“What Does Uke Want?,” by Mary Stein

“There’s a mystery in aikido about the role of uke, the attacker. When I’m uke, what is happening? What do I intend? Is my intention always the same? Is there a beginning, middle and end to the process of ukemi with subtle differences as the technique progresses? What is going on here, anyway? In my own case, there are different answers to that one, and they are all right or partly right at different stages of my understanding of aikido.”

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  1. 1.”Since I’ve brought all my competitiveness as a human being to my practice of aikido, as Uke I want to “win”; I definitely don’t want to “lose.” This desire was strongest when I was a beginner at aikido, though it undoubtedly influences my practice even now. Deep down, there’s something in me that takes falling as a sign of “losing” and failure; I don’t really want to fall. I want to be the winner, and although I know that as uke I’m supposed to fall, in subtle ways that I may not even realize myself, I resist that. Sure, I’ve been told that uke means “receiver,” which means to receive the throw and to fall. But I want to win this one. So I will try to thwart nage, to resist what he or she is doing to unbalance me. This often means that I drag my feet, and make my partner pull me after him. Somebody who’s stronger than I am who really wants to win can bring the movement to a standstill with this kind of resistance. Advanced aikidoists may sometimes welcome such a heavy level of resistance, for they get to use all their skills of centering and selecting an appropriate angle of response to unbalance a determined uke. But a beginner may be stopped in his tracks. Still, the wish to win is something we bring into aikido; it may not be a particularly developed attitude but it’s still there. And it has its place; I just need to find out what that place is”…this is where most Judoka/Bjj and MMA stay all their life.

  2. …there are all sorts of nuances here. the other day i said, of course aikido is choreographed, in a way. it’s just that neither side knows exactly what, in a wide repertory of moves, will come out of any given interaction.

    taking Taisho’s point of view, winning can be thwarting nage’s technique. at a higher level it is winning altogether by either hitting or pinning nage at the outset, or, failing that, reversing their technique.

    neither of these are good for elementary training. even for advanced students there has to be a lot of understanding in advance to play that way. normally, it is incumbent on senior students to form beginners’ techniques around their falls. falls, after all, being the perfect complement of throws. both sides can learn a lot that way…

  3. it may be interesting to note the reason why fishermen who go crabbing make sure that there are at least two crabs in an open pail. “no need for a lid,” sez the veteran. “when one wants to escape and make it to freedom, another one will simply reach up and pull it back down again”.

    how sad that humans have learned this fateful trait.

  4. Brett Jackson says:

    Love the comment, Mr Takahashi! Right on the money.

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