Anyone that trains in any martial art knows there are you people you really enjoy training with and there are probably peoplle that you don’t enjoy training with as much. How about you? Do people enjoy training with you? Or do they dodge you to train with someone else? Here for your enjoyment are my top 10 tips on being a good uke:
#10 Practice good hygiene
It seems like common sense but I’ve trained with guys that have long nails (which can cut other students) or other guys that smelled like they haven’t showered in days. The dojo is a special place. Make sure your nails are short, make sure you took a shower recently, and if you smoke *please* wash your hands before touching others!
#9 Keep your gear in good condition
I’ve ripped a few gis in my life. Some of them were my own and some were my training partners. That’s why I always recommend a woven gi (Judo style) rather than a Karate style gi. Woven cotten just holds up to the rigors of training so much more. As for weapons, at any time you notice a crack stop training with your jo or bokken (solo kata is ok). Making weapon to weapon contact with a cracked jo/ken can cause it to come apart which could cause injury to a classmate. There’s not much gear that an aikidoka needs. Keep it in top shape.
#8 Be sensitive to atemi
Some guys use a lot of atemi (strikes) some don’t use any. I’ve seen guys get punched in the face just because they weren’t expecting an atemi. Don’t be that guy. Don’t assume, your partner won’t strike given the opportunity. Aikido training is a martial art and as martial artists we must always be prepared for the unknown.
#7 When striking, stay on target
I’m not sure why some people do this. I think it’s a case of trying to be nice. Sometimes when striking, even though I’m standing still, the strike will go to the side and miss me. If you’re going to strike like that, why do I have to even move! I appreciate kindness, but this is not the place for that. If you are striking, stay on target and punch like you are going to go right through me. Strike yokomen like you’re going to take my head off. Believe it or not, it actually makes it easier to do the technique properly when you are striking in the right place.
#6 Attack strongly
We are training to deal with an attack so shouldn’t the attack be as close to reality as we can? A weak strike doesn’t motivate nage to move off the line quickly. Also, nage doesn’t feel much mental pressure from a weak attack. Training hard means training sincerely.
#5 Gauge the strength of your attack by the experience of nage
While a strong attack is good, hurting nage is not. There will be some people that you can strike as hard as you want with. They will smile at the challenge to deal with the intensity that you create. When it’s their turn, they will strike back hard and you will have a good workout. There will be others that due to their age, lack of experience, or their disposition, that will not be able to handle such strong attacks. Maybe they will in time, but for now, strike and grab with less intensity. Provide as much as they can handle and not more. We’re training to grow and improve but not to get hurt.
#4 Have intention in your attacks
How many times have you had someone grab and become a wet noodle? Or maybe you’ve had someone strike yokomen and then plant their feet. In aikido, we learn how to blend with incoming energy. If your attacks have no intention, if your attacks start and then stop, then you’re not giving your partner anything to work with. It’s much more fun (and realistic) to strike like you expect to hit nage. And grabbing like you expect to move nage.
#3 Stay in balance when striking
While having intention is great, sometimes people get carried away and act like a bull at a bull fight. They strike and run right past you. If all I need to do is to step off the line and you fall down, then there’s no reason for me to do a technique. It’s a tricky balance to find. Strike honestly but don’t fall down at the slightest touch…
#2 Use resistance as a training tool – not a frustration tool
Resistance is something to play with carefully in aikido. Too much resistance and it becomes a grappling match. Too little and it becomes dancing. If you always stop your partner’s movement (especially if they are lower rank than you) it can become very frustrating. If nage is making the same mistakes over and over than sure, resisting their “wrong” movement is appropriate. Then you can teach them how to move properly. If you are just resisting their movement every time then you aren’t helping them learn.
#1 Make sure your ukemi is good
If your ukemi is not good then you will always be nervous about taking the falls and this will hinder the movement. Aikido becomes a lot more fun when you can move and fly through the air without worrying about getting hurt on impact. Of all the techniques taught in an aikido class, ukemi is probably the most likely to be used outside of the dojo. Ukemi should be developed to the point where it becomes instinctual. At higher levels of training oftentimes you have no idea where or how you will be thrown. If your ukemi is good it won’t matter because you’ll be able to blend and take a safe fall from whatever throw comes.
So those were the top 10 qualities that I see in a good uke. How about you? Did I miss anything?