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Old 12-01-2013, 07:06 PM   #1
Amassus
 
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The uke/nage paradigm

Hello all

I have been thinking about compliant uke in aikido and why we seem to have a lot of cases where uke 'takes a fall' during training.

I practised aikido for nine years and then moved into a koryu. In classic budo, the uke/uchitachi is the senior partner and the person doing the technique is the junior. In this case it is uke's job to 'teach' nage by providing problems to solve in his or her technique. This does not mean being immovable or being completely compliant. It means making the technique just hard enough for nage.

This is where some aikido dojo go wrong IMHO. Uke becomes a ragdoll to be thrown around and the nage learns that is the way to do the technique. We then get aikidoka who move without a strong base or any decent connection with uke and think they are doing good technique.

I sometimes wonder that if we could go back to the originals roles of thrower and receiver, whether this would help?

Thoughts?

Dean.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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Old 12-01-2013, 07:22 PM   #2
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

Yes.
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Old 12-01-2013, 08:45 PM   #3
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

I think the essence here is the degree/quality of feedback a person receives. I'm no expert by any means, so please forgive any errors on my part, but I think when it comes to moving in general, it doesn't necessarily makes a big difference who is performing technique. I would guess the role of who is expressing the technique or receiving it makes more sense from the standpoint of learning the technique itself though. In other words, we can learn a lot about how to move well/potently without doing the technique itself...particularly if you have enough time to process the experience (relatively slower training), but in learning specific things, we have to be doing those specific things.

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Old 12-02-2013, 09:54 AM   #4
Janet Rosen
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

Quote:
Dean Suter wrote: View Post
I practised aikido for nine years and then moved into a koryu. In classic budo, the uke/uchitachi is the senior partner and the person doing the technique is the junior. In this case it is uke's job to 'teach' nage by providing problems to solve in his or her technique. This does not mean being immovable or being completely compliant. It means making the technique just hard enough for nage.
Yep. Eminently sensible.

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Old 12-02-2013, 10:53 AM   #5
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

I think old-skool aikido used the term "shite" and some style still do. If memory serves, the connotation of the term was one of designating a leadership role (leading/receiving, etc.). I think once you experience takemusu aikido, it becomes difficult to designate a static role in the paired relationship which causes all kinds of problems.

Kata requires a clear understanding of role. Uke, nage, whatever. In paired kata, I think it is acceptable to constrain each role to the kata. Cooperation, participation - whatever you call it everyone knows what's coming and where they're going. In koryu, uke is often the senior and inherits a leadership role in teaching the kata to a partner.

Waza is not kata. At some point we become skilled enough in kata that we can make it happen organically. Randori. Not screaming like a girl running around the mat randori (no offense, girls), but free-style engagement randori. I think we rarely train at this level. Statistically, if we did we should only be successful some of the time (unless we are really good) as our partner should confound us on occasion.

I am not sure if changing semantics will help resolve what I feel to be a source of the problem. I think the confusion comes in when we think we are doing waza, but we are really doing kata. I would focus instead on more strongly identifying kata practice distinct from randori and managing an expectation of success that encourages more activity from uke.

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Old 12-02-2013, 11:11 AM   #6
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
I think old-skool aikido used the term "shite" and some style still do. If memory serves, the connotation of the term was one of designating a leadership role (leading/receiving, etc.). I think once you experience takemusu aikido, it becomes difficult to designate a static role in the paired relationship which causes all kinds of problems.
Do you think the terminology shifted to reflect a new emphasis? I can see how the senior level of understanding as uke can really reinforce the ability to throw/etc. but if we're looking at the ability of uke to receive technique safely (a more defensive paradigm shift), I could see how the newer mode might make more sense. When I was first becoming familiar with ukemi, receiving from sensei just sort of made it happen in certain regards and seemed to clarify the experience of falling safely for me (it certainly took away the uncertainty-related fear of falling).
...not that the older model didn't include this, too, but again, I wonder about a possible shift in emphasis.

Last edited by mathewjgano : 12-02-2013 at 11:13 AM.

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Old 12-02-2013, 02:33 PM   #7
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

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Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Do you think the terminology shifted to reflect a new emphasis? I can see how the senior level of understanding as uke can really reinforce the ability to throw/etc. but if we're looking at the ability of uke to receive technique safely (a more defensive paradigm shift), I could see how the newer mode might make more sense. When I was first becoming familiar with ukemi, receiving from sensei just sort of made it happen in certain regards and seemed to clarify the experience of falling safely for me (it certainly took away the uncertainty-related fear of falling).
...not that the older model didn't include this, too, but again, I wonder about a possible shift in emphasis.
There are wayyy more qualified people with actual history on this shift that can chime in on the other thread you started. In my opinion, the shift was largely due to trying make aikido palatable and to simplify the relationship for the masses. In Budo Renshu, the text largely referred to Shite as instigating the technique. When I work out with good seniors, I find they often "release" me to attack (i.e., present an opening that induces me to engage them). So in this sense, even as uke I am not initiating the exchange.

I have heard several competing theories on this subject, all of them lead back to defining a constraint around uke (and sometimes nage). Again, I believe this was because uke needs to be a common denominator - that is, aikido developed its kata so that anyone could be uke or nage. To your point, yes, I believe the design is intended to lower the threshold for our partner to safely interact with us. But then we move into waza and find uke is not able to perform at a faster speed with more intensity and practicality...

As a casual observation, I think it is a valid critique that the common denominator is pretty low right now. Buts that's the balance - quantity v. quality. Once that bar starts moving back up, there will be pressure to educate aikido people on how to attack. Sensei Todd Jones stopped by the dojo the other day (Man I like that guy). He did an article with AJ that I think is relevant:
http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=519

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Old 12-02-2013, 07:02 PM   #8
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

Quote:
Dean Suter wrote: View Post
Hello all

I have been thinking about compliant uke in aikido and why we seem to have a lot of cases where uke 'takes a fall' during training.

I practised aikido for nine years and then moved into a koryu. In classic budo, the uke/uchitachi is the senior partner and the person doing the technique is the junior. In this case it is uke's job to 'teach' nage by providing problems to solve in his or her technique. This does not mean being immovable or being completely compliant. It means making the technique just hard enough for nage.

This is where some aikido dojo go wrong IMHO. Uke becomes a ragdoll to be thrown around and the nage learns that is the way to do the technique. We then get aikidoka who move without a strong base or any decent connection with uke and think they are doing good technique.

I sometimes wonder that if we could go back to the originals roles of thrower and receiver, whether this would help?

Thoughts?

Dean.
Sometimes "taking the fall" has its purposes. I cross trained in a different style of jujitsu where my mentor always bailed on the technique. I asked him about this and he said that in that style they are truly trying to hurt you, therefore, you bail on the technique. Never let the technique be applied to you fully. You and your partner have an understanding.

The word shite, is a form of the word meaning to do. That's all. Japanese has a thesaurus. Shite/nage, mocha/tori, etc....
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Old 12-03-2013, 06:32 AM   #9
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

IME it's important to have continuous feedback about being too compliant/taking a fall on the one hand and being too tense/blocking on the other, sometimes that feedback is verbal other times it's physical.

There's a continuum, at various points along it you have "playing around" between yudansha, being a tense beginner, trying something out as an intermediate, being forced to refine a technique by a senior (the OP point about "providing problems to solve in his or her technique"), etc. There's also being able to take some pretty dynamic ukemi to avoid getting seriously hurt and sometimes that can look a little like being a ragdoll but it doesn't feel that way when you're on the end of it. In theory as observers we shouldn't be any more confident about saying "aiki bunny" than we are about saying "serious aiki"... unless we're in the mix how do we know?
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Old 12-03-2013, 06:55 AM   #10
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

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Jon Reading wrote: View Post
I am not sure if changing semantics will help resolve what I feel to be a source of the problem.
just one? and here i thought i ran out of fingers to count. maybe i can't count.

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Old 12-03-2013, 07:17 AM   #11
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

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Phi Truong wrote: View Post
just one? and here i thought i ran out of fingers to count. maybe i can't count.
A source, not the source. I have heard many good theories and reasons about what is right and wrong. I think many of them are valid. I happen to feel the biggest "wrong" is a confusion surrounding what it means to be a good uke. Related to that is a general observation that one of the more critical comments we receive from our sister arts is our lack of ability to properly attack. I'm not saying we need to change our attacks to better perform in a sport fight, but I think what we are hearing is that we need to evaluate of method of empowering uke to better understand her role and fulfill its purpose.

Asking someone to punch without ever showing them how is not the best way to empower uke to punch with any expectation of success.

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Old 12-03-2013, 07:42 AM   #12
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

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Jon Reading wrote: View Post
Related to that is a general observation that one of the more critical comments we receive from our sister arts is our lack of ability to properly attack. I'm not saying we need to change our attacks to better perform in a sport fight, but I think what we are hearing is that we need to evaluate of method of empowering uke to better understand her role and fulfill its purpose.
which bring us back to the fact that half of the time we attack and the other half, doing aikido techniques. however, the current aikido curriculum doesn't spend the same amount of time on the attack side. kinda lopsided. it's really coming down to training smarter uke. one that can provide the right attack, right intensity, right amount of feedback. in my class, i often pointed out the training portion of uke, and the training portion of nage. that's way both person train at the same time, not just nage person training and wasting time for uke.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 12-04-2013, 02:01 PM   #13
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
I think old-skool aikido used the term "shite" and some style still do. If memory serves, the connotation of the term was one of designating a leadership role (leading/receiving, etc.). I think once you experience takemusu aikido, it becomes difficult to designate a static role in the paired relationship which causes all kinds of problems.

Waza is not kata.

I am not sure if changing semantics will help resolve what I feel to be a source of the problem. I think the confusion comes in when we think we are doing waza, but we are really doing kata. I would focus instead on more strongly identifying kata practice distinct from randori and managing an expectation of success that encourages more activity from uke.
I like your point about kata vs, waza AND IME, not many clubs clearly define the difference between the two.

Dean.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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Old 12-05-2013, 05:03 AM   #14
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

The problem I and many people have with this is that the uke/senior people sometimes have their own propaganda or, pardon me, full of shit and ego. I notice that modesty has seriously been lost in some Aikido practice. When some1 gains the "senior" status (which in my dojo is granted at 2kyu for men and 3rd kyu for women, which still means NOTHING in term of understanding of Aikido), a lot of the times they develop an attitude that their way is right and start abusing their status.

For ex, in Iriminage a big senior told me to get control of the head and make a big irimi tenkan with the outside arm to bring him down. When I do that to another senior she shrieks and tells me that's totally wrong and it's disrespectful to touch some1 head/face in training and that I have to place both hands on her shoulders. Now when I do THAT to another senior girl, she falls face-first onto the mat and got really angry. She told me that I should only keep the contact and turn by myself, she will follow. Of course that wouldn't work with anyone bigger than me...

All these people, if I don't do the technique their way, they would lock up their body and block my technique, or do kaeshi. Sometimes I get frustrated and apply a bit of force and the senior girls shrieks in pain and call me a brute... when they were the one who use force to resist my techniques...

Seriously, how can you learn to walk if people are pulling your legs in different directions?

When I work with people who are my juniors, I shut up and follow their technique. If they do things wrong Sensei will correct them. If they ask me I simply say I don't know, I have no authority to tell them what is right and wrong. The only feedback I ever give is encouragement when I feel like they do a good technique. I find that this empowers people while not confusing them.

That, and it really annoys me when a 2nd kyu says stuff like "Aikido is like this and that and not this and that". Really? Even the highest Sensei wouldn't say that they truly understand Aikido. My Sensei has been training for 40 years and she still says "I'm not sure. Let's test that out" all the time.
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Old 12-05-2013, 05:27 AM   #15
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

Long,

Why do you still go to that club, are you masochistic or what?

Seriously. you should look for another place to train.

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Old 12-05-2013, 07:11 AM   #16
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

I tend to agree with Demetrio... It sounds like your dojo has an identity crisis.

As a larger observation to the roles of partners, I think it is important to have a curriculum to which everyone adheres. This would be the role of Shidoin - to develop and enforce a general curriculum amongst the teachers. Back to my comment about kata... If you experience many different general expressions of kata, then your dojo may not be as clear in reinforcing kata. On the general level, everyone should understand their role in kata and be able to perform the same kata with everyone (and that kata should work within a bell curve of effect). On a personal level, students are granted the opportunity to express their variation of the kata. Technically, this expression would be the first step in expressing waza because it should be varied by the uniqueness of the relationship. But that leads back to the question, "Are you practicing kata, which all of your partners should perform with similar consistency. Or, are you practicing waza, which allows for some variation from your partner."

I think we run astray because our general kata is not precise. Either my hand is up, or its down. If it is specific enough to exist in kata, than we have an obligation to perform the kata as demonstrated. Here's the beef - Aikido has a lot of bad kata; varied by organization, school, instructor and student. Not to bully on aikido, other arts have this same problem.

I can appreciate the frustration because it happens a lot, especially at seminars. There is a difference between sharing your personal perspective on waza and performing kata. Or performing waza under the direction of the instructor. This is a large complaint with seminar instructors. How many times have you heard at a seminar the instructor lament, "please try what I am showing. Go back to what you do when the seminar is over." or some variety thereof.

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Old 12-05-2013, 07:19 AM   #17
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

Quote:
The problem I and many people have with this is that the uke/senior people sometimes have their own propaganda or, pardon me, full of shit and ego. I notice that modesty has seriously been lost in some Aikido practice...
You complain much.
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Old 12-05-2013, 07:32 AM   #18
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

It is an university dojo, so full of students my age, in our early 20. I think some, but not most, Aikidoka come to Aikido as a means to explore themselves or as a resolution to their problems. It is the age when people are still confused about what they want and are trying to prove themselves, so yeah you can say a lot of them has an "identity crisis". It is understandable if someone draws their validation from their aikido competence to become absorbed in it and thus becoming sensitive or over-protective of their own Aikido.

Not everyone is like that though. We are very numerous, a good 50 people and I do learn a lot from some of them. My Sensei is the best I have seen (I ever had three). A few rotten apples are bothersome but should not denounce the entire tree.

I would be careful when judging the entire dojo or the teacher based simply on the students.
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Old 12-05-2013, 07:45 AM   #19
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

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Not everyone is like that though. We are very numerous, a good 50 people and I do learn a lot from some of them. My Sensei is the best I have seen (I ever had three). A few rotten apples are bothersome but should not denounce the entire tree.

I would be careful when judging the entire dojo or the teacher based simply on the students.
Well, we are judging based on your posts... anyway, If Sensei can't control those rotten apples then do it yourself. I've found personally a good old school ganseki otoshi makes people to reconsider their disruptive attitude.

So, I'd suggest to you to stop whinning and pump some iron.

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Old 12-05-2013, 09:08 AM   #20
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

Long, wouldn't that training environment turns one into a passive aggressive person after a few years? Maybe the 3 different uke just taught you 3 different ways of doing iriminage my two cents
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Old 12-05-2013, 09:15 AM   #21
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

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I would be careful when judging the entire dojo or the teacher based simply on the students.
This is actually the single, most important criteria for evaluating a dojo there is. If the students are all crap, what does that say about the teaching?

Last edited by allowedcloud : 12-05-2013 at 09:18 AM.
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Old 12-05-2013, 10:15 AM   #22
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

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Long, wouldn't that training environment turns one into a passive aggressive person after a few years? Maybe the 3 different uke just taught you 3 different ways of doing iriminage my two cents
Maybe yes, if that's actually a working way to do iriminage. It's not the act itself that bothers me, it's the attitude. When in Virginia I trained exclusively with police officers, the lowest of whom is shodan. Yet whenever I do a technique on them they follow through very nicely, but they still give small hints if something is wrong. For example if I do a bad ikkyo, after I put them down they would rise a little, indicating that my technique isn't tight enough, but then they still take the fall.

And after that I always ask them what could be improved. This time they would do the technique like I did and tell me to kaeshi out of "my" technique. Basically they let me learn on my own. In this way I learned substantially: what was wrong with my techniques, and how to do kaeshi waza. The ambiance is also very lighthearted and brotherly, instead of confrontational "my way is better than yours"

These are all middle-age people though, so I do think the problem I encounter is a maturity issue. In my current dojo I have a very good time with the older people. All the people I described earlier are in their 20s.

Anyway, I think I have sidetracked the thread for long enough. Let people return to good discussion on the role of uke/tori.

Last edited by Dalaran1991 : 12-05-2013 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 12-05-2013, 10:45 AM   #23
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

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It is an university dojo, so full of students my age, in our early 20. I think some, but not most, Aikidoka come to Aikido as a means to explore themselves or as a resolution to their problems. It is the age when people are still confused about what they want and are trying to prove themselves, so yeah you can say a lot of them has an "identity crisis". It is understandable if someone draws their validation from their aikido competence to become absorbed in it and thus becoming sensitive or over-protective of their own Aikido.

Not everyone is like that though. We are very numerous, a good 50 people and I do learn a lot from some of them. My Sensei is the best I have seen (I ever had three). A few rotten apples are bothersome but should not denounce the entire tree.

I would be careful when judging the entire dojo or the teacher based simply on the students.
My point was more directed at developing a single curriculum and disseminating that instruction. At some point, the instructor make a decision- "Irrimi nage shall look like this." That shape is taught as kata. Students are expected to learn and replicate that kata. We then grade based upon that kata. Eventually, students become skilled at that kata and can explore subtle changes that allow the kata to flex and accommodate more variations to the shape.

But, we don't always train like this. Often, we "break" kata. We intentionally change what we do so as to re-create the result of the kata, but in doing do cease to retain the form itself. Commonly this happens when we focus on the throw and not everything else that makes the throw happen. Irriminage, for example, becomes some variety of a clothesline choke with a leg sweep.

Once I say, "thou shalt do kata this way," I have inherited a burden of responsibility to make sure that kata is consistent with that of my instructors, seniors and what I believe to be "aikido". And don't think that doesn't freak me out. I constantly look for changes that improve the kata. Or worse, one of my seniors says, "why the f$#k would you do that?" and they correct my mistake. I am grateful because the instructors to whom I look for this advice are positive, friendly and sincerely interested in making sure I am less of a screw-up.

Taken within another context... I enjoy geometry far more than algebra. If I was expected to teach algebra, but instead taught geometry (because I like it more) I would be confronted with a critical problem - I am not teaching algebra. Geometry is great; and following a basic algebra education, geometry is the next curriculum to learn. But geometry is not algebra. Within aikido, I think our kata education is lacking because "waza" is more attractive to its practitioners. Or, within the context of this thread, it is more attractive to be nage and throw than uke and get beat up.

I think the balance is important and when I perceive a dojo loses balance, it can create a "identity crisis." And to be clear, I do not perceive this to a a negative thing. In fact, most dojos with which I am familiar tend to swing in a natural pattern of focus and interest. Just so long as it comes back to balance... Sorry for the drift, I think I brought up about 3 issues that could/have been threads...

Last edited by jonreading : 12-05-2013 at 10:50 AM.

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Old 01-22-2014, 01:49 AM   #24
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

So glad this thread is here was strugling with this problem yesterday during training. Luckely our sensei gives a lot of attention to the role of uke. And how to attack propperly. (guess he could be called a atemi fan)
What i sometimes tend to do is when i am at the point i starting to feel comfortable with a waza i ask uke to resist me somewhat. Just to feel for myself if it is working or not.

As for myself as uke i will take te fall.... but yet i still have to fall.... if my balance isn't disrupted i don't fall easy as that. Thats the difference for me between being a compellant uke or just a an actor staging a fall. And if i don't fall i just call sensei or a sempai to see whats hapening.

Yesterday evening as nage i felt the opposit. While doing tenchi nage (uke was seposed to attack a bit freally - whitin katatedori that is - ) uke was to find out for himself if rolling out the nage in a forward or backward roll. Happend to be that i was training with a new guy (in for about 2 months) and he wasn't really comfortable with ukemi yet. So in the moment he grabbed my wrist he was already busy with preparing his roll. Sure did feel very fake in that way and i had the feeling i wasn't learning very much. (well putting away my ego to give this guy a chance to learn ukemi was kind of hard for me but my waza didn't improve by it)

To sum it up. Imho Uke should enable but resist to make it feel alive. Taking the fall as uke without even being unbalanced would not help anyone.
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Old 01-22-2014, 05:10 AM   #25
Janet Rosen
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Re: The uke/nage paradigm

Quote:
Richard Vader wrote: View Post
Happend to be that i was training with a new guy (in for about 2 months) and he wasn't really comfortable with ukemi yet. So in the moment he grabbed my wrist he was already busy with preparing his roll. Sure did feel very fake in that way and i had the feeling i wasn't learning very much. (well putting away my ego to give this guy a chance to learn ukemi was kind of hard for me but my waza didn't improve by it)
Maybe your "waza didn't improve by it" but I bet in giving up your pre-thinking about what you wanted to work on in class and focusing on the actual human being you were partnered with your overall Aikido improved. Because being present in the reality of the moment, not in our hopes or wishes for reality, is what a martial art offers us.
And I'm not being flippant in saying this. I really believe sometimes that IS the lesson when class doesn't go the way we expect.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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