The meaning and purpose of Uke


When training in Ninjutsu we often work in pairs with one person as tori and the other person as uke, often this is misunderstood as attacker and defender, uke as attacker and tori as defender, this is incorrect, strictly speaking it is better for both to think in terms of tori being the person practicing the technique and uke being the person receiving the technique.

That is not to say uke does not attack tori, if the technique requires it uke should but in a way that allows tori to practice the technique, for example if the technique being learnt by tori is something that would normally be performed if the opponent was leaning forward and punching with a straight right arm, uke should lean forward and punch with a straight right arm, sometimes I see students who act to counter the technique (say by punching with the right arm but keeping it bent, or quickly pulling it back), assuming that if tori can’t deal with this its down to their inability to perform the technique, however if tori cannot get a technique to work it is also the fault of uke who should be assisting in the learning of the technique.

Additionally the stronger uke resists the more they are inviting tori to increase pressure, or if uke is making a determined effort to counter (especially if against an experienced student) tori is likely to change technique to match the movements and position of uke, often this results in uke suffering injury often both to body and also to ego.

However uke’s attack must be accurate but not necessarily fast (speed comes later once the technique is ingrained) , often we are training muscle memory and our nervous systems to respond to specific stimuli, if that stimuli is a punch that is 12 inch off target tori is not going to learn to react with the required speed and response when someone does an attack which is on target.

Once tori has performed their technique is uke defeated? No again this logic only works if you think of attacker and defender, no one is defeated, uke when on the receiving end of a technique should be still active and working in defense, for example if tori performs a throw should uke.

a. Wait until thrown, land like a sack of potatoes and complain loudly that uki is being too aggressive

b. Wait until thrown, then lie passive for a couple of minutes getting your breath back.

c. Go with the throw ensuring you hit the mat based on your own timing, and when on the mat remain alert and guarded waiting for an opportunity to counter attack or get up.

Naturally the last option I feel is the correct one, during the practice of a technique uke is also training themselves, if you perform option a, your only training your self to land like a sack of potatoes and then complain about it, in real life should you ever be thrown (theirs a lot of Judo jujitsu out there), all that’s likely to happen is that your going to hit some concrete hard and probably get a kicking while your still on the floor feeling sorry for yourself.

So for all you new students the one technique I would suggest you learn as quickly as possibly (and so practice as much as possible), break-falls and rolls because to be honest its likely that you will do this in almost every lesson and then when down get up.