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Ukemi - Developing The Art of Receiving

posted 7 Dec 2009, 15:52 by Unknown user

This page has been updated and included in the ukemi resources section as the sub page Developing the art of Ukemi

 but read on anyway...

With so many students grading last saturday and stepping into more seniors roles everything moves up a notch. This means not only more techniques, faster techniques and more martial techniques but also our ability to receive such techniques. 

At Kotai level practice uke's job is simply to make a physical connection to nage through a wrist grab, hang on for the ride and try and get the feet in place for the proper ukemi. However as you progess to juntai level ukemi and beyond you must be able to co-ordinate your mind and body through these movements to develop your aiki skills of following and protect your body. Fortunately our co-ordination exercises at the start of class (toitsu taiso) and aikido exercises (aikido-taiso) prepare us for this when doing mindfully. We learn through these exercises how to co-ordinate the seika tanden( centre of gravity ) of the body with the seichusen (centre line) with our eyes and most importantly with our minds through a variety of physical postures and movements. So how does this translate to receiving technique with ukemi?

Image WestBrook and Ratti, " Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere"

Iriminage a foundation technique

One of the very first techniques we learn in the dojo is katatekosadori kokyunage, (the embryonic and high level) stages of iriminage and it appears continually through the syllabbus in the first striking technique and is something of a core technique of our art. The ukemi for it can be used for almost any technique in our syllabus, it less demanding physically than other ukemi and is a core method of self protection in many circumstances. So its a good choice to focus on ukemi development. 

Kotai - Static

At kotai level (static level) we keep our centreline straight up and down sit down on our bum, knee first and go into a backward roll (not all the way over though).  We grab cross handed and are brought a circle around, down, up and finally down. The down part of this movement at the end is we take the ushiro-ukemi was or sit down backward roll and is often the toughest movement to translate to higher level practice though this need not be so. (Why we grab and keep grabbing is the subject of a forthcoming post)

Juntai - Flowing (Nage leading, uke following)

At Juntai or 'following level' for uke static lebvl ukemi needs to respond to flowing energy and static level ukemi is puts us in incorrect mama (the wrong place at the wrong time, thus we are liable to be to slow and may end up running into nags palm heel, their elbow or hip. There are three reason for this :-

1) The body fights the incoming energy by resisting it rather than following it. This is fine if you are big and tough but its not going to help you develop or understand aiki

2/ The body responds to the incoming energy  by launching up onto tippy toes to stop all forward motion, thus putting your self in a posture where you cannot move easily

3/ Uke is still doing Kotai level technique.

The remedy is simply when receiving Juntai level technique (where nage is leading under movement) uke needs to follow completely with mind and body. Your eyes, your hand and  tanden all need to follow this. Thus at the end of iris nage rather than standing tall, fighting nage or just stopping allow your eyes, your tanden and your hand to follow nage.  If you focus on this the ukemi takes care of itself, the knees naturally buckle, the hips and tanden point up and you are halfway into your backward before you know it.

Ryutai and beyond

This preparation, at Juntai level is also preparing your body for Ryutai (freestyle) movement, KuTai (Universe or circle level) and finally Kontai (Soul level). At Kutai level nage movements consist of strong Ki extension with small movement that look almost like strikes that only an adequately prepared uke can deal with effectively.

Some outtakes from the Aikido Yuishinkai Syllabbus DVD. 

(Watch the ukemi and look for co-ordination at work)


Some high level iriminage ukemi (not from our school but sometimes seniors play like this )