On being a bad uke

Either my Saturday Aikido sensei is reading my blog or he’s developed the ability to read my mind, because this week our training focused on the movements of uke.  Additionally  I was delighted at the range of feedback and discussion last week’s blog post produced .  Together this generated further thoughts on being uke.

Questions and points raised

  • By being too ready to receive a technique are you actually hindering your partner, preventing them from learning a proper defence?
  • Where’s the balance, ie what is the “right” amount to resist and receive?
  • There is a joint responsibility for each others safety.

Again I must stress that I still have a lot to learn, I’m not a perfect uke!

A working example

I’m going to use the standard Aikido base technique, Shomen uchi ikkyo as a working example.

For those that don’t practice Aikido here is a video of the technique.

Note the attack (shomen uchi) is very stylised, based on sword movement, it is not one you would expect to encounter in real life.  This attack is a starting point and the main technique (ikkyo) can be applied for a variety of attacks, eg wrist grabs or punches.

Uke’s actions can be broadly split into three.

  • Firstly the attack.
  • Secondly the response.
  • Thirdly the landing.


An attack without focus or intent does not produce a strong reaction to defend.  The attack doesn’t have to be fast, but it must be purposeful.  A bad uke performs a limp chop down with the arm which stops before it even reaches tori’s head.  The attack should continue down the line, so if you were wielding a staff or sword, it would inflict damage rather than a light tap on the skull.

Take away message:  As uke you are wanting to inflict damage on tori.


In ikkyo uke is swept down, forcing them to bend over.  Uke’s balance should be broken and their hand should be made to touch the mat so that any attempt to reach up for a punch sees them falling over.

  1. The automatic response for a bad uke is to just flop over ready for the next stage of the technique.  Don’t!  Tori is not learning, if anything it is a hindrance not a help.  If you’re really attacking someone then would you just give up at the slightest bit of a counter attack?  No.
  2. And this continues when uke is doubled over.  On Saturday we discussed and tried some of the counter techniques that can be done from this position.  If tori has relaxed his guard or not maintained a correct grip on the arm, then uke should start a counter attack, or just try moving away.

A compilation of ikkyo counters.  (Arguably some of the ukes are far too relaxed!)

Take away message:  As uke you don’t want to stop trying to attack.


As tori moves in for the final stage of the technique I would argue that this is likely to be the point where uke starts to accept what is happening in order to prepare themselves to land safely.  A bad uke here ends up falling awkwardly and injuring themselves.  I’m sure those with plenty of experience can confidently still resist and yet land safely, but it will be some time before I’m there.  And a wise tori may choose this moment to slow a technique or even halt if he feels his uke lacks the experience to land safely from resistance or high speed.

Take away message: As uke you need to land safely.

Next week:  The real life applications on being a responsive uke.

This entry was posted in General observations, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.