NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

Understanding the “Why” Behind Ukemi

When Dave Johnson asked me to serve as his Uke for the Classical Techniques of his Ni-Dan test, I was flabbergasted.  After a few days of practice with him, I asked him why he chose me to be his uke (a lowly I-Kyu at the time) over all of the other more knowledgeable Black Belts in the dojo?"  To my question he replied, "You are a good uke and because of that, you can tell me when I am making a mistake in my technique."   Lesson Learned:  To be a good Nage, you must first be a good Uke.  

The nature of taking safe falls and rolls in Aikido training is paramount on every level, but practicality is the most obvious reason to develop these skills.  

Simply put, you are much more likely to injure yourself in an accidental fall than you are ever likely to be involved in a self-defense situation.  For this matter alone, good ukemi skills are of vital importance.  In the real world, your ukemi (the ability to roll and fall safely) will protect you within the confines of the dojo, but also on the slippery bathroom tile floor, or the steep flight of stairs.

As ukemi relates to the dojo, 50% of Aikido training is the art of taking the falls and rolls in martial situations.  Since you are the person primarily responsible for your own safety, it only makes sense that you learn to protect your self as well as possible.

Learning ukemi must be a conscious, committed decision.  In many ways rolling itself is a perceived hazard, and the obvious conflict in our DNA is the desire to "do no further harm" prohibits many.  By this reasoning, the idea of “meeting the mat” is frowned upon by many new and old aikidoka alike.  That said, we must endeavor to overcome our fears and master these skills as early as possible so we can remain injury free, and also to make our experience more realistic.  

Let’s face it, if your uke can’t take the fall for the Over The Back Throw, practicing the Over The Back Throw is less realistic than it would be if he could take that fall.

You are much more likely to injure yourself in an accidental fall than you are ever likely to be involved in a self-defense situation.

For this reason alone, good ukemi skills are of vital importance, and need to be encouraged.

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One Final Observation:  Keep in mind that good ukemi skills involve more than simply falling down!  In fact, it might be safe to say that the last thing uke does is fall down ~ after he has provided the proper attack, followed nage’s lead appropriately, maintained connection with nage, and then attempted to reverse and/or recover.  Only then, after all those tasks, does uke fall down.

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