The Uke - Nage Relationship
The Uke/Nage relationship in Aikido is not an adversary one but one of a colleague, partner or supporter. An understanding between two or more persons, in which both parties are practicing different sides of the same movement, at the same time, in harmony with each other. No one person practices independently in Aikido when working with a partner. Uke/Nage both have a function in the technique for it to work right. They both must do their part as completely and as aware of the other's energy patterns as their level of learning will let them. It takes an understanding between both parties involved to execute proper technique.
The Uke has several things he is working on. First, is extending Ki into a solid, direct attack. One which forces the Nage to respond. Uke should remember: A poor or miss directed attack means Nage is learning to respond to this kind of attack. On the street very few attackers will miss their target on purpose. Remember Uke: You are helping Nage become better at the techniques. Therefore, have the focus and intention so that you will perform the attack correctly and on target so Nage will learn what it is like to have a direct attack come at him. It is important to remember that you will perform outside of class the same way you perform in class. You will expect the same kind of attacks and the same kind of response from your attacker. The essence of the first item is: A proper attack helps both Nage and Uke. Nage, by forcing him to respond or he will get hit. A direct attack will require and allow Nage to use proper technique. Uke, will learn how and where to strike. If it is ever required in a real confrontation, he will know how and be used to performing good direct attacks. Again, if Uke constantly avoids or neglects Nage with his attack, he will react the same way in a real confrontation. Both will learn balance and centering.
The second thing Uke should learn is to attack on balance. It is Nage's responsibility to take Uke's balance. A poor attack which allows Nage to take Ukes's balance very easily can be a lot of fun for Nage, but he learns to respond and expects this type of attack. A strong, focused,direct attack will throw Nage's center out the door as he wonders why the technique won't work. Remember, once you learn to take balance from one who is centered and on balance, taking balance from one who is never centered is easy.
The third thing Uke is working on is a natural response to Nage's technique. When you start a technique. study how you feel the average person would respond in a violent situation. Very few people will bend over at the hips and stay in this position. Usually, our natural response is to go in the opposite direction that we have been pulled or shoved. Therefore, respond more naturally. When you are bent over, stand up. When you are shoved, push back. When you are pulled, pull back. Remember, Aikido is a blending, a harmonizing between Nage and Uke. Nage needs Uke to respond so he can feel Uke's movements and energy patterns, this will allow Nage to know when and at what point to take balance or follow through with the rest of the technique. If Uke never responds, Nage will be confused when an attacker does respond. If Uke has had his balance taken. and he is bent over (such as in a kokyunage technique), and he never stands up, it is only natural that Nage learns to do the technique to Uke from the bent over position. Usually this means Nage has to use force to make Uke come up. There is no feeling of taking Uke's balance or controlling his energy pattern when using force. Nage might as well be doing any martial art at this point. In randori (free style), Nage would have the option to continue the flow and take Uke to the ground using no force. Once Uke learns to follow a technique. and respond naturally from start to finish, he will also learn how to perform the technique, as he will have a special awareness of the technique.
The fourth thing Uke needs to work on is relaxation and non-resistance. This does not mean Uke is to be like a wet dish rag. Even when Uke is taken into a circular motion with a tenkan type move and his balance is broken, he must try and maintain his center and attempt to gain his balance. An easy test to see if Uke is too loose and not responding, is to take Uke into a full tenkan move and then let Uke go half-way through the technique. If Uke continues moving on more than a step or two, he is not responding or trying to regain his balance. Usually this means Uke is functioning in a lethargic state of mind. When you notice this happening stop what you are doing, and ask Uke to please pay attention. Conscious relaxation in the beginning will allow relaxation to become as natural as a reflex over a period of time. Relaxation is one of the four principles and one of the virtues of Aikido. Attention to this item is as important as doing the techniques themselves. Relaxation will allow Uke to respond more naturally to the technique's dynamics. Uke's ability to be thrown, fall, and recover are a direct relation to how relaxed Uke is. Do not resist your falls or projections. At first, if you have a hard time with your falls, consciously relax all the muscles in your body and go with the fall. A relaxed fall is a much softer landing than if your body is all tensed up through the fall. In advanced techniques, Uke is not given time to set up for his fall. He must respond to the technique at once. The more relaxed and the less Uke resists the technique, the better his ability to escape becomes. Again, learning this type of relaxation and non-resistance will translate into good technique on the street.
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