Understanding Uke

When we walk into a dojo for the first time, we should be taught that we are studying a kata. When we learn to roll and fall, this should not be called ukemi, it should just be called rolling and falling. Uke is not just rolling and falling. It is far more than that to one who would study the way of Budo.

We were discussing this importance today. It’s almost my favourite thing in the world to be an uke. To “know” from this feeling things beyond what can be taught or understood by just falling and rolling in response to external stimuli.

When intent disappears, our subconscious mind starts to intuit from the situation many important aspects relating to Budo. To many these are just catchphrases that they use to seem like they exist at a level higher than those they teach. But mushin, zanshin and Shoshin are intrinsically related, and are only understood when one has surrendered entirely to the process of uke.

To understand the intent of an attacker, the mind, just like in ukemi, is emptied of any attachment to life and death. When this threshold is crossed, true wisdom is received. Teacher to student, hand to hand, heart to heart.

This is the way.

From time immemorial in the martial arts a true student of the way is found in this very action.

How is your uke? Have you given to your master to receive their gift?

Or are you rolling around at their feet secure in the knowledge that you have been seen to be their uke, but never actually received their ukemi.

After all, modern Budo is about being seen to help justify one’s own position and reinforce one’s own identity, and less about erasing such an identity to expose who we really are behind the veil of our ego.

Wouldn’t that be a novel idea. A training where the ego was destroyed and the spirit renewed through training.

The secret is the centre. The light of the heart reveals all truths. It’s about giving without expectation of ever receiving anything in return.

When we understand uke, we enter a gate through which only very few have ever walked.

Let this be your goal, now and always.

Your New Years resolution.

Happy new year.

Peter Kelly

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