What does it mean to be UKE?


First and foremost, being Uke means to die with dignity! What does this mean? My good friend Danny Parks was up last weekend for my seminar, and he put it in a good way. Danny said: “When I am uke, I am not trying to fight back, however, I am always trying to regain my balance.” It is through this idea that we learn how to survive an attack. The first job of the uke, is to learn how to attack and how to do it well. One of my students asked me the other day about attacking. He told me that he didn’t think that we worked on this enough. I explained to him, that it is because he does not have the eyes to see these things, and in time he will. Uke is always learning to attack, and attacking well is important. If you look at the many techniques contained in this art, we learn how to punch, kick, grab, full nelson, bear hug, sword strike, metubushi, etc. What we need to do a Uke, is to have the focus and intent on what it is that we are supposed to be doing. I often watch how an Uke is attacking. Do they have good balance? good foot position? good fists? etc. Many people think that when we throw wild hard punches, that this is the best way to go. However, we need to look a the balance, and thinking of the fighter. So, how do we learn these things? We learn these things by focusing on what it is that we are doing. So when you are Uke, you should focus on learning the attack. Learing it so well that you can use that attack efficiently enough that it will destroy your opponent. This is not as easy as grabbing and punching someone. We have to also look at the timing, balance, speed, and power displacement of the technique.


In the Bujinkan, many people suffer from the dead Uke syndrom. They just grab and punch, and they are dead before the technique starts. Or the Uke doesn’t punch for target. Training in this fashion is no good for both the Tori and the Uke, why? Because the Uke never learns how to deliver an effective attack, and the Tori never learns how to defend a real attack. So it is important to keep these points in mind. Remember I said that the Uke’s job is to die with dignity. It is already fixed who will die and who will survive for the sake of training. Therfore, the next step is for the Uke to learn how to survive as long as possible, without trying to overturn the technique. What does this mean?


Please study the three pictures above. In this picture above, you can see that Uke is being thrown, However, he is not dead. If you notice, Uke is still paying attention to what is happening. How do we know this? We know this because Uke is watching Tori, and even though the fight may be over, it may not be this is Zanshin. Anyway by being a good Uke, the idea is not to make the technique work or even look good. The idea of being Uke is to learn how to survive a real situation. Uke should be looking for the Tori’s openings. You should be able to see these openings, and depending on who you are training with you can eploit them. This is a major point of survival for both Tori and Uke. This is why Soke tells us to move without openings. Therefore, the Uke can not counter attack. When the Uke exploits the Tori’s openings, it helps the Tori learn that he is open. It also helps the Uke the freedom to attack at anytime, as well as change the course of the fight. This is where reversals come into play. When we do reversal techniques, we are acting as Uke. So please put as much focus and intention into being Uke, just like when you are Tori. I gurantee that your taijutsu will improve tremendously if you pay attention to this area of your training. Nagato Sensei once said, that if you only spend your Budo career training to be a good Uke, then you have spend your years training well.



Chris Carbonaro

Bujinkan Shihan


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