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Old 12-14-2006, 06:17 AM   #1
mjchip
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Personal Views on Ukemi

Folks,

Below is a short essay where I share my thoughts/experiences on the levels of ukemi practice in aikido. Please note that the following text is a representation of my personal views on ukemi practice at this point in my own training. With the sharing of this writing, it is not my intention to advise, to teach, or give guidance of any sort but rather to merely share my thoughts.

STAGES OF UKEMI TRAINING

I. Basic Ukemi Practice --

Basic ukemi training consists primarily of a precise repetition of basic forms. Such forms include how to attack properly, how to receive basic technique safely, and how to maintain an essential center-to-center connection to one's partner without providing significant resistance during relatively low power encounters. This stage is vitally important as it builds the foundation for all future development by imparting basic skills and conditioning the body to allow for a correct natural progression to more advanced levels of ukemi practice.


II. Intermediate Ukemi Practice --

As the student begins to transition from a basic level of proficiency to a more intermediate level, he/she develops the skill to safely maintain the center-to-center connection during more dynamic encounters. These intensified encounters begin to take the student to the edge of their comfort zone and therefore present both physical and emotional challenges that may lead to a perceived uncertainty of the outcome and therefore create discomfort (being taken to and from the "edge" is in my opinion a necessary part of the forging process). Also in this intermediate level of ukemi practice the student begins to passively explore and develop sensitivity to the fundamental characteristic quality of the opponent's applied power within the confines of the preset forms (i.e. magnitude and direction, where the power ebbs and flows, etc.). It is worthwhile to explicitly state that this exploration is done internal to uke's body without compromising or deviating from the preset form being practiced.

III. Advanced Ukemi Practice --

Up to this point the student has spent significant time becoming proficient at maintaining the center-to-center connection between themselves and their opponent during an intense dynamic encounter. They have also begun to learn how to passively "read" the nature of their opponent's power and how it is being applied. The development of these skills allows further progression to more advanced training which has a more direct applicability to a wider range of martial encounters. The student uses their refined sensitivity to the nature of their opponent's power, felt through the essential center-to-center connection, to feel for and exploit openings for the purpose of neutralizing the opponent's power and moving oneself to a martially superior position. Once this superior positioning is achieved, the student becomes able to take positive control of their opponent by returning their own power back through the maintained connection and attempting to capture and take control of the opponent's center. During this level of practice both partners attempt to generate and transmit full power to their opponent while maintaining and concealing their own stable center and thereby trying to not create openings for the opponent to take advantage of. In this advanced training both partners may be well out of their comfort zone, pushing each other to their respective limits, all while remaining ultimately responsible for both their own individual safety and the safety of their partner. It is worthwhile to note that the traditional roles of "uke" and "nage" may no longer be clear as both partners feel for or create and exploit openings until the encounter comes to an end.

Thoughts?

Mark Chiappetta
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Old 12-14-2006, 07:02 AM   #2
ian
 
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Good analysis, but I'd disagree. To me ukemi is simply about protecting your body and enabling more rapid training.

I don't think the roles of uke and nage can or should ever be confused. I have seen this occur in 'blending' training, where the instructor is teaching nage to respond to uke sensetively - however often the uke starts to blend with nage, for example following a grabbed arm around like a dog-leash. Ueshiba (apparently) had said, one of you has to be the devil (uke) and one the angel (nage).

The roles of uke and nage may not be clear to an external observer, because the ukes force is being blended with effectively, however to nage, they should always feel in control, stable and responsive (exactly the opposite of uke).

Admittedly, for beginner nage, an experienced uke may 'help' by guiding, but very rapidly the attacks should be sincere and 'normal' (i.e. not running forwards, just striking forwards)

Ian

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Old 12-14-2006, 07:34 AM   #3
Mark Freeman
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Quote:
Ian Dodkins wrote:
The roles of uke and nage may not be clear to an external observer, because the ukes force is being blended with effectively, however to nage, they should always feel in control, stable and responsive (exactly the opposite of uke).

I'm afraid I have to disagree Ian, if uke is out of control, unstable and not responsive, then, they are not much of a challenge

For me, the practice of the art of ukemi is where I have gained the most in my understanding of aikido. I love practicing the role of nage, but it is when I am uke that I have really started to see/feel the intricacies of the techniques. A uke that is always stable, resposive and in control, provides nage with a formidable partner with which to explore the dynamics of a technique.

In general I agree with Mark's analysis (however, that doesn't make it objectively 'right' )

I feel that writing about ukemi is a little like trying to describe what a strawberry tastes like. There is some common agreement amongst those who have tasted similar fruit, and confusion among those who haven't

regards,

Mark

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Old 12-14-2006, 09:54 PM   #4
eyrie
 
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Interesting perspective Mark. I had an entirely different perspective when I first wrote down some thoughts I had on this - here: http://aikidolockyer.com/blog/?page_id=7

Bear in mind, this was primarily a first draft that never got edited, so there are likely to be gross mistakes and errors.

Ignatius
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Old 12-15-2006, 03:23 AM   #5
Mark Freeman
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote:
Interesting perspective Mark. I had an entirely different perspective when I first wrote down some thoughts I had on this - here: http://aikidolockyer.com/blog/?page_id=7

Bear in mind, this was primarily a first draft that never got edited, so there are likely to be gross mistakes and errors.
Good article Ignatius, thanks, and proof that some are better than others at describing the nuances of taste of a strawberry

regards,

Mark

Last edited by Mark Freeman : 12-15-2006 at 03:28 AM.

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Old 12-15-2006, 05:38 AM   #6
mjchip
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote:
Interesting perspective Mark. I had an entirely different perspective when I first wrote down some thoughts I had on this - here: http://aikidolockyer.com/blog/?page_id=7

Bear in mind, this was primarily a first draft that never got edited, so there are likely to be gross mistakes and errors.
That is a wonderful article. I see a lot of overlap between our two perspectives and I really don't disagree with anything you've said.

Mark

Last edited by mjchip : 12-15-2006 at 05:44 AM.
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Old 12-15-2006, 11:15 AM   #7
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Some of the comments I've read are great discussion points, but I am maybe most concerned by the sheer complexity of articles written by Mark and Ignatius. Great points veiled by long sentences can be lost, and simple concepts buried in eloquent paragraphs can be overlooked.

Like Ian, I have witnessed such cooperative ukemi that uke practically falls down without provocation. I do not believe you can learn ukemi by thinking about it, and I do not believe proper uke should be taught through cooperation, but through body awareness. Ukemi is about protecting your body. Sometimes ukemi is falling, sometimes ukemi is moving, and sometimes ukemi is kaishiwaza. I think we often teach ukemi as a submissive reaction to nage, and not as the appropriate body reaction to an external circumstance. I can't count the number of times when I have seen uke fall down prematurely, or cease attacking because they are waiting to be thrown, or are simply defeated because they know they aren't supposed to win. Teach ukemi to protect the body, once that task is accomplished grow into larger philosophical roles.

Ukemi is pretty simple. Sometimes we unnecessarily complicate matters, or worse, we cover our bad aikido by telling students they are doing bad ukemi. Bad ukemi is easy to spot - the student gets hurt. Good ukemi is easy to spot - the student does not get hurt. Then there is a large grey area where most of us train. Great writing on ukemi is a good thing, but remember those that need help most are not often advanced aikidoka capable of digesting long treatises on ukemi.
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Old 12-15-2006, 04:55 PM   #8
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Thanks for the kind words Mark F. Good points from everyone, especially Jon. I'll try to keep my sentences shorter...

The point I was trying to make is that there are layers or levels of understanding and realization to the subject of aikido ukemi, and that ukemi, while simple is not just about protecting the body. I believe that is the same point that Mark C is making.

I only wrote what I did because I needed to write it - it was more of an exercise to organize my thoughts and improve my writing/editing skills than a discourse on the subject.

Ignatius
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Old 12-16-2006, 08:56 AM   #9
kokyu
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Actually, there is a very interesting scene from Ellis Amdur's DVD "Ukemi from the ground up", where he makes a good point that uke sometimes rolls because he has been taught to make nage look good.. He demonstrated a a kokyunage where the uke did a beautiful roll, and then he whispered something to the uke... and then when he tried to do the kokyunage again, uke just swung around to face him... I still remember Ellis saying "NOW THAT IS UKEMI"... This sort of ties into Igantius' article... I know it looks nice when a very sensitive uke flips at the flick of a wrist, but is that ukemi?

I've also encountered sensei who encourage uke to keep up with a fast nage... for example, when you do a katatetori and nage pulls away very fast... then you should move faster to maintain contact with his wrist... or when you are down in shomenuchi iriminage and nage turns faster than you (as uke) are moving... then you should speed up... On the one hand, I can see the issue, you as uke want to get into a superior position, so it makes sense to move as fast or even faster than nage... otherwise, if you don't grab hold of his wrist, he could whip out his katana, etc... or if you don't keep up with nage, he will always have your back to him... On the other hand, if nage moves too fast for uke, the connection is broken, and uke can just break away... and renew the attack..
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Old 12-16-2006, 06:39 PM   #10
eyrie
 
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

I think there are several facets to ukemi practice - depending on what the situation is and where people are at in their practice. The real issue I believe is that the view that nage is doing "something" TO uke (i.e. throwing uke) is incorrect. I believe what makes aikido AI-KI-DO is that uke and nage are working on themselves, whilst at the same time working WITH each other.

Mark C. mentioned the center-to-center connection (more accurately, whole-body-to-whole-body connection), which I believe is the crux of it, or at least the most important aspect of aikido practice. If uke bails before the "moment", nage "knows", because the connection is lost. If uke "resists" or switches, nage also "knows" that their timing is off. It all depends on where people are at in their individual practice that allows them to either "know" or "don't know".

The issue is how to convey that to the student at the appropriate moment and allow them to become self-aware of what they need to do to change their level of practice. That, I believe, is the role of the sempai, instructor or teacher.

Which brings me back to Mark C's dichotomy of training levels (and me not wanting to steal his thread thunder).... it is the role of the teacher to assess where the students are at in terms of skill level and to constantly push the boundaries of their level of practice such that they aren't simply taking a fall to merely "protect" themselves or to make nage "look good".

PS: I also meant to add, that nage and uke are both practising EXACTLY the same thing... ukemi...

Last edited by eyrie : 12-16-2006 at 06:53 PM.

Ignatius
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Old 12-19-2006, 06:03 PM   #11
eyrie
 
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

I've had to change my domain name over for various reasons. So if you're looking for the article, it's at http://aikidofnq.com/blog/?page_id=7

My apologies...

Ignatius
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Old 12-20-2006, 10:58 PM   #12
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Interesting... I have similar views with Chiappetta-san...

受け... uke... 受ける... ukeru... to receive...

身... mi/shin... body...

受身... ukemi... the receiving body?... doesn't exactly translate to breakfall...

I think that ukemi is more how you receive, in this case, attacks... the rest is how Chiappetta-san described it...

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Old 12-20-2006, 11:01 PM   #13
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Thumbs down Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote:
I've had to change my domain name over for various reasons. So if you're looking for the article, it's at http://aikidofnq.com/blog/?page_id=7

My apologies...
I like what you've written in your mushin blog...

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Old 12-21-2006, 05:22 PM   #14
eyrie
 
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Thanks for the kind words Thalib.

Quote:
I think that ukemi is more how you receive, in this case, attacks...
I would suggest that it is more WHAT is being received and HOW IT is manipulated rather than how to receive an attack. Let's be specific...

And WHO is "receiving"? Uke or Nage? Or Both?

Last edited by eyrie : 12-21-2006 at 05:37 PM.

Ignatius
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Old 12-21-2006, 06:09 PM   #15
Mark Freeman
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote:
I would suggest that it is more WHAT is being received and HOW IT is manipulated rather than how to receive an attack. Let's be specific...

And WHO is "receiving"? Uke or Nage? Or Both?
That's enough to give one a headache just considering it, I could almost agree with all three of those positions, however I'll have to think about this some more

How would you answer your own question Ignatius?

regards,

Mark

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Old 12-21-2006, 07:25 PM   #16
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Re: Personal Views on Ukemi

Hey Mark, I thought I did... see #10

Ignatius
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