Saturday, September 6, 2008

Good Uke / Bad Uke

An important lesson for a new student is how to be a good uke. An uke is one who executes the attack. This is important for several reasons but the main reason is safety. It is vital that students have the opportunity to learn techniques in a safe environment.

When I was a brown belt, I took Danzan-ryu jujitsu for a few months along with Okinawa Kenpo. I had to stop due to the time and preparation needed for my black belt testing in Okinawa Kenpo. I remember the instructor telling us that a technique must be performed over 5000 times before you really know it. Now, I am not sure of the number…but it is necessary to repeat techniques enough until it becomes a natural reaction. These classes made me appreciate training with a good uke.

The first time a student performs any type of partner work, we discuss what it means to be a good uke. I will use a basic wrist grab as an example.

- Grab with a firm grip. This does not mean that you should grab until the wrist turns blue. The grip should be strong enough so that the tori (the one who executes the technique) needs to execute the technique properly for a release. The tori should know what it feels like to be grabbed and escape the hold. A weak grip does not allow the tori to learn the technique properly.
- The process of “tapping out” is explained.
- Students need to pay attention to the instructor. They need to know the details of the technique.
- Kids often want to grab each other with an iron grip. They tend to put full force and power in all their techniques. We discuss what control means when working with a partner.
- There is no ego, arrogance or anger.

The meaning of a good uke changes as one achieves more rank and experience. You want your training partner to increase intensity as your skill improves. Attacks should become faster and become increasing realistic. Safety is still of utmost importance. If a student is injured, they cannot train.

A bad uke has no regard for their partner. They have no control and take no responsibility.


Perpetual Beginner said...

While we don't use the terms in our class (most karate places don't in my experience, as opposed to aikido or kenpo), teaching how to be a good uke figures pretty heavily in our drill training. It's difficult to teach the kids to adjust their attacks to the size and strength of the opponent. Having to execute full force against an adult in one class, and then having to moderate down to a fraction of that for the 8-year-old confuses them for quite a while. Because our classes have such a wide range of sizes and ages, we probably don't drill as tori and uke as often as we should.

Meg said...

I've been on the receiving end of grabs that actually HURT. I am glad to see your definition of it because it makes a lot more sense and is a better to hear, in my opinion, than " you have to learn it like this to teach it correctly."

Michele said...

PB: You are right, it is difficult to teach the kids control. Most kids start out by putting every ounce of power in their technique. In my opinion, the most challenging class to teach is one where there are multiple kyu ranks and ages.

Meg: Thanks for the comment. I think it is important to learn proper technique first and then increase the intensity of the grab.

David said...

I study shotokan karate and Aikido. I will talk about it with a co worker and when I show him a basic grab i learned in aikido, he trys his hardest to go aginst the grab. I'm trying to show him how the grab will work and he is trying to show how big his ego is. The last time he did it I explained that if the person being grabbed does that, an elbow to the ribs or face will losen them up. He tried to tell me he wasnt strong arming me, I explained Iv been training for 16 years and know when a person is trying to show off.