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Old 02-03-2003, 06:31 AM   #1
Duarh
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Learning by taking ukemi

Hi everyone

I've read time and time again how people write that one of the easiest ways to learn aikido is by feeling a master (or someone more experienced than you, anyway) do aikido on you. I was wondering - how long does it take for you to get to the level when you can actively and consciously LEARN while being thrown around by sensei?

The thought came to me yesterday, on the final day of my first ever aikido seminar (it was fun ;D). What I'd been hoping for happened and I was able to work with my 'regular sensei' as a partner for irimi-nage and later katate-tori jiyu waza. It was a great experience - but I can't honestly say I learned much on a conscious level by feeling sensei's technique. I was too concerned most of the time with taking ukemi properly from his rather fast (not inappropriately so, but still, he's sandan & i'm 6th kyu) technique to take note of the finer details of what he was doing. It was similar when the sensei giving the seminar demonstrated a technique on me - I thought very much of how to fall right and had little attention to spare for what the sensei was actually trying to convey. Any thoughts on this, suggestions for attitude, etc? If you've encountered the same issue, how did you deal with it?

Another semi-related question. I am now at a point where I can do flying ukemi from techniques like kotegaeshi & shihonage & kokyu nage fairly well either if 1) I'm alone or 2) if I know it's coming. I often fail to do it when I don't know it's coming and someone BAMM slams a fast one on me - in other words, I don't have a sense of when to go into a breakfall and when just to roll out of a technique. Any suggestions, besides 'practice!', for improving this?
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Old 02-03-2003, 06:40 AM   #2
Creature_of_the_id
 
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when it comes ot 'flying ukemi', one thing the uke has to realise is that most of the time the speed of the attack descides the speed of the technique.

if you attack fast then you will be thrown fast, if you attack slow you will be thrown slow. at least this should be the case most of the time.

other than that, it is practice, you get used to feeling when your partner is leaving go and changing your ukemi accordingly. if they let go then you are able to tuck and roll smoothly, if they keep hold then you are going to eat mat.

but mainly, its just experience, you learn to trust your ukemi, and so you learn to relax. meaning your nage can relax and both of you can flow together easier making it safer for everyone.

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Old 02-03-2003, 06:56 AM   #3
Dross
 
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Our school places great emphasis on ukemi as an element of good Aikido. A quote from our Sensei:

"My experience has been that skill in advanced ukemi - which includes breakfalls, high airfalls, 'body-only-slaps' etc - is essential if Aikidoka are to progress as quickly and proficiently as possible, but perhaps not for the reasons you expect.

We discovered in Goleta that, with advanced ukemi speeds, students naturally begin to develop the speed, rythm, timing and endurance necessary to do Aikido at real-life speeds."

Basically the better you can take falls, the better you will learn to throw.
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Old 02-03-2003, 08:05 AM   #4
Tim Griffiths
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Re: Learning by taking ukemi

Quote:
Toms Kreicbergs (Duarh) wrote:
Hi everyone

I was wondering - how long does it take for you to get to the level when you can actively and consciously LEARN while being thrown around by sensei?
Depends on the sensei. What I mean is, I'm sure you could learn while taking ukemi from your sensei now, if it was slow enough.

All that happens is you get faster at it and (more importantly) more naturally aware of what your body is doing. There'll always be techniques that are to fast to learn while taking ukemi from them (although you should always know what's happening to your body).

I'd expect you'll also find that when you're able to take good ukemi from your sensei at the speed he's using now, he'll be doing it a lot faster to you...
Quote:
...I don't have a sense of when to go into a breakfall and when just to roll out of a technique. Any suggestions, besides 'practice!', for improving this?
More practice.

Specifically, randori. In normal practice, try hard to forget that this is the 12th shihonage in a row, try to let it take you by surprise and react instinctively. Try to react to your partner's movement and its effect on your body, not to the knowledge that he's doing shihonage (good advice for any practice, I think).

Hope that helps,

Train well,

Tim

If one makes a distinction between the dojo and the battlefield, or being in your bedroom or in public, then when the time comes there will be no opportunity to make amends. (Hagakure)
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Old 02-03-2003, 08:47 AM   #5
asiawide
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Well.. you can learn Aikido from being uke. But before that you must be a good uke whom everybody even the sensei wants to throw.

If you receive others techniques well, many people will ask you to train together. You don't have to be a good nage.

And please don't be a sensei groupy. There must be some lonely good nages who are waiting for you.

Jaemin
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Old 02-03-2003, 08:50 AM   #6
MikeE
 
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I always like this saying...it says much more than what is on the surface.

<i>If you take good ukemi, your aikido will be good. If you take weak ukemi, your aikido will be weak. </i>

Mike Ellefson
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Old 02-03-2003, 10:13 AM   #7
akiy
 
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Re: Learning by taking ukemi

Quote:
Toms Kreicbergs (Duarh) wrote:
I was wondering - how long does it take for you to get to the level when you can actively and consciously LEARN while being thrown around by sensei?
I think it depends on the level of the person who is throwing you around. Although there's a lot more to be learned, say, in getting thrown around by an 8th dan shihan (or equivalent), I think they're also utilizing a lot more subtleties that are difficult to comprehend and/or consciously feel. When I'm getting thrown around by people of that level, it's more a feeling of subconsciously feeling what they're doing or, rather, feeling through my body rather than "consciously."
Quote:
It was similar when the sensei giving the seminar demonstrated a technique on me - I thought very much of how to fall right and had little attention to spare for what the sensei was actually trying to convey. Any thoughts on this, suggestions for attitude, etc? If you've encountered the same issue, how did you deal with it?
It sounds like you're on your way to realizing that ukemi is a very important aspect of aikido training. I've maintained ukemi is the most important part of my own aikido training...

As far as learning how to deal with it, I think it's a matter of experiencing high level aikido techniques and learning how to receive such well. A very important aspect of this is, of course, experience, but I think more important is trying to develop awareness throughout the process.

When I first started getting thrown around by my teacher, I felt there was very little time and space to "feel" what was going on; as you said, it felt more like survival. But, just as trying to hit a fastball becomes easier through experience and consciously being aware through the process of experience, the same has happened in my ukemi. Of course, my teacher still throws me on the edge of my abilities, but that edge has crept slowly up the scale of intensity over the years.
Quote:
in other words, I don't have a sense of when to go into a breakfall and when just to roll out of a technique. Any suggestions, besides 'practice!', for improving this?
Well, practicing is probably the only way to improve this, but I would advocate a level of practice in which you can actually work on such a difference. Parhaps you can ask your teacher or another experienced student at your dojo to work with you after class in a controlled manner so that you can work on your ukemi? One thing you can ask is for your partner to vary their intensity of their throw (eg kotegaeshi) so that you can work on feeling the intensity itself. If it gets too fast that you're starting to just "react" so you're no longer able to consciously work on what you're working on, ask your partner to slow down.

(As an aside, my thought is that there's no difference between a roll and a "high" fall. I don't think there should be a really big shift between the two (unless necessary like when avoiding collision with someone).)

Another important practice is freestyle training (eg jiyuwaza or randori depending on what your dojo calls it). Ask someone whom you can trust to throw you in any way that they wish from either one attack or various attacks. Try to keep mobile, resilient, and connected through your ukemi. Let the techniques fulfill themselves. Most important for what you're trying to learn, stay conscious and aware but try to stay away from being too focused and/or attached.

And to add to Mike's good saying, I'll say that there's no difference in the principles used by nage and uke. Everything you're learning in one of those roles should translate into the other. At least that's been my little thesis in my mind that I've been working on for about the last year or so.

-- Jun

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Old 02-03-2003, 12:12 PM   #8
Don_Modesto
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Re: Learning by taking ukemi

Quote:
Toms Kreicbergs (Duarh) wrote:
I've read time and time again how people write that one of the easiest ways to learn aikido is by feeling a master (or someone more experienced than you, anyway) do aikido on you.
Maybe.

That's certainly the conventional wisdom. Cynical me, however, wonders if this attitude isn't on a social level what dreams of falling off a cliff are at a psychological one after we find ourselves rudely awakened by the floor in the middle of the night having fallen out of bed. That is, we manufacture some explanation to make the reality, ideal.

History might be subversive here. In the KORYU, the older arts, as opposed to modern ones like aikido, it is the sensei who takes ukemi, not the student. Why the switch with modern arts? As it was explained once, I believe somewhere on aikidojournal.com, during Tokugawa and Meiji, martial displaced artists had to support themselves, sometimes in ways not as dignified as they would have liked. They sometimes ended up giving street performances of their abilities. Takeda Sokaku spent some time doing this. The imperative here was not the maintence of martial integrity, but the acquisition of filthy lucre. The higher uke flew, the more coins ended up in the hat. Therefore, students began taking ukemi.

History as biology (the panda's thumb) is opportunistic. We now rationalize this as the superior way to learn.

Maybe.

Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
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Old 02-03-2003, 12:35 PM   #9
Doug Mathieu
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Hi Toms

Just a couple other brief comments on the later part of your post.

I found it helpful when taking ukemi and trying to respond properly to:

1. be loose and relaxed

2. be light

3. don't anticipate the throw

4. don't throw myself

5. I always try to keep my center during the technique. Ie: I try not to let my limbs and body flap and flail around throughout the throw. Kotegaeshi is a good example. You probably won't know till the end if nage is really going to toss you. If as nage leads you around you try to keep your hips under your body and work at regaining your balance all the time you will be better able to take a hard fall at the end.

Regards
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Old 02-03-2003, 01:19 PM   #10
jimvance
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Doug has made several important points, I think some of the same ones I try to keep in mind while I practice ukemi. I would also suggest "listening" to what is happening in the exchange; i.e. tori's body, your (uke's) body, the common center shared between both of you. Listening (as opposed to looking) along with the "internal mapping" skills Doug mentioned while the movement progresses will allow most uke to perform at their level of competency, while simultaneously absorbing the right feel of the movement.

I don't agree with Don's assertion that spectacular "ukemi" is designed to enlarge the pocketbooks and egos of the expert proponents of gendai budo. I have several teachers that can take whatever ukemi you can throw at them. Ukemi is an exercise in awase (or musubi), the grosser end of the spectrum relies on taking care of the body when it is in a ballistic state. Walking away from a potentially damaging encounter without being hurt is martially effective. There are finer points at the other end of the spectrum, of which I am only aware from laying hands on my teachers. They haven't stopped taking ukemi, they just streamlined it.

Jim Vance
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Old 02-03-2003, 02:20 PM   #11
gamma80
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All those things you seek advise on will come with mat time and (that word again!) practice.

Don't rush it, enjoy the journey of learning and improving. Make every good and bad fall an opportunity to get better grow. One of the nice things about ukemi, you know when you don't do it correctly!!!

Chris
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Old 02-03-2003, 06:37 PM   #12
Dross
 
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Quote:
I don't agree with Don's assertion that spectacular "ukemi" is designed to enlarge the pocketbooks and egos of the expert proponents of gendai budo. I have several teachers that can take whatever ukemi you can throw at them. Ukemi is an exercise in awase (or musubi), the grosser end of the spectrum relies on taking care of the body when it is in a ballistic state. Walking away from a potentially damaging encounter without being hurt is martially effective. There are finer points at the other end of the spectrum, of which I am only aware from laying hands on my teachers. They haven't stopped taking ukemi, they just streamlined it.
I'll admit to being something of a showboat when it comes to ukemi. Yes, I can get thrown by just about anyone and avoid injury pretty easily. Yes I take big flashy airfalls when the situation is right. Heck I've been tossed 10 feet through the air, only to get up and attack again. But the most important thing is safety.

When you are practising Aikido at full speed, sometimes rolling just isn't a safe option. There are some very dangerous techniques out there. Often times if you don't take an airfall you're going to get hurt, be it broken arm or sprained wrist or something much worse. Eventually you will need to be able to take more advanced ukemi to progress in your art.
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Old 02-04-2003, 03:48 AM   #13
Duarh
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Thanks for the interesting input, everyone. Right now, I'm rather excited by ukemi because it seems to be an area in which I can at least see myself progress ;D so I can take pride in the fact that I can at least flip this way or flip that way even if none of my techniques seem to be working the way they should be.

guess it's back to practice now.
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Old 02-04-2003, 05:37 PM   #14
Alfonso
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Quote:
We now rationalize this as the superior way to learn.
IMHO If I had a choice, the better alternative for a good learning experience is when Sensei takes ukemi.

in a class where the ratio is many students to one sensei this tends to be less practical I would guess. At least, when my teacher does it, it's a one one thing that can take as long as is required for him to be satisfied.

since it seems to be harder for one to approach an instructor and ask him to be uke than approaching him and onegaishimazing him into being nage..

but then again, that's not always what I want either; sometimes I just want to grind away the rough edges, and a peer seems a better choice then.

Alfonso Adriasola
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Old 02-04-2003, 11:47 PM   #15
akiy
 
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Quote:
Alfonso Adriasola (Alfonso) wrote:
IMHO If I had a choice, the better alternative for a good learning experience is when Sensei takes ukemi.

in a class where the ratio is many students to one sensei this tends to be less practical I would guess. At least, when my teacher does it, it's a one one thing that can take as long as is required for him to be satisfied.
We usually have about thirty to forty people in our second evening classes. During that time, whoever is leading the class (including our main instructor) will train with whomever s/he uses for the demonstration uke for a while. That way, we get to train with whoever is leading the class both as nage and uke.

-- Jun

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Old 02-07-2003, 03:09 AM   #16
Kelly Allen
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One point that no one has mentioned is that ukemi is probably the single most inportant part of your training for the simple reason more ppl are injured in falling accidents than they are from being attacked. Those ppl with good ukemi will be able to protect themselves from this very common occurance.
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Old 02-07-2003, 10:26 AM   #17
jimvance
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Quote:
Kelly Allen wrote:
One point that no one has mentioned is that ukemi is probably the single most inportant part of your training for the simple reason more ppl are injured in falling accidents than they are from being attacked. Those ppl with good ukemi will be able to protect themselves from this very common occurance.
That is kind of what I meant when I wrote this:
Quote:
Big Mouth Jim wrote:
Ukemi is an exercise in awase (or musubi), the grosser end of the spectrum relies on taking care of the body when it is in a ballistic state. Walking away from a potentially damaging encounter without being hurt is martially effective. (Emphasis mine)
I agree with you Kelly, you can't emphasize that point enough. I think that at a very basic level, ukemi teaches a person to relax and accept what is, even if it is scary and unexpected. Falling accidents are still pretty rare, but we have all sorts of trauma in everyday life. Ukemi also teaches a mental flexibility in addition to a physical, and I think this might be its most important aspect, and the one that relates most specifically to learning. It removes all sorts of ego filters and allows for more processing of what actually is going on.

Jim Vance
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Old 02-10-2003, 06:00 PM   #18
Daniel Blanco
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TOM UKEMI COMES WITH TRAINING/TIME THE WAY I PICKED UP GOOD UKEMI WAS BY WATCHING THE OLDER/EXP PEOPLE TRAINING AND WATCHING THEM FALL.YOU CAN ALSO LEARN BY WATCHING TAPES GEARED TOWARD UKEMI. THE BEST WAY TO LEARN IS TO ASK YOUR SENSI TO GIVE YOU MORE TRAING IN UKEMI. ALSO YOU SHOULD NOT BE GETTING SLAMMED AT YOUR LEVEL. SPEED COMES WITH TIME/TRAINING AND YOU SHOULD BE RESPECTED FOR BEING A NEW STUDENT. KEEP TRAINING!!.
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Old 02-28-2003, 08:29 PM   #19
KaitlinCostello
 
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Re: Learning by taking ukemi

Quote:
I've read time and time again how people write that one of the easiest ways to learn aikido is by feeling a master (or someone more experienced than you, anyway) do aikido on you. I was wondering - how long does it take for you to get to the level when you can actively and consciously LEARN while being thrown around by sensei?
Okay, I'm only two months into aikido, but I'll try and add what knowledge I've gained on this particular subject. I should say first, that due to sight issues I am forced to learn everything physically. I'm not able to see Sensei and whoever is Uke clearly while they demonstrate the technique.

I believe that value of learning physically is that your memory is more ingrained, like a dance step , or that nagging tune stuck in your head from time to time. I find that I am often times forced to go through a technique with my eyes closed, because in trying to see what Sensei, or my training partner is doing, I am distracted and often times confused.

The only thing I can offer to make this practice style work for you is to keep trying. The simple truth is that not everyone can learn from some techniques. Not to say that feeling technique is useless. As Uke you have to learn the more subtle points of each technique, things such as how your partner shifts and sets up and the moment when your balance is at the brink. I often times, with techniques I am more familiar with, look for the areas in which I could turn the situation around, and where, in doing so , Nage could put me back into the role of Uke if I tried to do so.
Quote:
- in other words, I don't have a sense of when to go into a breakfall and when just to roll out of a technique. Any suggestions, besides 'practice!', for improving this?
You know, I've done this twice. Once with the aforementioned spectacular handspring like front roll, and once when I was thrown just a wee bit too hard. I noticed that just as my balance breaks I stretch my fingers out towards the mat, especially with techniques that have me going into a sudden front roll, or in this case a technique we got slightly backwards. As my balance breaks I curl, the "point" of my hands arcing towards my toes, so that Nages force drives the force of my roll, rather then trying to resist or tense.

I hope this makes some sense. Most likely the above mentioned "tricks" are better seen in person then put into words.

Kate

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