The importance of uke and ukemi
As you seek to learn aikido and develop skill in timing and the details of control and off-balance,the importance of uke and of ukemi cannot be overstated.
Uke is literally the role of the "receiver" -- uke recieves off-balance -- recieves the techniques and throws and trains to implement ukemi cleanly and reflexively-- automatically without interference or exaggeration. For Ukemi to stay safe you need to give yourself over to it without internal resistance or pause --Ukemi exemplifies the principle of ju, of softness, yielding and flowing, so as to bring the forces acting upon one into harmony and avoid destruction. Great Ukemi is great surrender, but Ukemi is not defeat-- taking a fall is not a loss -- it is rather the reception of the "information" that the waza is transmitting. As uke, if we receive the technique and energy of tori cleanly we will have leg up on internalization of the same technique -- this process is like an imprint or a photographic negative. You feel the off-balance over and over acting upon you and you subconscious learns to recognize the same pattern in others -- spontaneously you can fit (tsukuri) in correct time and place -- uke builds tori form the inside out.
As Uke, we want to recieve the transmission of tori's technique with as little distortion or interference as possible. If we are resisting off-balance, fighting to maintain control, then we are making "noise" in the system which both distorts the signal we are receiving and makes flowing light easy ukemi impossible -- fighting off-balance just leads to harder and harder falls -- if we invoke the principle of "go" or hardness, rigidity, stength by trying to stop or dampen the effects of kuzushi -- usually by rigidifiying our postural muscles and making internal torque to counter the forces acting upon us -- we will have to pay the price of high intensity falls and low quality imprint. Even a highly skilled tori can't insure your safety under such conditions. Probability of injury is high because you cannot fall and try not to fall at the same time. The contradictory signals in the nervous system don't allow for both to happen. So Ukemi tends to be catastrophic.
My best advice is to give yourself freely to off-balance -- surrender posture and position easily, lightly and take all the nice easy falls you can until they become automatic and non-consciously controlled events -- only after building the internal falling automatic mechanism is it advisible to experiment with conditions of resistance and the principle of "go" and even then with caution and trepidation.
Nick Lowry - Apr 30, 2009