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Old 09-25-2009, 02:16 PM   #1
Maarten De Queecker
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Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

I have been observing aikidoka lately and noted that, when they are uke, they often have one arm hanging limb when attacking or when following a technique. I have always found this very strange.

I always keep my other hand on an appropriate height, so I can deflect atemi, or take over when the technique isn't performed well. It's a reflex, but something that seems to bother some people since I plainly grab their hand when they try to give an atemi to the face that doesn't come fast enough. In other cases the atemi is deflected and this ends up confusing tori.

I have been told that I'm not attacking right, that I should not be deflecting (or even having my hand at that height), but on the other hand, isn't it rather silly to completely commit to an attack without at least protecting yourself to some degree?
One of the more reasonable explanations I have been given is that you still can block kicks to the groin if your hand is low.

I like to see uke's role as more than just an attacker. In my view the uke-role serves as a means to learn to take the initiative, should you ever be confronted with an aggressor. Once you know what kind of reaction a certain attack can trigger, you can anticipate and control the confrontation. Deflection is, in my humble opinion, a part of it.

Tsuki, shomen-uchi etc. are all moves we use as atemi when we are tori, meaning that if your attacks are sloppy, your atemi probably will be too, resulting in sloppy techniques in general. At least, that's my own personal experience.

Any opinions on this?
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Old 09-25-2009, 02:40 PM   #2
Marc Abrams
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Quote:
Maarten De Queecker wrote: View Post
I have been observing aikidoka lately and noted that, when they are uke, they often have one arm hanging limb when attacking or when following a technique. I have always found this very strange.

I always keep my other hand on an appropriate height, so I can deflect atemi, or take over when the technique isn't performed well. It's a reflex, but something that seems to bother some people since I plainly grab their hand when they try to give an atemi to the face that doesn't come fast enough. In other cases the atemi is deflected and this ends up confusing tori.

I have been told that I'm not attacking right, that I should not be deflecting (or even having my hand at that height), but on the other hand, isn't it rather silly to completely commit to an attack without at least protecting yourself to some degree?
One of the more reasonable explanations I have been given is that you still can block kicks to the groin if your hand is low.

I like to see uke's role as more than just an attacker. In my view the uke-role serves as a means to learn to take the initiative, should you ever be confronted with an aggressor. Once you know what kind of reaction a certain attack can trigger, you can anticipate and control the confrontation. Deflection is, in my humble opinion, a part of it.

Tsuki, shomen-uchi etc. are all moves we use as atemi when we are tori, meaning that if your attacks are sloppy, your atemi probably will be too, resulting in sloppy techniques in general. At least, that's my own personal experience.

Any opinions on this?
Maarten:

To me, you are doing the proper thing. Always protect yourself. When people ask you to attack like some character from the movie "The Night of The Living Dead", just smile and keep on trucking !

Marc Abrams

Last edited by Marc Abrams : 09-25-2009 at 02:40 PM. Reason: edit
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Old 09-25-2009, 02:58 PM   #3
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Maarten, I'm with you on this one. The "other" hand up and on guard, ready for a follow up if tori screws his technique.
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Old 09-25-2009, 03:45 PM   #4
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Quote:
Maarten De Queecker wrote: View Post
I have been told that I'm not attacking right, that I should not be deflecting (or even having my hand at that height), but on the other hand, isn't it rather silly to completely commit to an attack without at least protecting yourself to some degree?
I'd agree you're doing the right thing, unless you're messing with uke's training.I mean, you should be able to block the atemi of everyone with less skill than you. So beware of the thin line between self-protection and shutting tori's technique down.

Quote:
One of the more reasonable explanations I have been given is that you still can block kicks to the groin if your hand is low.
Classic win-win situation for tori: hand high, kick to the groin; hand low, punch to the face! So the person explaining preferred being punched in the face over being kicked in the groin?
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Old 09-25-2009, 04:08 PM   #5
Maarten De Queecker
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

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Joep Schuurkes wrote: View Post
I'd agree you're doing the right thing, unless you're messing with uke's training.I mean, you should be able to block the atemi of everyone with less skill than you. So beware of the thin line between self-protection and shutting tori's technique down.

Classic win-win situation for tori: hand high, kick to the groin; hand low, punch to the face! So the person explaining preferred being punched in the face over being kicked in the groin?
Since he was a man: yes, most definately.

@ M. Abrams: it's not that bad. I don't have to attack like a zombie but I have noticed that keeping that one hand up can confuse tori to the point of rendering him unable to execute the technique properly. Most people just don't seem to expect a hand showing up there, blocking or deflecting the atemi before it reaches the point it should reach. I just have the reflex to block anything that comes near my face. Ironically, this gives tori an extra arm or wrist with which he can do a plethora of things.

Last edited by Maarten De Queecker : 09-25-2009 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 09-25-2009, 04:42 PM   #6
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Quote:
Maarten De Queecker wrote: View Post
I have been observing aikidoka lately and noted that, when they are uke, they often have one arm hanging limb when attacking or when following a technique. I have always found this very strange.

I always keep my other hand on an appropriate height, so I can deflect atemi, or take over when the technique isn't performed well. It's a reflex, but something that seems to bother some people since I plainly grab their hand when they try to give an atemi to the face that doesn't come fast enough. In other cases the atemi is deflected and this ends up confusing tori.

I have been told that I'm not attacking right, that I should not be deflecting (or even having my hand at that height), but on the other hand, isn't it rather silly to completely commit to an attack without at least protecting yourself to some degree?
One of the more reasonable explanations I have been given is that you still can block kicks to the groin if your hand is low.

I like to see uke's role as more than just an attacker. In my view the uke-role serves as a means to learn to take the initiative, should you ever be confronted with an aggressor. Once you know what kind of reaction a certain attack can trigger, you can anticipate and control the confrontation. Deflection is, in my humble opinion, a part of it.

Tsuki, shomen-uchi etc. are all moves we use as atemi when we are tori, meaning that if your attacks are sloppy, your atemi probably will be too, resulting in sloppy techniques in general. At least, that's my own personal experience.

Any opinions on this?
Sounds ok to me.
Jorge

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 09-25-2009, 05:05 PM   #7
tim evans
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

We are told as uke to atack intently and if nage throws a atemi we better block or your getting hit.I also found this out the other night on ushiro tebukitori kotegaeshi when you grab from behind you better put your head agaist nage,s back or you will get headbutted like I did lovingly ofcourse.
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Old 09-25-2009, 06:15 PM   #8
Rob Watson
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Ukemi is for me always just on the edge of executing a reversal. Easy to do this way with seniors whos technique is quite solid but with juniors it is hard becasue sometimes their technique falls apart too easily - modulate your efforts to maintain just on the edge (or maybe slightly less for juniors).

Usually the ones complaining about efforts to protect oneself (like the instinct you mentioned) are looking for a cheap shot to 'fix' funky technique (or so has been my experience).

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

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Old 09-25-2009, 10:00 PM   #9
Janet Rosen
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Seems to me that both body mechanics and energy would demand that both sides of the body are always in play - nage and uke both.
Having said that, I would not purposely do a block that would confound a beginning nage and am sensitive to the difference between kata based training and actively following up on openings I may see.

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Old 09-25-2009, 11:09 PM   #10
Abasan
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Tori's never going to learn anything with a 1-hand zombie uke. Use the other hand but don't get stuck on it.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 09-25-2009, 11:49 PM   #11
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Sad to see that kind of stuff in some Aikido practices.

I can remember Masa Tazaki Sensei yelling at both Uke and Nage, "What you stupid!?!!? Karateka all fight one handed!?!?! Boxer all fight one handed!!??!! Your Sister fight you one handed!!!??! When one hand connected, OTHER HAND COMING!!!"

William Hazen
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Old 09-26-2009, 01:20 AM   #12
Nafis Zahir
 
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

I wouldn't grab the nage's hand, but other than that, there is nothing wrong with what you have said. I always protect myself, even though most of the time there is no atemi being thrown.

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Old 09-27-2009, 05:09 AM   #13
seank
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

I remember being told once that I shouldn't block with my free hand because I couldn't "realistically get my hand up in time" and that as such was undermining the training.

Funnily enough the instructor didn't have an answer as to why we'd learnt to cover your face and torso whilst punching or kicking in Kyokushin.

The same person ended up on their knees with an elbow inches from flattening their nose across their face when they really tried to perform their atemi.

As others have said, always protect yourself.

From an Aikido perspective, you always follow one hand with the other so that you can change technique mid-stride, so why not do the same thing as uke?
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Old 09-27-2009, 08:54 AM   #14
jimbaker
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Yes, your other hand should be available and you should use it,, depending on the abilities of nage. I feel a beginner needs to feel a technique as one long movement and a higher ranked uke can help them by not disrupting that flow.

That being said, when I'm being uke for an advanced student, I am usually holding a tonto in my free hand. If I can cut them with my free hand, they adjust their technique until they are no longer dead.

JIM

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Old 09-27-2009, 01:06 PM   #15
Ketsan
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Quote:
Maarten De Queecker wrote: View Post
I have been observing aikidoka lately and noted that, when they are uke, they often have one arm hanging limb when attacking or when following a technique. I have always found this very strange.

I always keep my other hand on an appropriate height, so I can deflect atemi, or take over when the technique isn't performed well. It's a reflex, but something that seems to bother some people since I plainly grab their hand when they try to give an atemi to the face that doesn't come fast enough. In other cases the atemi is deflected and this ends up confusing tori.

I have been told that I'm not attacking right, that I should not be deflecting (or even having my hand at that height), but on the other hand, isn't it rather silly to completely commit to an attack without at least protecting yourself to some degree?
One of the more reasonable explanations I have been given is that you still can block kicks to the groin if your hand is low.

I like to see uke's role as more than just an attacker. In my view the uke-role serves as a means to learn to take the initiative, should you ever be confronted with an aggressor. Once you know what kind of reaction a certain attack can trigger, you can anticipate and control the confrontation. Deflection is, in my humble opinion, a part of it.

Tsuki, shomen-uchi etc. are all moves we use as atemi when we are tori, meaning that if your attacks are sloppy, your atemi probably will be too, resulting in sloppy techniques in general. At least, that's my own personal experience.

Any opinions on this?
Amen.
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Old 09-27-2009, 05:55 PM   #16
Maarten De Queecker
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

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Tim Evans wrote: View Post
We are told as uke to atack intently and if nage throws a atemi we better block or your getting hit.I also found this out the other night on ushiro tebukitori kotegaeshi when you grab from behind you better put your head agaist nage,s back or you will get headbutted like I did lovingly ofcourse.
About "blocking or getting hit": I have noticed that some aikidoka have such an enormous trust in tori that they don't move their heads (or don't even blink) when an atemi comes. They just stand there, knowing the atemi won't connect. This happens mostly in concert with the "lame arm syndrome"

I don't know if anyone else here experienced this, but I find it rather dangerous, since you effectively teach your body not to react when you are about to be hit by something. By doing that, you're actually actively dulling or downright disabling reflexes that might save your life. Never trust anything that comes with a certain speed towards your face. I've learnt this the hard way by playing basketball, and getting hit by a lot of them because I failed to catch a pass.

I've only been training for two years (just started my third) but I've visited some different dojos in the area and what struck me most is that the role of uke is often reduced to someone who attacks with a single strike or grab and makes a nice, elegant forward or backward role, if all goes well. I've never heard a teacher say "you had better block this or it will hurt" to uke. I don't know whether this is a result of the typical "one hit, one kill" mentality in Japanese martial arts, but it seems that uke is assumed done for whenever tori initiates his or her technique.

As you have probably noticed already, I'm an advocate of training with some degree of active resistance (depending on the level of your partner, of course). Not because it's fun to be able to break tori's technique, but to learn, as uke, how to keep yourself safe in this or that sitution, and as tori, to see what works and what doesn't in terms of timing, distance and positioning. Uke should not, of course, completely block tori's technique, often for uke's own sake. I once trained with someone who blocked irimi nage done on shomen-uchi. He just stood there, I was unable to move him (he was a lot taller than I am). He said that I was doing it wrong, that I didn't put him out of balance enough. I didn't say it out loud but I thought: "boy, are you wrong". I was standing behind him. I had every single possibility of rear-choking him, hitting him in his neck, punching his kidneys, grabbing his windpipe etc. None of that is really aikido, but all of them are very dangerous possibilities. He also stood there with no real intent to attack me anymore, meaning that there was no conflict. We were in harmony. If he doesn't want to attack me, that's fine. We can just both calmly walk away, or have a beer together (I prefer the latter ). Now imagine that I did have some bad intentions, that I did want to hurt him. It would have been in his own interest that he kept moving, or doing something because you never want to have an attacker attacking you from behind.

To me, the role of uke is incredibly important. You can make any master look like a beginner by purposefully breaking the technique, and you can make any beginner look like a master by being too compliant.
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Old 09-27-2009, 11:25 PM   #17
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Quote:
William Hazen wrote: View Post
Sad to see that kind of stuff in some Aikido practices.

I can remember Masa Tazaki Sensei yelling at both Uke and Nage, "What you stupid!?!!? Karateka all fight one handed!?!?! Boxer all fight one handed!!??!! Your Sister fight you one handed!!!??! When one hand connected, OTHER HAND COMING!!!"

William Hazen
LOL I want to print this out and show it to everyone in my dojo.

Honestly it's so frustrating! I often get a situation like this:

Uke attacks me yokomenuchi (moving slowly). I move out of the way and deliver an atemi to his face - and he doesn't even bother to deflect or even move his head away. My solution? I make sure my atemi really reaches him, really touches and rocks his head. You'd think that would be enough to elicit a more realistic response. But no! My hand or sometimes my fist is right smack in uke's face and he's just standing there waiting for my throw/pin! Arrrrrrggghhh!

So what do I do? Sometimes, I will ask the uke to attack full speed and really try to hit me. After some reluctance the uke launches a fast yokomenuchi, and I counter with an equally fast atemi. FINALLY! I get the reaction I want.

Other times, I explain to my partner: I want you to attack me in a way that, if I don't do anything, I WILL get hit - I will do the same to you whether I'm attacking as uke or countering as nage. If you don't block, my fist is going to meet your face. This works when we're going pretty fast. But when we slow it down, it's like my partner's guard also drops. My fist again connects and I have to remind my partner about protecting himself. *sigh*

The good news is, I think most of my dojo mates have already figured out that I almost always enter with an atemi regardless of the technique we are practicing. So at least they are starting to be more careful every time they practice with me. And when they forget: a soft atemi to the face followed by me chuckling as I correct them is usually a good reminder.

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Old 09-27-2009, 11:37 PM   #18
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

YES! This is exactly what I was talking about. They tend to be complacent because we practice slowly and we don't really want to hurt each other.
Quote:
Maarten De Queecker wrote: View Post
About "blocking or getting hit": I have noticed that some aikidoka have such an enormous trust in tori that they don't move their heads (or don't even blink) when an atemi comes. They just stand there, knowing the atemi won't connect. This happens mostly in concert with the "lame arm syndrome"

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Old 09-28-2009, 04:30 AM   #19
jss
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

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Maarten De Queecker wrote: View Post
About "blocking or getting hit": I have noticed that some aikidoka have such an enormous trust in tori that they don't move their heads (or don't even blink) when an atemi comes. They just stand there, knowing the atemi won't connect.
My default response to that was: "You want to react to this atemi. Either block it or move your head." If they kept just standing there, I'd offer them to hit for real to illustrate my point. That always worked, never had to hit anyone.

Quote:
I was standing behind him. I had every single possibility of rear-choking him, hitting him in his neck, punching his kidneys, grabbing his windpipe etc. None of that is really aikido, but all of them are very dangerous possibilities. He also stood there with no real intent to attack me anymore, meaning that there was no conflict. We were in harmony.
Well said. I agree completely on both accounts: being in a position to do real damage and not having to do anything, because there is no attack.
Good ukes are hard to come by. The problem with good ukes is of course they make the teacher work instead of look good...

Last edited by jss : 09-28-2009 at 04:38 AM.
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Old 09-28-2009, 09:20 AM   #20
John Matsushima
 
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

I think the best uke's are the untrained ones. The new people that come to the dojo and may or may not know how to punch, fall, roll, or defend themselves, but just do whatever they can in a very natural manner. Putting too much weight on how the uke SHOULD act and even providing training to this effect leads to our aikido becoming artificial.

In my opinion, a lot of people who put a lot of weight on deflection have got in wrong too. Merely putting your hand in front of your face doesn't work. If you are faced with an uke like this, just give a good snapping punch to his hand and watch him hit his own face with his own hand; you'll get a reaction for sure.

Some people say "the harder uke attacks, then the harder he will be thrown". This is wrong. It's this idea that leads to people being too soft in the dojo to avoid injury. Why would an uke want to attack hard with resistance if he is just going to be blamed if he sustains injury as a result of his own attack. What a lot of people here seem to be saying is that as uke, one then learns how to defend oneself while attacking. So then as uke defends against tori's technique, tori then must give a counter attack to uke's counter defense, and it keeps going and becomes... a fight, which is what we should be trying to avoid.
I think that if you are good at what you do, then you should be able to control the technique. If you believe in the idea of not hurting your attacker, then you should be able to perform your technique at full speed then without causing injury. As uke, I think its fine to do anything you want, but uke should also be able to control his attack so that it does not cause injury, and that it is not excessively aggressive. But this is not for beginners. You have learn your abc's before you start making poetry. As tori, if you have to think at all about what you are doing, then you aren't ready for resistance. Then when you are ready, and uke comes for you.....no excuses.

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Old 09-28-2009, 10:37 AM   #21
Maarten De Queecker
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Quote:
John Matsushima wrote: View Post
I think the best uke's are the untrained ones. The new people that come to the dojo and may or may not know how to punch, fall, roll, or defend themselves, but just do whatever they can in a very natural manner. Putting too much weight on how the uke SHOULD act and even providing training to this effect leads to our aikido becoming artificial.
I don't fully agree with this. In my experience, most beginners -especially those without a background in other martial arts- tend to be really unsure of what to do, attacking with a lot of reluctance because they are yet to develop their ukemi skills.

It's not so much telling uke how he/she should react, but rather teaching him the safest way to react on the technique performed by tori. For instance, one can completely negate Ikkyo by turning one's back to tori -which seems to be the natural reaction-, but that leaves one open to some nasty attacks from behind, which isn't good either.
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Old 09-28-2009, 11:26 AM   #22
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

Quote:
Maarten De Queecker wrote: View Post
I don't fully agree with this. In my experience, most beginners -especially those without a background in other martial arts- tend to be really unsure of what to do, attacking with a lot of reluctance because they are yet to develop their ukemi skills.

It's not so much telling uke how he/she should react, but rather teaching him the safest way to react on the technique performed by tori. For instance, one can completely negate Ikkyo by turning one's back to tori -which seems to be the natural reaction-, but that leaves one open to some nasty attacks from behind, which isn't good either.
I agree...I think it's critical to develop Martial Intent in those beginners without a Martial Arts background... Especially Ukemi... Most valid criticism about Aikido is along these lines actually. You have folks coming in and never learning how to punch or kick or attack with any Martial Intent. After a few months of practice they still have no idea that Aikido is a Martial Art but just a kind of dance because no one is instilling Martial Intent (Some folks call it aliveness) into their practice.

It was something Shoji Nishio Shihan highly emphasized in practice...Heck when I went to Aikido Seminars folks would not train with me from other Dojo's because they thought I was "mean" they had no idea I was doing them a favor by showing them "Martial Ukemi" LOL If your Ukemi sucks you will never progress in Aikido and you're just wasting your time.

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Old 09-28-2009, 11:39 AM   #23
Basia Halliop
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

One thing I noticed once that is interesting (although I don't know if it's good) is that some of my reflexes occasionally almost seem to vary depending who I'm training with. I.e., once at a seminar a more senior student in a line mentioned to me that I might want to block in such and such a way when I'm uke for kaitennage.

And I realized that if I had been training with ____ from my dojo, it would have been a reflex to block there without being reminded or without really thinking of it -- probably because this person actually takes advantage of atemi possibilities and because his atemis actually connect (maybe not hard enough to injure, and certainly not hard with total beginners who haven't yet learned the block, but if you ought to know better, he hits enough you don't want to get too sloppy with your blocks). When I train with that person, I notice that I immediately tend to get more alert.

So I guess I have to try to have a mindset like I'm training with that guy, regardless of who it actually is.

Last edited by Basia Halliop : 09-28-2009 at 11:43 AM.
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Old 09-28-2009, 12:18 PM   #24
Anjisan
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Wink Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

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Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Seems to me that both body mechanics and energy would demand that both sides of the body are always in play - nage and uke both.
Having said that, I would not purposely do a block that would confound a beginning nage and am sensitive to the difference between kata based training and actively following up on openings I may see.
I feel the same way in terms of not wanting to confuse a beginning student. However, it also seems that good (and bad) habits are engrained early in one's training. I am concerned that while kata based training may be helpful in laying the framework for beginners, that many individuals as they progress in their training cannot breakout of that kata thought process. Consequently, I have all to often seen more senior students with their other hand down essentially asking to be punched with Uke's OTHER hand.

So often I see Aikidoka responding to an "aikido" attack not realizing all the other weapons (ie. knees, elbows, headbutts, kicks, ect) that they are open to by Uke, but ignore because the kata training has not addressed it. Those of us who have studied kicking/punching/ striking arts can usually see clearly all of these other very dangerous possibilities.

In my dojo those of us who have studied such arts attempt to work that aspect into the training where appropriate. However, at seminars it quickly becomes clear those who haven't been exposed or who would rather have blinders on and pretend as if I don't acknowledge it, the danger isn't there.
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Old 09-28-2009, 12:24 PM   #25
John Matsushima
 
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Re: Uke, the other hand, atemi, deflection and the role of uke

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William Hazen wrote: View Post
I agree...I think it's critical to develop Martial Intent in those beginners without a Martial Arts background... Especially Ukemi... Most valid criticism about Aikido is along these lines actually. You have folks coming in and never learning how to punch or kick or attack with any Martial Intent. After a few months of practice they still have no idea that Aikido is a Martial Art but just a kind of dance because no one is instilling Martial Intent (Some folks call it aliveness) into their practice.
I agree that martial intent is important, but technique is not required for that. Just slap uke a couple of times in the face whenever his punch misses you and you'll get intent without having to say a word. Or, you could just stand there and wait as nage for uke to do something that deserves a reaction. I do this sometimes when in irimi nage, uke stays bent over and doesn't move. I'll either just stand there and wait for him to do something, ANYTHING, or give him a little love tap to the ribs till he gets the point.

Even if someone has never had martial training, everyone can punch and kick. The point I'm trying to make is that when you train people how to do this, how to attack, how to react, then you take away the "living" part of the interaction, and make it automated. You then train yourself to deal only with these specific types of attacks. But the variations in attacks vary from person to person, and our art must be equally alive and changing.

-John Matsushima

My blog on Japanese culture
http://onecorneroftheplanetinjapan.blogspot.jp/
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