By Tor Laurel.
“…And then it hit me!”
Normally this phrase is used to describe some sort of revelation, and certainly it has been. However on a far more literal level over the last fourteen years I have indeed been hit (and thrown and locked up and occasionally strangled) by Richard Trafford who has been my Sensei during this time. Ok not my normal pitch on how to sell a martial art to people, but to be fair an important and underrated element of martial art learning.
What I’m talking about, in Aikido, is traditionally call the role of “ Uke”. I’m not sure what the karate equivalent is called. (My suspicions are “punch bag” – I did mentioned that I’ve been hit for the last fourteen year!!) . Well then “Uke” …what’s it all about? A rough translation is the “one who receives the technique”. So it is the person that initiates an attack and as a result gets thrown (hit, locked, strangled etc.). Let’s think about it then… hands up who wants to be Uke?…. Ah, no takers.
Unsurprisingly when people walk through the door they want to do the technique. If they’re learning Aikido this may be a throw. They make the assumption that by learning how to throw somebody they have learned the technique, and the only reason why they endure being thrown is to allow their training partner to have their go. In traditional Aikido however you only truly begin to understand the technique when you have both performed the technique and been on the receiving end of it. The reasoning behind this is simple. As Uke you are not passive. You are not just being hit or thrown but trying to feel your own vulnerability whilst the technique is being applied. In a self-defence situation the ability to be aware of your own vulnerabilities and weaknesses is equally as important as your ability to deliver a good retaliating technique.
So for all our students, especially our teaching assistant brown belts, the next time I, or any other of the Senseis, hit, kick, throw, lock or strangle you, just remember….. we are really trying to help you…!
See you in the dojo 😉