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NightOwl
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 08 Dec 2006
Posts: 1097
Location: Lost on the West Coast
Styles: Working on Judo and BJJ

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:00 pm    Post subject: Being an Honest Uke Reply with quote

For those reading who have done martial arts, youíve probably had a chance to be an uke, otherwise roughly simplified to the willing recipient of a martial arts move being practiced. Yes, it is a thankless job with short hours and a horrible health care plan, but in this economy, who can complain? Besides, it serves a noble cause as will be seen.

Although the term "uke" is Japanese and applied primarily in martial arts originating from that country, the role itself is fairly universal. From Aikido, which usually forgoes sparring in favor of focusing solely on drill like exercises, to even the most nontraditional boxing gym, a non resistive receiver of a technique during practice can be found everywhere. In this sense, the "sparring vs. no sparring" debate is a fairly moot point, as both start off with training a technique in a non "alive" environment. The purpose isnít to see if they can pull the move off against a resisting opponent, but if they can get the fundamentals of the move down in an idealized situation. After all, if they canít pull it off on someone not resisting, how will they be able to progress on to where they can use it in a high pressure situation? The uke is there to receive, not fight back.

However, it can also be said that a skillful uke can make anyone look like a master, although I would challenge the notion of that being a good thing. All too often I have seen times where the slightest touch from a small martial artist sends huge ukes flying like they were hit by a speeding truck. The ukes donít so much receive the technique as much as they ENHANCE it. This can happen unconsciously - I am very much guilty of subconsciously, and slightly, lifting my foot when someone practices foot sweeps on me, and I have to watch myself not to. If I donít then they arenít even really sweeping my foot - Iím pulling it up for them. Is that move you are practicing really knocking down your uke or are they falling down just to make your technique "work"?

Again, this is different from resistance. Resistance is actively trying to not let the technique work. However, if you are actively allowing their technique to instantly overwhelm you, youíre just as much if not more so interfering with your partnerís practice. Yes, sometimes they wonít be able to throw you - thatís why you are drilling the move! But, if you purposefully fall over every time then they have never really had a chance to throw someone.

It is important to note again, however, that as an uke you shouldn't be actively fighting back either (unless called for). Yes, eventually the technique should be tried in a more high pressure situation, but you are there to help them learn the fundamental aspects of the move, not physically test them on it. While there is some merit to at times throwing someone "into the deep end," you have to have some idea of what to do first. As an uke, you are there to prepare them for when that time comes. Therefore, just as you shouldn't artificially help them complete a move, you shouldn't actively hinder them either.

Sometimes martial arts instructors confuse resistance and passivity. Resistance is a conscious attempt to prevent or hinder your partner's actions, and as you are there to help them get the fundamental movements down, this is not helpful. But, when someone tries to put you in a wrist lock and it just doesn't work, just because you aren't completely immobilized doesn't mean you are trying to make the technique fail.

It means that the fundamentals of the move are off (or you have really flexible wrists), and if you play into it working, you are not helping your partner truly learn how to do it. When this can really become a problem is when your partner is a higher rank than you or even your instructor! So what is to be done in such a situation? Obviously respect is key, but in the end you might have to decide personally if the cost of not pretending the move worked makes up for the face saving enabled by playing along.

Thus the tile of the essay and some advice that I have heard multiple times: "Be an honest uke." You need to be a passive receiver; not actively fighting but at the same time not letting them get away with bad technique. Keep yourself and your practice partner honest and don't cheat just to get something to work. In that way, you will both get the most out of your experience.
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Patrick
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Joined: 01 May 2001
Posts: 27149
Location: Los Angeles, California

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission.
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Lupin1
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 15 Dec 2009
Posts: 1613
Location: NH USA
Styles: Isshinryu

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Haha. I get yelled at for being too much of an honest uke. If they do the move wrong, I don't go down. Period. They yell at me saying I'm supposed to go down and I'm like "what you're doing isn't going to make me go down". Then I have a higher pain tolerance than all of the big strong men in the class, so while they're all whining like babies at the sensei's slightest touch and making the moves look really scary and painful, when it's tried on me I barely react and they get mad at that (of course, usually the sensei just twists my arm or whatever a little further until he does get a reaction). I'm not going to put on a show for people. I want realistic training so I'll give a realistic reaction.
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joesteph
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Joined: 11 Aug 2008
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Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I enjoyed the article, NightOwl. It's about being straightforward with tori so that genuine learning, meaning performing techniques that actually work as opposed to appearing to work, is going on.

What I gathered from the article is that an honest uke gives accurate feedback in word and deed. I can't help but agree.


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GeoGiant
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Joined: 29 Nov 2009
Posts: 610
Location: East Coast
Styles: Tang Soo Do

PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article!

Being a good uke is something that I work on. I work better with higher belts because I'm not famillar with what technique they are working through. My problem is that my punch will follow the block before it comes. This doesn't seem like it should be a problem, but it is if I don't stay focused.

Your article should be text book reading for white belts.
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Lupin1
KF Sempai
KF Sempai

Joined: 15 Dec 2009
Posts: 1613
Location: NH USA
Styles: Isshinryu

PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

GeoGiant wrote:
My problem is that my punch will follow the block before it comes. This doesn't seem like it should be a problem, but it is if I don't stay focused.


That's something I'm trying to work on right now, too. If I knew someone was going to try to move my arm to the right with their block, I'd just punch to the right to begin with. That is until my sensei told me that if I ever do that again while I'm being uki for him, he'll make me regret it. I've been taught enough painful little lessons by him that I don't want that, so now I always look directly where I want to punch and then punch right there ignoring everything they're supposed to do. I find that if I concentrate on that spot, my punches are more accurate and it's better training for them.
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GeoGiant
Brown Belt
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Joined: 29 Nov 2009
Posts: 610
Location: East Coast
Styles: Tang Soo Do

PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lupin1 wrote:
GeoGiant wrote:
My problem is that my punch will follow the block before it comes. This doesn't seem like it should be a problem, but it is if I don't stay focused.


That's something I'm trying to work on right now, too. If I knew someone was going to try to move my arm to the right with their block, I'd just punch to the right to begin with. That is until my sensei told me that if I ever do that again while I'm being uki for him, he'll make me regret it. I've been taught enough painful little lessons by him that I don't want that, so now I always look directly where I want to punch and then punch right there ignoring everything they're supposed to do. I find that if I concentrate on that spot, my punches are more accurate and it's better training for them.


I noticed that I started to hit people when I focused on punching to their chest. I guess some people get used to having the punch throw where they intend to block it.
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bushido_man96
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Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 27944
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good article, NightOwl. The true role of the uke defined very well. I see this all the time in Hapkido, in DT training, and even in TKD. However, I think that some of the worst I have seen in regards to being an "honest" uke has been in the Aikido classes I have attended. But, I think it is getting better, too.
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joesteph
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Joined: 11 Aug 2008
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Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When working with Sempai today on Osoto Gari, he emphasized that he lets students go through with the throw, but they have to do their part right; i.e., he won't just fall down.

When another student was uke for me, he threw the hook punch, I did the block, the elbow "strike," and then as soon as I started the move to break his balance, he fell right over. Shihon was there with Sempai, and I admitted I hadn't thrown him. He's a teenager who was "honest" enough to say that he went over because he thought he was supposed to fall over. He was politely redirected about performing his role, and when we redid the exercise, I took him down legitimately. Looks like we both learned something.

Diogenes went through the market place in ancient Athens in the middle of the day, holding a lamp and saying he searched for an honest man. We need honest ukes!
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GeoGiant
Brown Belt
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Joined: 29 Nov 2009
Posts: 610
Location: East Coast
Styles: Tang Soo Do

PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought of this article tonight and I had to post something about it.

Apparently I have made progress in being a good uke! Tonight after class Grandmaster pulled me aside and asked to be an uke for one of the brown belts that is testing for his high brown belt. I will be throwing 5 punches to the chest, then 5 stick attacks, then 5 knife attacks. I've worked with this brown belt before but Grandmaster had plenty of people to choose from.

It felt good to know that Grandmaster recognized that I'm trying to be a good training partner for others.
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