Monthly Archives: June 2014

Uke is Not a Victim

Ukemi – Uke is the person who receives the technique, generally the attacker. Usually involves rolling away or being pinned to the floor.

I wish to try to explain the role of Uke in the context of Aikido practice. Ukemi is also a concept in traditional forms of Jujutsu but would differ in some aspects.


Firstly what is’nt it. Uke is not at all a passive participant in the training. Uke is not taking the technique and being blindly thrown or pinned to the ground. Uke is not a victim.

I have said before in a previous article that we must avoid the mentality of taking goes and only enjoying half of the training. Both Uke and Tori are doing Aikido all the time. Ukemi is not a less important part of training. It is of equal importance in my opinion.

The Role of Uke as I see it. Uke and Tori must work together to learn. If Uke is too hard or too soft it is impossible to get a realistic idea of the technique. Uke must move in a way that allows for the possibility of attack and to best defend themselves. If the Uke is lax in training the technique will be over before it starts. Allowing Tori to simply led them to the ground without any real effectiveness, Tori gets the wrong impression and may belief falsely that they can actually do it. Uke must attack with strong intention and continue to attack whilst protecting themselves best they can. However the amount of resistance, it must be logically and also in balance with the partner’s strength, flexibility and experience. It is counterproductive to stiffen up and simply grab hard, especially with a beginner. Block the movement completely and you stop learning.

Ukemi is also important in terms of safety. Having the correct alignment of the body before rolling back is very important.  I occasionally will go through a technique explaining potential problems and possibility for injuries. It is the duty of Tori as much as Uke to insure that training is safe. This also helps to encourage an atmosphere of mutual respect, a very important concept in a Dojo. Although we are studying a martial art and all techniques can cause serious injury, we must look out for each other and stay well. Some kind of balance must be reached here.

I’ve seen a few different approaches to Ukemi. Usually too passive as I see it.  Uke flying around the dojo at the slightest touch. Besides from the aerobic exercise, whats the point? Granted you can learn to roll this way but I don’t see it adding much else to training. And often there is no attack. Without it, how can you learn anything about Budo or indeed self defense in general. Saying that however, both hard and soft ukemi can be good and progressive if kept in martial context. Another strange approach I’ve seen is to have set moves for ukemi. While it may be helpful at first to have a specific set of movements for a beginning student to learn, if the underlining principles aren’t absorbed, the practice can become automatic and without depth. Ukemi must develop to become instinctual.

In Takemusu Aikido we study with a few methods. Firstly Kihon, meaning Basic. In Kihon, time is not part of the practice. We study body mechanics and try to ensure the technique is correct. If Uke is able to attack or is not off balance it is very clear at this stage. Next is Ki No Nagare, with flow. In this we take the attack and extend it continuously either to a throw or a pin. If confusion persists we simply revert to Kihon for a few minutes and then continue with the more flowing practice.  These methods of training make it very clear that Uke and Tori are equals. One can not learn without the other.

Ukemi is useful to expose gaps in a technique. To show opportunities for Uke to strike or to reverse the movement. It should be seen as educational.


Filed under Aikido, Budo Concepts

Katori Shinto Ryu – In the Sunshine

Over the summer I bring as much of the training outside as is practical. In Ireland we must take very ray of Sunshine we can get. wpid-2014-06-05-19.00.25.jpg   wpid-2014-06-05-18.15.43.jpg For our Dojo we are fortunate to be able to train in the Hall of Camphill Community Jerpoint. Camphill is a network of communities working with Special Needs People. Set up includes a farm, gardens, orchard, and various workshops. We are able to use this space as I and my wife work there. Also whenever they have an open day to raise funds and interact with the wider community, Aikido and Katori students always volunteer to help out. We train in Katori Shinto Ryu, Mondays in Kilkenny 6 till 7.30 and Thursday in Jerpoint from 5.30 till 7. Every other Thursday we train from 4 till 7. P1040549

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by | June 6, 2014 · 09:04


Following on from piece on Shoshin, beginners mind.

‘If your not confused your not paying attention’, attributed to Tom Peters, although I’am sure he wasn’t the first to say this let alone understand the concept, I heard it from my first Aikido instructor. Ties in closely with Shoshin {beginners mind}.

“Learn and forget, Make the technique a part of your body before you move on.” Morihei Ueshiba.

Had a few students struggling with this notion recently, of not trying to learn a lot in a short time, to absorb things slowly. People want to attain perfection in what they do, an ideal which more often than not gets in the way to improving at all, and of course affects their overall mental well-being negatively when pursued obsessively. Real progress {in life in general} tends to be gradual with the occasional leap and sometimes a stumble backwards. Confusion is an understandable and necessary part of study. When embraced your confusion can very much work to your benefit. If a student can stop to learn with their mind at least part of the time, they’ll have the chance the learn with the body. The mind can work later.To learn any movements requires a lot of repetition just to have a very basic level of technique. I suppose modern thinking tends to go in the opposite direction with people wanting quick results. Generally if a student is in a hurry to learn they don’t stay long. It becomes clear over a few weeks that progress in Budo takes longer than first thought, with a basic understanding taking a few years at least.

If Confusion is fixated on, you’ll just get more confused. So don’t worry about it.




Filed under Budo Concepts