Saturday, June 6, 2009


Here is a really important article on ukemi written by our regular contributor Nick Lowry.

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


  1. I think playing the role of uke is where you learn to yield, flow, listen, etc.

  2. Yes. I think it is how you learn to do counters..and in fact do real aikido.

    In the past year or two at my school we have not been doing the easy to push over model of ukemi. In hindsight it might have been a mistake. Just many Aikidoka find it shocking when a judo guy doesn't "fall over" when they try to execute technique.

  3. Ukemi is really the key in understanding technique. There's an old saying that the hardest Judoka to throw in the dojo is the one who has taken the most falls.

    Every time we are thrown, our body is processing information about how it happened. Your body uses this information to create a picture, much like a negative with film. Your body then uses that negative to print pictures as you work on throwing your partner. Let everyone throw you -- you receive more input and develop a better picture.

    I once heard a Judo sensei comment that he didn't teach ukemi because falling down is for losers. So sad. This is a lot of what is wrong with Judo today.