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Old 12-07-2012, 12:54 PM   #1
mathewjgano
 
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Ukemi: pluses and minuses

I've heard from a couple different sources the idea that the "ukemi model" for teaching is a bad one because it teaches us to give away our center. My understanding is that "proper" ukemi demands uke try to be nage (i.e. tries not to just give it away, but to hold onto it, especially when in compromised situations); nage and uke are trying for the same thing (displacing the other person). I can see how simply going for the fall ("tanking") is counterproductive and potentially dangerous; I can see how just allowing nage to move you no matter what is also counterproductive...But isn't the "ukemi model" only half of the "nage/uke model?"
Despite being fairly new to Aikido, I quickly see a huge benefit to taking ukemi, but maybe once I get less new this will change.
So I have two basic ideas I'm hoping to get addressed here: I'm curious if a distinction could be made on what exactly is meant by the Ukemi Model? Also what are the pluses and minuses that you find come from your study/practice of ukemi?

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Old 12-07-2012, 03:05 PM   #2
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

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Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
I've heard from a couple different sources the idea that the "ukemi model" for teaching is a bad one because it teaches us to give away our center. My understanding is that "proper" ukemi demands uke try to be nage (i.e. tries not to just give it away, but to hold onto it, especially when in compromised situations); nage and uke are trying for the same thing (displacing the other person). I can see how simply going for the fall ("tanking") is counterproductive and potentially dangerous; I can see how just allowing nage to move you no matter what is also counterproductive...But isn't the "ukemi model" only half of the "nage/uke model?"
Despite being fairly new to Aikido, I quickly see a huge benefit to taking ukemi, but maybe once I get less new this will change.
So I have two basic ideas I'm hoping to get addressed here: I'm curious if a distinction could be made on what exactly is meant by the Ukemi Model? Also what are the pluses and minuses that you find come from your study/practice of ukemi?
Well the use of such an all encompassing phrase to describe one specific type of practice is a mistake. It's not the connection most people making when hearing the phrase and usually just irritates people. Nearly every time you see it used you end up seeing post after post where the person who used it has to go back and explain that it's intended to apply to that one type of practice. It should be flushed down the toilet.

There's nothing wrong with ukemi itself, it's the intent behind the practice that matters. As you said, are you trying to displace nage? Are you trying to upset their balance, control them in some way, stress them in some way? Ukemi should be what happens when you're doing that and they find a way to counter what you're doing, take your balance and/or control you. Doesn't matter if the practice is internal or external, same same.
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Old 12-07-2012, 03:22 PM   #3
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Being Uke, when done correctly teaches us to yield to forces greater then ourselves. Good Uke's, during something like jiyuwaza, don't give up their center, but they do give up their ground. You cannot stand your ground if something has more force then you do, but you can keep your center while giving up your ground. A centered Uke takes soft controlled falls, an Uke without center spats onto the mat in a loud thump.

Ukemi teaches us one half of Aikido, I know it's a cliche', but it is so for a reason.

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Old 12-07-2012, 05:12 PM   #4
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
Ukemi teaches us one half of Aikido, I know it's a cliche', but it is so for a reason.
Did Ueshiba Morihei ever teach ukemi? If "I" (as the generic student) have to "figure it out yourself" then how can my teacher take credit for my efforts?

I don't recall Masatoshi Morita or Shibata Ichiro ever teaching ukemi explicitly. Could be I was not paying close enough attention. Other instructors have explicitly taught ukemi but probably 1 part ukemi to 99 parts not ukemi ... guess I picked instructors that missed 50% of the art ... or at least deem me unworthy of such instruction.

I don't mean to poke Mr. Hein as a great number of folks hold this line of reasoning to be true as well - I'm perplexed by the logic. Although, I do like being perplexed as it makes me think.

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Old 12-07-2012, 05:40 PM   #5
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Thanks for the replies!
My only reason for mentioning the "Ukemi Model" is for making sure I understand what was meant. I could have asked via PM, but I thought it might be helpful to put it in a thread, particularly if we can use it as a springboard into discussing ukemi in general...I assume I'm not the only one who doesn't quite know the meaning and ukemi seems like something that would be good to periodically re-evaluate. We're approaching the end of the year so I'm trying to revisit certain ideas (am also about to read my own blog and shake my head at myself). The phrase suggests an ukemi-heavy approach, compared with a more balanced "uke-nage" approach (for lack of a better description). I don't think it needs to be flushed as long as we can pin down what's meant. I trust there is a good point being made.
My understanding of ukemi is that it is simply how we receive (i.e. act according to) the incoming force. How we hold ourselves determines how our body is affected as well as our options through the interaction, and this is where my mind goes when I think of ukemi. I never got the impression that ukemi was considered bad, in and of itself, but I did get the impression that it was suggested perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on ukemi (i.e. receiving more than giving) and that this will generally cause people to give up their structure as a matter of habit. If all we ever did was take ukemi, I can see how that might be, but since we don't, I'm uncertain how to interpret the idea.
I latched on to the ukemi side of things long before the nage side. I suspect it was because it was easier to be moved, than to move my partners. I grew up being used as WWF (not the World Wildlife Fund) fodder by my friends so it felt far more familiar to me. However, I can see how this preference could have kept me from really focusing on how to generate the capacity to throw well, too.
Gotta let the kids enjoy the last few minutes of daylight; ciao for now.

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Old 12-07-2012, 05:42 PM   #6
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Quote:
Did Ueshiba Morihei ever teach ukemi? If "I" (as the generic student) have to "figure it out yourself" then how can my teacher take credit for my efforts?
I'm not sure that's an argument one way or another. A huge percentage of the things I've learned so far in aikido, whether as uke OR as nage, have been learned more through interaction than through explicit instruction or 'lessons'. Particularly if I train with someone senior to me, I inevitably learn all kinds of things whether they're 'teaching' me or not. I'm finding this to be more and more the case lately.
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Old 12-07-2012, 05:43 PM   #7
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

The logic is simple, do it, feel it, learn from it.

Teachers can (but don't have to) give pointers and tips as to how one can safely fall to the ground. But you still have to fall to the ground safely all by yourself. I'm not sure why anyone needs any credit for this at all, learning to not be overtaken by great force, by yielding is a reward unto itself.

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Old 12-08-2012, 12:23 AM   #8
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

I think this confusion about ukemi goes to the heart of so much trouble in the aikido community. Anyone in a koryu or other budo that keeps close the kata teaching model probably shakes their head in disbelief over this type of confusion. In the budo kata model, the uke side is the teaching/senior side, the side with greater experience. So the senior is almost always allowing the technique to function and guiding the interaction toward the ideal set forth in the kata. Does anyone think that armed with greater experience, ability and foreknowledge the uke is doing anything else? The senior knows the kata, is feeling for the application of correct principles and movement, and is providing the appropriate and safe ukemi for the benefit of the student who is trying to perfect the same. Whenever Daito ryu or Aikido abandoned that model of kata (or claimed there were no kata) and reversed the roles, I think the seeds of confusion were sown. It seems to me that aikido practitioners spend altogether too much time agonizing over the distraction of effectiveness because they've spent all their time trying to make "techniques" work in an unrealistic antagonistic environment instead of taking the time to learn the kata in the first place. As for evidence of that, you'll probably never hear a fellow aikido practitioner say, "The kata for shihonage goes like this." and get general agreement. Rather what you hear is, "X sensei teaches shihonage like this, but Y sensei says it goes like this." Or worse still: throw, throw, throw, "Dozo."

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Old 12-08-2012, 09:47 AM   #9
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Ukemi is important so you don't get hurt. It is your way of protecting yourself in case your partner is not trying to protect you. If you work with a senior partner, then there is no escape from the technique. You need ukemi. If you work with a junior partner who might do something wrong then you have to protect yourself. You need ukemi.

I am cross training in an aiki jujitsu style. In this style they bail out of the technique. They don't let nage complete it for the pain and danger is too great. You need ukemi.
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:57 AM   #10
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
I think this confusion about ukemi goes to the heart of so much trouble in the aikido community. Anyone in a koryu or other budo that keeps close the kata teaching model probably shakes their head in disbelief over this type of confusion. In the budo kata model, the uke side is the teaching/senior side, the side with greater experience. So the senior is almost always allowing the technique to function and guiding the interaction toward the ideal set forth in the kata. Does anyone think that armed with greater experience, ability and foreknowledge the uke is doing anything else? The senior knows the kata, is feeling for the application of correct principles and movement, and is providing the appropriate and safe ukemi for the benefit of the student who is trying to perfect the same. Whenever Daito ryu or Aikido abandoned that model of kata (or claimed there were no kata) and reversed the roles, I think the seeds of confusion were sown. It seems to me that aikido practitioners spend altogether too much time agonizing over the distraction of effectiveness because they've spent all their time trying to make "techniques" work in an unrealistic antagonistic environment instead of taking the time to learn the kata in the first place. As for evidence of that, you'll probably never hear a fellow aikido practitioner say, "The kata for shihonage goes like this." and get general agreement. Rather what you hear is, "X sensei teaches shihonage like this, but Y sensei says it goes like this." Or worse still: throw, throw, throw, "Dozo."
This is very nice!

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Old 12-09-2012, 02:28 PM   #11
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Thank you, Doug!
Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
I think this confusion about ukemi goes to the heart of so much trouble in the aikido community. Anyone in a koryu or other budo that keeps close the kata teaching model probably shakes their head in disbelief over this type of confusion. In the budo kata model, the uke side is the teaching/senior side, the side with greater experience. So the senior is almost always allowing the technique to function and guiding the interaction toward the ideal set forth in the kata. Does anyone think that armed with greater experience, ability and foreknowledge the uke is doing anything else? The senior knows the kata, is feeling for the application of correct principles and movement, and is providing the appropriate and safe ukemi for the benefit of the student who is trying to perfect the same. Whenever Daito ryu or Aikido abandoned that model of kata (or claimed there were no kata) and reversed the roles, I think the seeds of confusion were sown. It seems to me that aikido practitioners spend altogether too much time agonizing over the distraction of effectiveness because they've spent all their time trying to make "techniques" work in an unrealistic antagonistic environment instead of taking the time to learn the kata in the first place. As for evidence of that, you'll probably never hear a fellow aikido practitioner say, "The kata for shihonage goes like this." and get general agreement. Rather what you hear is, "X sensei teaches shihonage like this, but Y sensei says it goes like this." Or worse still: throw, throw, throw, "Dozo."
So in having a senior student attacking, we better learn how to handle the attack because the senior student can feel the openings generated from the student and provide real-time feedback to correct them...pointing out, essentially, the "why's" behind the form/waza?
But shouldn't the other side of the equation be just as important for learning how to move? Sure it doesn't teach that technique (whatever it may be), but the principles involved should be the same, shouldn't they?
I get that the traditional model places an emphasis on sempai being uke, and from the standpoint of learning waza/form itself that makes sense to me. However, since kohai and sempai often trade roles back and forth a few times each, I don't see how that necessarily makes the difference. So I guess I don't yet see the problem as having to do with which role the senior student is in quite so much as with how forthcoming the feedback is...which is based on the senior student's ability to perceive and articulate the specific issues as they arise.
So then, is it accurate to say the "Ukemi Model" would be a situation where the senior student more or less just throws/pins/etc. the newer student around to demonstrate a form/waza and then doesn't provide much if any feedback (saying instead, "just keep trying")?

...I'm not seeing much distinction between nage and uke except that whoever uke is, they need to make sure they only try hard enough to give nage something to work with, but both need to provide feedback as much as possible; and the quality of that interaction is what makes the difference more than who's in which role. Thoughts? ...er...feedback?

Last edited by mathewjgano : 12-09-2012 at 02:40 PM.

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Old 12-09-2012, 03:10 PM   #12
Ellis Amdur
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

If for no other reason, that Takeda Sokaku, followed by all of his successors, reversed the general koryu bugei arrangement of uke and tori, establishes that they were doing something different. What was that difference?

Oh, by the way, before I go any further, teachers rarely teach ukemi. That's the job of sempai. It's clear from the pre-war Ueshiba film that someone taught the students ukemi, as they are following classic form, and, unlike judo, Ueshiba is not throwing in such a way that, if you relax, you'll end up in that configuration. It takes some skill.

1. No way would Takeda allow anyone to put him in a vulnerable position! He wouldn't even take food, untasted, from students, stabbed his own child when the little boy puts a blanket on him while he was asleep - it would just not happen.
2. Aside from that, the principle that the early teachers were presenting - DR/aikibudo - was of people of superhuman strength and ability. (See upcoming TIE of Goldsbury, where Ueshiba asserts to Hashimoto Kingoro that one of his trained students was the equal of any ten ordinary people).
3. So the early model was that, through aiki - whatever you want to regard it - the skilled person was undefeatable. One learned by feeling what the teacher did to you and tried to replicate it (or, if lucky, got actual instruction in some explicit training methodology). (Part of that process, according to Sagawa Yukiyoshi (quoted in HIPS and paraphrased here) is that aiki is developed by taking a lot of hard ukemi).
4. An interesting quote from Andrew Smallcoombe - "It confirms some of the things Kobayashi Sensei used to talk about after early morning training - being the first to actually teach ukemi to beginners . . .
5. More Importantly:

Quote:
Nakayama: I was treated in the same way as the more experienced practitioners, since I was Kobayashi-san's younger sister. You could say that I learned ukemi naturally in order to avoid injury, or you could say that I was made to learn...
Kobayashi: Ukemi and those things were not taught, we would do suwari-waza, so you would naturally roll around from a low height. However, those you couldn't endure it would end up quitting.
Quote:
Kobayashi: His body was highly conditioned. Everybody flew when they were taking ukemi, but that was because if you didn't fall you would have been slammed down. That gradually changed to jumping, and just showing the form of falling... It wasn't like being thrown by a normal person, it felt as you were sinking into the tatami. From that sharpness things mellowed over the years and come to be expressed in Kata. We who were there take ukemi based upon our experiences from that time, but those who have only seen the later form don't really understand. That in and of itself is a reason for the change.
(By the way, note that Ueshiba still "had" it through the 1950's, perhaps the early 1960's, because that's when Kobayashi was an uchi-deshi).


And from the THIRD interview

Quote:
Moderator: In the practices before he passed away, did it still feel as if you were sinking into the tatami when your were thrown?

Kobayashi: At that time he had entered into the realm of Kata, we had experienced the changes up to that time, so it was okay, but it was a problem for people who only imitate that period.
And from the FIRST interview:
Quote:
Kobayashi: It was exactly the same, the same, but joint techniques, techniques that twisted and strengthened the joints, were the most common. To my recollection, techniques like Kokyu-nage were only done after we started giving demonstrations. ](note: this probably relates to Ueshiba's concept of using joint techniques to soften the body, which he called kasu-dori - without the "softness," the higher level techniques were, if I'm correct in my inference, regarded as impossible to learn
Since it would be just unbearable to watch everyone do Ikkyo or Nikyo (in a demonstration) they created techniques that could be done with a single movement. So, if you did those techniques in front of Ueshiba O-Sensei you would be scolded. He'd say things like - it's just impossible to throw anybody that way.
Moderator: Did O-Sensei use those kinds of techniques?     
Kobayashi: He would do techniques that were similar to Irimi-nage, but we were just imitating those things for the demonstrations. So if we did those things during training we would be scolded.
There's a smoking gun. The problem is not ukemi. The problem is that many believe that uke "takes falls" to create the form - the kata, as opposed to really, genuinely, unavoidably throwing the individual.

Hopefully saving how that is done for another venue, there is no doubt that Kobayashi, on the cusp of the transition of Osensei's technique (which, it appears, happened in the late 50's or early 60's, NOT pre-war - note that Shirata Rinjiro stated that Ueshiba as at his peak during his Iwama years) - - - -observes a change in how ukemi was done - and techniques executed.
Ellis Amdur

Last edited by Ellis Amdur : 12-09-2012 at 03:19 PM.

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Old 12-12-2012, 01:15 PM   #13
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Just one more for the "interesting quote" category. K. Asai, a contemporary of Kobayashi, related his first experiences in aikido, and said that his first lesson basically consisted of grabbing a senior's wrist (I believe the wrist belonged to Arikawa) and being thrown into the mat with a powerful iriminage.

I also recall an interview in the old Fighting Arts International with Chiba Sensei, who said that he already knew the breakfalls from his judo training. Maybe this is what he was implying - students weren't taught ukemi, they learned it as a survival method.

One more point - I believe the elder Ueshiba initially only accepted people with a martial arts background as students. Remember that even kendo had a footsweeps and iriminage-type throws, so in all likelihood all of the early students already had some experience in ukemi.

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Old 12-12-2012, 03:28 PM   #14
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Here are a couple of points that I use for modeling my ukemi:
1. Ukemi practice is not for class. Sure, we spend some time to warm up the body, but instructional ukemi is either something the sempai do, or students do outside class.
2. Suwari waza is important for beginning rolling and becoming used to being on the ground. Tachi waza (as in standing techniques) is important for learning to receive technique and understand rolling is preservative, not consequential.

Honesty is important. I do not care if my partner knows what I am doing. In fact, she should know I am doing something. Its crazy that we'll dictate how our uke can attack, but then ask them to pretend to not know what we are [going to] do to them. Nah. If I am controlling my partner correctly, it doesn't matter. If my partner is anticiapting the fall for me then I have to do the technique that creates that fall...because he is doing it. This is why uke has so much control over nage as a senior, she can actually lead the technique.

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Old 12-13-2012, 01:09 PM   #15
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

My current primary instuctor requests that we take ukemi in a certain way, which foot we move first and how we should step, in order to allow tori to use more power and movement in a technique.

Warning: Do not bend, fold or otherwise abuse... until we get to the dojo..


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Old 12-13-2012, 02:38 PM   #16
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

my approach to ukemi is to prevent harms done to you by nage/tori and look for opportunity to reverse or to let nage/tori knows that he/she/it is vulnerable. it's a two-way conversation. at the high-end, it would end up look like taiji push-hand but with an aikido flavor.

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Old 12-13-2012, 05:36 PM   #17
Janet Rosen
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
it's a two-way conversation. at the high-end, it would end up look like taiji push-hand but with an aikido flavor.
My concept and goal also.

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Old 12-14-2012, 02:24 PM   #18
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Re: Ukemi: pluses and minuses

Yes. The Prince of Darkness was using someone from our dojo as uke at our recent seminar. He had engaged with the guy and then paused to make some point, when he suddenly turned to Sensei and said, approximately, "Not only are you a budo jerk, you're raising budo jerks. As soon as he senses an opening, he's all over me." Which is the point. You don't bail just because you're uke.

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