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Thread: UKE

  1. #1
    judoka_uk's Avatar
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    Feb 2008


    Kosei is sad!

    Kosei is sad, because he wants to do Judo, but canít because he has no one to practice with.

    Now Kosei is happy!

    Kosei is happy, because now he has a partner, he can practice Judo.

    To do Judo, takes two people.

    To learn Judo, takes two people working together

    In order for a beginner to learn Judo its vital that they have a good uke. And as the beginner progresses through intermediate to advanced the importance of a good uke not only remains, but the importance of them being a good uke becomes ever more important.

    So how do you become a good uke?

    Well it starts with the foundation...


    Ukemi is the foundation of being a good uke because fundamental to being a good uke is confidence in being thrown and being comfortable going over.

    If a beginner doesnít learn to be good at break falling and comfortable being thrown they will never become a good Judo player and will probably drop out of the sport.

    Central to ensuring good ukemi in beginners is regular practice and appropriate practice.

    Appropriate practice should also be matched with appropriate pairing.

    Appropriate practice

    White belts should not be made to take falls from complex throws early in their Judo experience.

    Rather the amount of time they are actually thrown outside of highly controlled circumstances should be minimised

    Appropriate pairing

    Thereís never a scenario where a white belt should be paired with a black belt for the black belt to practice full commitment nagekomi. This is an example of inappropriate pairing.

    Itís also ideal to avoid pairing white belts with other white belts for nagekomi. However, in small clubs or in beginner only classes this may be unavoidable.

    Appropriate practice and appropriate pairing are important so that a beginner has time to develop their ukemi skills before being thrown into the deep end and so that their early experiences of falling and being thrown are positive ones. So that they go forward associating falling and being thrown with safety and comfort, rather than pain, injury and danger.

    If a basic competency and familiarity with falling is not established then a beginner will never be able to progress to the more advanced areas of being an uke.


    Now naturally the above will be out of the control of you, the humble beginner, it will be in the control of your club coach/ that dayís instructor.

    However, what you do have control over is your time management and your level of commitment.

    Manage your time and demonstrate your commitment by turning up early and or stay late after each practice and spending 5/10/15 minutes practicing ukemi.

    I know youíre busy, you have a job, kids, a WAG to please, but everyone can always make time. Iíll bet you can make time to go to the pub, make time to watch TV and make time to dick about on an internet forum like you are now- reading this...

    You can make time either 5 minutes before or 5 minutes after practice to work on your ukemi.

    A good Uke

    What makes a good uke?

    Aside from the obvious, being able to fall and take ukemi.
    Being a good uke is actually quite a difficult thing to become, because the secret to being a good uke is understanding how the throw being practiced on you works so that you can then position yourself, react and allow yourself to be moved in the specific way that makes that throw easy to practice.

    This is what makes being a good uke so hard for beginners as, because youíre a beginner you donít have an understanding of how even one throw works let alone a wide variety of them.

    You also may not have the fine motor skills and sensitivity of movement to position yourself and react in a helpful and constructive way.

    Fortunately, however, as you learn more about Judo and, hopefully, get better at Judo you will start to understand how throws work more and more and so will learn what it is you need to do as an uke to help your partner Ė tori, achieve.

    However, in the meantime between learning more about throws and understanding what it is you need to do and now. There are some major mistakes you can avoid and some things you can do to make life easier for your partners and thus make yourself a better practice partner.

    Common errors

    By far and away the most common errors beginners make when being an uke are Jigotai-ing and stepping off.


    Jigotai is Japanese and translates as something like Ďdefensive postureí. Its characterised by bending at the knees and lowering the centre of gravity.

    And will be familiar to anyone who has done Judo with a beginner.
    Jigotai-ing is a natural reaction to someone trying to break your balance forward, because people who arenít used to Judo donít want to go off balance. As theyíve spent 20-40 years of their life learning not to fall over.

    What makes Jigotai-ing such a problem for beginners acting as ukes is that it is so natural a reaction it is done unconsciously without the beginner realising it.

    Here you see a stylised demo of a bad uke Jigotai-ing during an uchikomi session

    Jigotai-ing is a natural reaction, but it is a natural reaction born out of fear.

    A fear of being thrown, the more confident you are at being thrown i.e the better at ukemi you are. The more trust you have in your tori i.e working with a higher grade who has control.

    Then you will experience less or no fear of being thrown and thus this natural fear reaction wonít happen.

    However, you canít overnight turn into a ukemi wizard who can float to earth like a feather rather than crash to it like a wounded elephant.

    Nor can you always guarantee to be paired with controlled and considerate partners.

    Thus you must take it upon yourself to stop Jigotai-ing and regulate yourself to make sure you arenít Jigotai-ing whilst someone is performing uchikomi or nagekomi on you.

    Want an incentive to help you ensure you do regulate yourself?

    The more you Jigotai in uchikomi, the worse your partners techniques will be and thus the less control and ability to throw safely they will have.

    This will get worse when it comes to nagekomi...

    The more you Jigotai in nagekomi, the more your tori will have to power through to ensure the throw and the less control they will be able to exert. Thus the more likely you are to get hurt.

    If you combine someone whoís never been able to perform a technically correct uchikomi because of uke Jigotai-ing. Then trying to power through his technically incorrect throw in nagekomi, because of uke Jigotai-ing.

    You as uke are more likely to get hurt.

    Stepping Off

    Stepping off, like Jigotai-ing, is a natural defensive reaction to stop yourself being thrown. Its not only natural, but is effective being used often in randori to escape throw attempts.

    Except in randori the objective is to practice attack and defence, in uchikomi and nagekomi as uke you arenít supposed to be defending and thwarting your toriís throw attempts youíre supposed to be enabling and assisting them.

    An example of stepping off

    Usually in uchikomi such an extreme stepping off is unusual and if a beginner was being that extreme theyíd probably be asked to stop by their partner and definitely be on the receiving end of an explanatory lecture by an instructor on how to uke.

    Normally, however, what you see from beginners is a more subtly but as hindering stepping off.

    Uke will move their foot forwards with the sleeve pull of tori.
    So that this sleeve pull

    Will see a beginner uke actually step forward slightly as their upper body is pulled off balance.

    This is, again, a natural reaction engrained through 20-40 years of learning that human beings shouldnít fall over.

    So they take a compensatory step forward to reset their balance, creating something like this

    Which when you visualise how their hips are now set

    Demonstrates how disruptive that is to a toriís throw attempt.
    Here we see stepping off combined with a throw in a static and moving nagekomi situation.

    You will observe in both situations, moving and static, that uke steps forward slightly with toriís kuzushi action to the sleeve hand.
    This creating a gap between his planted and advanced feet, represented by blue and red lines respectively.

    This changes his hip position and throwing angle, causing toriís throw to look untidy.

    Unlike Jigotai-ing, stepping off often means the throw goes awry, but doesnít have as high injury potential as a result.

    However, it is as annoying for a tori trying to learn and as detrimental to your toris development if youíre stepping off during uchikomi and nagekomi.

    Again it is up to you to regulate yourself to ensure you arenít stepping off.

    If you think you may be guilty off this but arenít sure call over an instructor and ask them to watch and see if that is what youíre doing and then get them to help you fix it.

    The fix is, if you havenít already guessed it....

    More confidence in your ukemi and confidence in the control and responsibility of your tori.

    The final major error is...

    Stiff Arming

    No, just no.

    If youíre stiff arming during uchikomi and nagekomi you need a few of these

    But how do I...?

    Naturally as a conscientious person who wants to get better, well if youíve been reading this article for this long youíre either conscientious and want to get better or really sad...

    You will want to know how you can self-regulate and not commit some of the major uke-ing errors.

    Whats, my first answer going to be?

    Did you guess ĎMore ukemií?


    Ok, but lets assume that after all my badgering you are actually doing as much Ukemi as humanly possible.

    Youíve also picked the most controlled and responsible partner you can find to work with.

    What next?

    There are a couple of simple things you can do become a better uke.

    Allowing yourself to be made ready to be thrown

    The major or common errors I outlined previously all stem from a lack of willingness to allow yourself to be made ready to be thrown.

    You will all hopefully be familiar with the 3 stage throw process


    However, what many people do is only look at this from the perspective of a tori.

    When doing Judo you will spend as much time as an uke as you will a tori so you will need to be able to look at a the throwing process from the other perspective.

    To this end I propose this simplified process that an uke goes through:

    Allowing yourself to be made ready to be thrown.
    Being made ready to be thrown
    Going with the throwing action
    Taking ukemi

    Now this is obviously not a perfect model, its my own back of a fag packet model. However, letís just roll with it for now, for the sake of the article.

    Of the four I would argue that three are active and one is passive.

    The active three:
    Allowing yourself to be made ready to be thrown.
    Going with the throwing action
    Taking ukemi

    Require consciousness, positioning, personal adjustment and specific movements by the uke.

    The passive one:
    Being made ready to be thrown

    I.e having kuzushi and tsukuri applied to you are facilitate by your active steps, but are not Ďactiveí in the same way as the other three.

    So at this point lets pull back from theoretical waffling and look at some real world examples.

    Now, because Allowing yourself to be made ready to be thrown and Being made ready to be thrown are visual indistinguishable. The first being mental and attitudinal and facilitating the second.

    One camera they happen as one, however, I argue for a beginner the Ďallowing yourselfí stage of consciously deciding ĎOK Iím not in danger, Iím not going to get hurt, I can get thrown safely and thus will allow myself to have my balance brokení.

    Needs to be acknowledged in order to be performed.

    So in this visual example Uke is allowing himself to be made ready to be thrown and Being made ready to be thrown simultaneously.

    And here he doesnít do an exaggerated on tip toes action, but allows his upper body to come forward and his COG to be shifted.

    An advanced Judoka like the tori in the video does these two things naturally.

    However as a beginner you need to learn to psychologically and mentally reassure yourself of your safety and the lack of danger in order yourself to allow yourself to be made ready to be thrown and then as a consequence enable your tori to make you made ready to be thrown.

    Understanding the throw being done to you

    As I mentioned early on in the article, the hardest part about being a truly good uke, is that you need to have an understanding of the mechanics and workings of the throw that is being done to you.
    Now, obviously as a beginner, there is no way you can know and understand every throw. I as a semi-competent 1st dan only know a bit and understand a bit of a handful of throws, probably fewer than 4/5.

    However, you donít have to know the ins and outs of every throw to be a good uke as a beginner.

    You just need to keep some simple principles in mind.

    Feet shoulderís width apart...

    If youíve never been told to stand Ďfeet shoulderís width apartí youíve probably not done Judo.

    However, letís think about this old maxim for a moment.

    Why do we stand with our feet shoulderís width apart and not say as wide apart as we can or even at a mere gnatís crotchet width apart?

    Well as it turns out shoulderís width is a pretty ideal foot placement to allow tori to enter for most throws and for ukeís balance to be effectively broken.

    So with that in mind lets think about foot placement.

    If youíre static this is a relative non issue for most throws you just get to the old shoulderís width and thatís it.

    Add in movement, however, and a free flowing nagekomi session which moves around the whole mat. Or even a simple ashiwaza to major throw combination during which tori has to T-up.

    Then you need to start thinking about your foot placement and your toriís throw.

    For example if youíve just stepped off an ashiwaza or are moving around and your partner wants to do a Tai otoshi.

    Having your feet spread wide apart is going to make it really awkward for them

    Consider especially if your tori is shorter than you.

    If youíre a lanky 6ft 3 working with a stocky 5ft 8 then youíre going to have to think that if theyíre practicing Tai otoshi during a moving situation. Then you as the lanky one will have to appreciate that they need you to bring you feet close together or closer together than normal to help them do the throw.

    Theyíve got enough to worry about without having to do the splits, because you arenít thinking about your foot placement relative to their throw and or stature.

    Similarly if your tori is practicing a throw like Seoi nage they wonít want you to bring your feet together.

    And if we reverse the Tai otoshi scenario imagine now youíre the taller player having to work with the shorter one. Youíre going to want a good gap between their feet in order to get in for your Seoi nage.

    This also applies to drilling situations where you, as an uke, have to step off a major attack which is followed up by an ashiwaza attack.

    If you step off a Tai otoshi and bring your legs close together when your tori wants to follow up with an O uchi or Ko uchi youíre being unhelpful.

    So think about what throws your tori is going to be doing and how you should stand to best help enable them to do that throw.
    Oh and btw, whatever you do.

    Do not google image search for Ďknees togetherí with safe search off.

    Just donít.

    So on a characteristically high note letís draw things to a close...



    Ukemi and the confidence it brings when being thrown is what underpins everything.

    If you canít breakfall you canít uke.


    Like those on Wall Street and in the Square Mile, Iím keen on self-regulation.

    It is your responsibility as constructive member of your club and as a practice partner to ensure you arenít making mistakes that you have control over.

    However, donít be afraid to ask for help and supervision. Like Wall Street and the Square Mile a bailout is only a request, or two, away.

    Be Active not Passive

    As an Uke you should be working almost as much as tori and you need to be concentrating just as hard. Thereís no point just switching off and thinking about what youíre having for tea. You need to concentrate on how youíre doing to ensure the best practice experience for your partner.

    It takes two to Judo...

    Think about your partnerís practice

    What throws is he doing?

    How should you position yourself for them Ė feet wide, narrow?

    Weight on the toes, the heels?

    Should you speed up or decelerate relative to your tori? If so when?

    Above All

    Mutual benefit and welfare.

    The better uke you are, the better your club mates will be.

    The better your practice partners, the better you will get.

    Greatness begets greatness.

    Work on being a good uke, it will make you a better Judo player in the long run.

    Happy New Year.

  2. #2
    BJJ might make you a better ground fighter, but Judo will make you a better dancer. Join us... or die

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    W. Yorks, UK
    An important lesson, and one that's rarely ever taught (or even thought about).

    +1, happy new year.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Fargo, North Dakota
    Well done sir, never thought about being active as uke before, will have to keep that in mind come judo time.

  4. #4
    judoka_uk's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by judojeff View Post
    Well done sir, never thought about being active as uke before, will have to keep that in mind come judo time.

    I'm going to lower the tone here but, **** it.

    When I was younger I remember a conversation with a virginal girlfriend about how her main concern about her first experience was that it would be 'log like' i.e her just lieing there having it done to her and not actually getting any pleasure from sex just being an accessory to the act.

    I think this is kind of informative for how many people see being an uke, except in perverse reverse.

    Many people treat being an uke as time to be 'the log' they'll stare off into the distance, think about what they're having for tea and generally disassociate themselves from the activity.

    Neil Adams has talked about how Judoka just bang out uchikomi without thinking as a routine, but I think the opposite is more problematic. Uke's just letting uchikomi be done to them without thought.

    When I uke for a 50-100 rep uchikomi set I'm almost as tired as tori, because I've been sinking my weight, letting it rise, tilting my body into the throw, assisting his movements etc...

    If you aren't tired after uke-ing for decent number of reps you aren't being a good uke. Sure you shouldn't be shagged after uke-ing for 10 uchikomi, but if we get to big numbers you should be working and working hard.

    This becomes even more important on the move. As uke we have to concentrate super hard on what our tori is doing and going to be doing.

    And you know what if you mess up or aren't sure.

    Just bloody talk to them.

    As a tori I always say to my uke, if we're doing moving nagekomi 'I'm going to do Sasae, step off it, then I'm going to throw with tai otoshi, ok?' They acknowledge and then they know their job and what I'm going to do.

    Similarly if the class has been working on a series of combos and I get called out with a beginner to demo a pair. I always say to them 'What are you going to do?' And they tell me, so I make them fix it in their their minds, for example, 'OK so I'll step off you O uchi gari, you'll T up and then you'll throw me with Uchi mata, is that right?' They agree.

    And then not only do I know, that I know what they're going to do. I've reassured and reminded them what they have to do. As beginners always forget under pressure of a demo, always.

    As I concluded the article with its about 'mutual benefit and welfare' or in simple terms, just being considerate.

  5. #5
    Rock Ape's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    This needs making into an article for the wiki.

    Judoka_uk, do you mind if I do just that ? Full credit will be given to you of course.
    "To sin by silence when one should protest makes cowards out of men".

    ~Ella Wheeler

  6. #6
    judoka_uk's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by Ho Ho Fcuk You ! View Post
    This needs making into an article for the wiki.

    Judoka_uk, do you mind if I do just that ? Full credit will be given to you of course.

    Yeh sure, go ahead, didn't realise the site had a technique wiki.

    Looking back there's a couple of typos that could do with fixing. If you PM me an e-mail address I can send you the word file I wrote it in so you've got all the picture and video links easily and don't have to dig them out of the post in this thread.

  7. #7
    BKR's Avatar
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    Jun 2009
    Bonners Ferry, Idaho
    Kodokan Judo/BJJ
    Nice work once again.

    I've been telling my students they will often be judged by senior judoka (those senior judoka who actually know Judo well, at least) more on how good an uke they are than how good a tori. It shows a more true understanding of the aims and principles of Judo than being able to toss people around.

    At more advanced levels of practice, uke becomes even more critical. You can't do complex grip/countergrip move throw action reaction drills without an uke who reacts properly.

    Falling for Judo since 1980

    "You are wrong. Why? Because you move like a pregnant yak and talk like a spazzing 'I train UFC' noob." -DCS

    "The best part of getting you worked up is your backpack full of irony and lies." -It Is Fake

    "Banning BKR is like kicking a Quokka. It's foolishness of the first order." - Raycetpfl

  8. #8
    judoka_uk's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by BKR View Post
    Nice work once again.

    Quote Originally Posted by BKR View Post
    I've been telling my students they will often be judged by senior judoka (those senior judoka who actually know Judo well, at least) more on how good an uke they are than how good a tori.
    Absolutely, I judge people on their ability to uke. As it reveals all sorts of things about their Judo, how they move, how they breakfall, how they react to the responsibility etc...

    Quote Originally Posted by BKR View Post
    It shows a more true understanding of the aims and principles of Judo than being able to toss people around.
    I agree, I've reverse engineered quite a few of the things I know about Judo through being an uke. Dynamic delay is probably the best example of what I developed an understanding of through uke-ing.

    Learning how to control my movement to ensure my partners Okuri ashi barai was successful was how I came to understand dynamic delay.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Northern VA
    Judo, MT, KM
    thanks for this one. I wish all clubs started white belts off with this knowledge. Mine kinda just throws you in with the sharks.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Thanks for that guide j_uk, no doubt I will find myself referring back to this throughout my judo journey!

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