The role of uke

Why is it, according to just about all his students, when O’Sensei saw training where uke resisted the technique of nage the founder would fly into a rage and scream “that’s not aikido”?

Why did kenjutsu shimizu say that, although he was a 4th Dan in judo, his ukemi wasn’t good enough for the founder and he had to learn to harmonise with the founders movement before he could understand how O’Sensei wanted his ukemi?

Why did Osawa senseis scald Watanabe sensei about his crap uke, then take him back to Hombu and throw him around until he could hardly stand up?

Why did Henry Kono say he spent three years learning uke when he was at Hombu dojo whilst the founder was alive?

Why did he also say that we cannot understand the founders aikido because we cannot understand uke.

Why did Maruyama sensei say he couldn’t be the founders uke until he understood the connection he had to make between himself and the founder?

Why did Yoshio Kuroiwa say uke role was to adjust themselves to the movements of tori, Uke absorbs the movement of tori with his body by taking a pure fall. In other words, uke is not thrown but rather is practicing a form in which his role is to be thrown. Thus, the central character in practice is uke?

When we resist we create opposition. When we connect we harmonise. Just rolling and falling is not uke. When we fail to understand the roll of uke, we fail to understand the founders intention for the art – that it was always meant to have been uke that creates the harmony in the interaction. It was this transmission that was missed in the arts dissemination, that the passive person in the interaction is the one doing all the learning.

Once we can master this harmony, we can create harmony with any attack because we can absorb ground and redirect force. We can read intent and respond accordingly. We can flow with their go, neutralising any attacker.

The problem is that this aikido takes surrender. To sacrifice the self to the learning, to the process, and to the outcome.

Modern flamboyant ukemi by its very nature is about show and ego. It’s not about surrender, it’s about self gratification.

Learning ukemi is a heart to heart transmission. It’s a relationship of growth and personal development.

If you have avoided uke in your training, you have avoided true knowledge, and mastery, regardless of time served or claimed proficiency, will always escape you.

That know the true heart, see the true self.

Peter Kelly

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