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13 Ukemi: Personal Reflections

Thoughts on Ukemi
  • Sheree Seniors must admit at some point in our ukeing roles many of us have been up the front and if you're like me you feel obliged to be a ...
    Posted 6 Feb 2010, 03:57 by aikidorepublic
  • Daniel James Early on in my aikido career I found being a pro-active Uke seemed to bring a lt of positive feedback. I was asked to Uke for gradings and often ...
    Posted 6 Feb 2010, 04:13 by aikidorepublic
  • Gabrielle Paynter I would like to agree that the practise of ukemi is personal. My story is that when I get back to practising soft breakfalls, the first couple are atrocious to ...
    Posted 6 Feb 2010, 03:47 by aikidorepublic
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Sheree

posted 6 Feb 2010, 03:48 by aikidorepublic

Seniors must admit at some point in our ukeing roles many of us have been up the front and if you're like me you feel obliged to be a great uke for the purposes of the demonstration.  It doesn't mean falling at Sensei's feet at the slightest nudge, but I want to be confident enough to be safe AND look spectacular :)  I believe there is a balance and it's just as important to focus equally on the uke role as it is to be nage and do techniques.  At times the balance swings back and forth, with focusing on gradings and then going back to enjoying training again and looking for the next challenge.  I respect anyone who chooses not to uke as that is ultimately their choice.

One thing I was really getting into recently as uke was the "slide" back fall ukemi  (usually from ki-cut or kokunage under movement, Hashimoto sensei-style) which is awesome when you first get it and even though less impact and risk than breakfalling, it was worth all the mat burn and tight muscles afterwards to have so much FUN!  So are we seeking more adrenalin buzz?  If something is fun - we usually are good at it and if we are good at something it makes it more fun.  How do we get good?  We know the answer.

To breakfall, or not to breakfall, that is the question!  In the past I have found big cushy mats a good thing and a bad thing to learn on, because anyone can throw themselves around on a soft surface but then back on the real mat you have to adjust an extra 20cm or so to the ground.  So for me the best breakfall training has been to learn soft ukemi and soft breakfalling on the nice blue acromats, together with repetition and building up gradually.  If you want to practice rolling out all the bumps and pain in a safe environment, try regular jigsaw mats (concrete and back decks are too extreme for me).  After hitting these mats hard (I mean that in the softest sense of the word, with vigour and enthusiasm) I really noticed a difference in my ukemi confidence when back on the acromats.

I enjoyed every moment of the few times I can almost count on one hand where I've had breakfall instruction.  Even the pain and the massage afterwards.  But like any new skill you need get the muscle memory happening and if you dont use it (with some regularity) you can loose it, so end up back at square one the next time you get an opportunity to practice.

Daniel James

posted 6 Feb 2010, 03:47 by aikidorepublic   [ updated 6 Feb 2010, 04:13 ]

Early on in my aikido career I found being a pro-active Uke seemed to bring a lt of positive feedback. I was asked to Uke for gradings and often took ukemi for visiting teachers etc.. A proactive Uke meant taking the fall just before you had to, Nage got the feeling of effortless aiki and everyone was happy, right?. Around this time I began packing a Gi when ever I was travelling and started practicing with all manner of schools doing aikido. Progressive incidents have lead me to rethink my Ukemi and why we respond the way we do. These include being choked out, challenged to  a private match after class as my ukemi was seen as competitive and was castigated in front of class for having dangerous ukemi (to myself). All schools seem to take Ukemi particular to their schools, based on the way they practice and I have learnt a lot not just about aiki but also Ukemi from practicing in these other schools. Its a work in progress

Gabrielle Paynter

posted 6 Feb 2010, 03:42 by aikidorepublic

I would like to agree that the practise of ukemi is personal. My story is that when I get back to practising soft breakfalls, the first couple are atrocious to where I consistently take too much weight in my leading arm and compress my shoulder into my neck = headaches for the next couple of days. It doesn't help that my falls get better straight after, the damage is already done. Basically I'm not getting enough consistent practise at these soft breakfalls (the ones I get right) to get it through to my body/mind for them to become learnt and natural. So what should I do? Practising before class is probably not a good idea because my body is not warmed up and after class I'm tired, also not such a good idea. Is the problem because we do not do regular enough practise in class, like we do regular rolling?

...IMHO, maybe not. We have a HUGE syllabus already. I can only think of a handful of people who learn so fast that the progression through the syllabus is too slow for them. Secondly, the syllabus does not support the need for certain types of ukemi, infact sometimes it impedes it. For example, if we went about learning Hashimoto Sensei's throw-the-cat-in-the-air-and-watch-it fall-on-its-feet type of breakfalls.Sure, we could practise them. But the fact is we don't do big huge throws that require that type of ukemi. We don't get thrown that way...much, because we don't throw that way...much either. Which means when we practise those breakfalls, the thrower will have trouble giving the throw-ee the right momentum, the right angle, the right everything. 

For someone new to any type of ukemi, they need the support of their nage delivering consistent, appropriate throws to get past the initial 'get the movement in your body' part before they can handle variations on that. Think about when you first started learning forward rolls. Why do we want to learn ukemi that is not necessary for a safe and effective "exit" from an attack we've made, but have been thwarted on? It's like a body builder lifting weights so he's strong enough to lift the weights he's got to lift. All I'm saying is that the learning process is tricky, injury potential is high, it's a long road to teach a dojo of one style the ukemi of another.
 
ON THE OTHER HAND :) we obviously have a dojo full of fantastically open-minded, inquisitive students hungry for new experiences. In some respects you could say that this is quite special about Griffith Aikido and certainly, in this latest incarnation of Griffith Aikido, must stem from the enthusiasm to train at other places and encouragement for senior students to do likewise. We take it for granted now but it's not usual! You won't find many other schools visiting our dojo or our seminars unless a relationship has been built beforehand, and then it's still often problematic.

 Or maybe we can look further up at the entire Aikido Yuishinkai organisation with it's "Aikido without boundaries" policy to welcome everyone - including some of our higher ranking senseis who have brought their ukemi ideas and techniques from other styles. How would you feel to be infront of your whole organisation if the instructor chose to breakfall you out of a technique and you didn't know how? I know I dread the thought of me and my aching bones after crashing inelegantly to the mat.
Lastly I would like to put forth an idea from Ellis Amdur - that  ukemi skills as we know them have been a very recent development. So perhaps we are entering a new era in aikido development?  With the skill-sharing possibilities now with YouTube, maybe we are right to evolve?

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