility either because it takes 2 to have an accident, so I should have been more vigilant.

Anyway please forget about my selfishness, and I do admit of being selfish (who isn't?), and focus on discussing a way to help those people who are obviously very scared of taking ukemi, do not cooperate in the training, and endanger their partners because of their ukemi-phobia.

Cheers,

Edward
Quote:
Todd Jones (ToddDJones) wrote:
Edward, contrary to the claim you make at the beginning of your post, you haven't learned the lesson yet, and you got what you deserved. In fact, you got off easy. Let's review:

You say, "I have been noticing that the uke who do not cooperate, do not follow, who pull instead of pushing and do not deliver honest attacks, are just afraid of falling." Simply put, you've got the wrong perspective:

1. Uke need only "cooperate or follow" at the kihon level, from there on it's up to nage.

2. If uke is pulling or pushing, you aren't doing aikido; your execution is flawed.

3. Regardless of their rank or ability, it is clear that you are not trusted by your uke.

4. Uke has no reason to hold back when nage can be trusted.

5. Most importantly, as nage, you are responsible for the safety of your uke.

It is further disappointing that you mention only your own injuries, neglecting any concern for the well-being of your partners. This is the root of your problem; you are selfish. Unless and until you learn to care for your training partner, you will continue to be dissatisfied with aikido keiko; it sounds as if you should try an art that necessitates greater parity between partners (e.g. judo, karate, or jiujutsu).

Bottom line: stop blaming others for your inequities. Rethink your approach and listen closely to the consistent response from the preceding posts.

To everyone else, again I apologize for my abruptness, but this conduct cannot be condoned or consoled. Good luck, Edward.

Last edited by Edward : 12-13-2002 at 11:08 PM.
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Old 12-13-2002, 11:16 PM   #18
Edward
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To all,

Thanks a lot for the many constructive and useful replies. I would like to clarify the problem: There are some practitioners who seem to have a certain fear for falling. No matter how softly you practice with them, and try to guide them into doing safe ukemi, they do not seem to be able to overcome their fear. I am not talking about the cases when these practitioners hold back with certain persons because of lack of trust, but rather those who systematically are reluctant to take ukemi with any given partner. I just needed to clarify what I meant in my post especially that mentioning my personal experience was perhaps misleading to some readers.

Cheers,

Edward
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Old 12-13-2002, 11:50 PM   #19
akiy
 
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Ukemi, to me, is the most important part of aikido practice. Yet, it seems to be one of the most overlooked, unfortunately.

We all have "limits" to what we can do that we set ourselves; many times (most of the time, perhaps?), this limit is self-imposed due to our discomfort and/or fear of doing the "unknown." When I do the ukemi class, I try to get people to become comfortable with things that are, by their very nature, uncomfortable. As such, I structure the classes in such a way that the person in the role of nage provides a "framework" so that uke can learn -- very much in the same manner that, in "regular" practice, uke works with nage so that nage can learn. For some, this may mean going through the basic "shape" of a technique and that's about it -- while uke works on what's making them uncomfortable. For others, this may mean I work with them at a faster, more "intense" level.

I'm sure everyone will agree that it's easy to fall into a pattern. It's also easy to get "reactions" ingrained within ourselves. I think it's much more difficult to first become aware of such reactions, accept them as part of us, then slowly work ourselves out of it. Such happens in aikido, especially in the role of uke. It's difficult, I think, in regular classes where the emphasis is usually so much on the role of nage that it becomes difficult for uke to work on their role. Therefore, I believe it's very beneficial to spend time working consciously through the "fear" factor and such by taking a look at the role of uke in aikido practice in an environment designed for such.

Rather than drawing out a reflex reaction -- the sort that happens without our conscious awareness -- I try to let uke work in a sort of "healthy discomfort" zone, one in which they can work consciuosly into the "unkonwn." This may involve their moving their centers forward just two more inches during their attack. This may mean uke moves their body into the flow of the technique (rather than spinning out of it). This may mean uke starts learning to kick their legs out from underneath them. And so on.

In any case, I guess all I want to say is that I wish every dojo had at least one class focusing on ukemi. There's just so much to be learned while uke! In fact, I'd say that not approaching ukemi with the same amount of attention as one puts into the role of nage would be a really, really big shame since I very much believe that the same exact principles are used in order to be a "good nage" and a "good uke."

Any way, that's my rant for the evening. I appreciate Edward's honesty in what he's feeling and for bringing up this subject.

Any thoughts people may have about the role of uke would be greatly appreciated...

-- Jun

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Old 12-14-2002, 12:53 AM   #20
Jimro
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[quote="Jun Akiyama (akiy)

Any thoughts people may have about the role of uke would be greatly appreciated...

-- Jun[/QUOTE]With only six months of Aikido under my belt I am going to repeat my instructors thoughts on uke.

Uke must give a dedicated attack. Dedicated doesn't necessarily mean fast. A dedicated punch must aim and extend to where it was aimed, a dedicated grab must have body motion backing it up (in a push/pull scenario) to establish a connection.

No one in real life throws a punch aimed to just miss over your shoulder. No one just comes up and gives a weak, limp wristed grab. So a good uke gives dedicated attacks (dedicated doesn't have to be FAST). Aikido is a gift, and uke is giving the gift of their body so you can learn.

Now being comfortable with the ukemi is a must. Which is why our instructor begins each class with the list of rolls , falls, and breakfalls. thirty minutes of ukemi is a great way to start a class, and it gives everyone a chance to see where everyone else is at; on that day, in that class. A black belt with a sore back will want to take ukemi slower than an enthusiastic colored belt.

Coming from a hard striking style I find it easy to give safe, dedicated punches. But I am working very hard to give dedicated grabs, because it is newer to me.

If your uke is afraid to take the fall, then your uke needs to work on their ukemi SOLO. I only recently started to attempt sutemi (sorry if the spelling is off), so until I get that to where it is comfortable, there is no way I can progress to being an uke for the more advanced throws. I was working with a black belt on Shihonage, and she noticed I tensed muscles in one arm. I didn't notice it until she pointed it out, and it helped me learn to relax and accept the fall. Obviously I'm still working on relaxing, I'll let everyone know when I've mastered it

Six months of aikido and I've only tweaked my neck twice, both practicing my ukemi solo. I hope your injuries heal very quickly.

I hope this helps everyone dealing with us low ranking neophytes.
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Old 12-14-2002, 05:28 AM   #21
bob_stra
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Re: The "Coward" Uke ?

Pride commeth before fall?

I've noticed a few folks who gave me an iffy time over taking a fall. Surely a lowely white belt like myself couldn't possible throw them ;-)

I smile and we keep going. Knowing that you can throw ppl f*cking hard at will lets the ego roll with the punches ;-)

I know what you mean by dangerous. Do you (1) throw them despite thier stubborness (and cause them an injury), (2) bail out of at the sticking point or (3)let them hold on, easing them down (and risk causing yourself an injury).

It's dilemma I'm sure I can't answer for you. I suspect the choice has a lot to do with the training environment / atmosphere. But I do hear where you're comming from ;-)

FWIW - More often than not, most of my judo injuries came from folks who would "help" me up / down by letting me hold on.
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Old 12-14-2002, 05:31 AM   #22
shadow
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im a tall fellow and its funny when i train with a little person who does koshinage on me..... i can do a forward roll! hahaha.

as for fear with ukemi, ive only just started to get over it myself. there are exercises that help with taking ukemi. i think the greatest one is rolling, lots and lots of forward and backward rolls because in my opinion breakfalls are essentially a forward or backward roll that isnt completed.

another good exercise is getting a person to get on all 4's and then you roll over the person and land on your side. learning to keep your body tight and the way to fall.

also for techniques such as irimi nage and kokyu nage if nage sticks his knee out it is possible to sit on the knee and roll off it landing in a breakfall position. the step up from this is taking the ukemi without the knee.

these are techniques my teacher has taught us and i hope you can understand what im saying.

jun, that was a very interesting post. i wish they had a class emphasising ukemi at my dojo. but my sensei is very traditional to saito sensei's teachings and ukemi is to be learnt by the individual either by seeking help from sempai or sensei himself. he is very helpful when asked.

happiness. harmony. compassion.
--damien--
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Old 12-14-2002, 06:10 AM   #23
Bruce Baker
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The heart of this problem is not just the coward uke, but as Jun hints at in his post, our acceptance at falling into patterns of practice ... losing our awareness of change/ adaptation.

This is the heart of being a knowledgable student verses being the coward or the unco-operative beginner, to not rush through the techniques as if they were set in stone to be performed in one motion, but to be able to adapt and change.

So, in my small contribution to this problem, it is as much Edward Karaa's fault in becoming injured, because of becoming complacent with practice set in stone, as it is the 'Coward Uke."

I have the utmost respect for your situation Edward, maybe because I, myself, had to break this bad habit and my first sensei was kind enough to do it gently in the beginner stages of training and not in advanced levels with the habit already ingrained.

I know it will take a while to become wary enough to avoid the serious accidents, but they do happen for a reason if you look at them in the grand scheme of things ... for instance you have observed the "Coward Uke" on one hand, not it is time to observe your own failings to be corrected too.

So, please take this advice with my best regards, and rethink the premise of this problem.
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Old 12-14-2002, 10:19 AM   #24
SeiserL
 
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IMHO, people train in Aikido for various reasons. To call them "cowards" simply because they don't do it the way you want them too seems a bit judgemental and harsh. Perhaps some respect, acceptance, and compassion for those that train despite their fears may be in order.

Until again,

Lynn

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Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 12-14-2002, 10:40 AM   #25
erikmenzel
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Quote:
Lynn Seiser (SeiserL) wrote:
Perhaps some respect, acceptance, and compassion for those that train despite their fears may be in order.
Hear, Hear.

IME the best aikidoka are not those that can execute a technique beautifuly with a perfect uke, but are those that can train joyfuly with any other human.

Dont try to impress me with flamboiant technique, impress me with the way you train with a small woman who has slight spasms, whos one leg is a bit shorter than the other and who can only see about 4% with one eye.

And yes, I think she is very valuable training partner. I only met her a couple of times on seminars, but everytime I learn from her.

Last edited by erikmenzel : 12-14-2002 at 10:42 AM.

Erik Jurrien Menzel
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