©™ 2003 - 2004: OWH International - Ueshiba Aikido : Victoria, Canada
All Rights Reserved
e-Newsletter: ISSN 1712-235X
Summer 2004
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It is amazing how quickly the seasons change. It is Summer and soon school will break for the Summer Vacation here in Canada. Watching the caterpillars evolve and transform into butterflies, the spring flowers whithering and the animals giving birth to offspring; we witness nature participating in the dance of life with effortless ease. Nothing is forced. Everything flows and occurs naturally. It is the same as I watch my children grow and mature: the wonder and awe in their eyes with each new discovery as they learn how to flow with life's daily challenges. My young son, especially, has no fear of observing, touching, picking up and playing with what he calls God's creatures - the insects, worms, caterpillars, spiders, bugs... you name it.

O Sensei expressed the same sentiments as well, as he identified with the universe. The path of no resistance where one allows the wisdom of nature and life to handle the details in life's challenges. Everything seems to fall into place when our limited consciousness does not resist. Be still and listen to the rhythm of life. It is full of vigour and enthusiasm. The wisdom of children still shines through. And so the learning continues...

Have a safe and enjoyable Summer.

in this issue
Summer classes
Website updates...
The fine art of ukemi

Summer classes

As we break for summer vacation, classes at the schools will soon be suspended until the new school year in the Fall. If you are not going anywhere for the summer, there will be an opportunity to take in extra Aikido classes. I am organising Aikido classes at the Arbutus Room in the Commonwealth Recreation Centre in July and August, every Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30pm.

The dates of the classes are: July 8, 15, 22, 29, and August 5, 12, 19, 26.

Fees: For any 4 classes: $30; For all 8 classes: $60


Website updates...

I am in the process of including illustrations and animation in the glossary pages to help in the explanation of some of the Aikido terms. I hope that this will help with some of the terms that you may be unfamiliar with.

The first Grading for Gordon Head Elementary and Royal Oak Middle School students will be this Fall. And so, I will increase the use of Japanese terms during classes, with explanations of these terms in English. During Grading, I will call the movements and techniques in Japanese. Go through the terms in the Glossary when you have the chance to reinforce what you have learnt during class. Keep a journal of the class, the techniques and the movements.

If you have not taken a look at the Glossary pages, please do and give me your feedback. I look forward to improving the site so that it will be useful to you. I hope that the website will help in keeping you in touch and on track in your Aikido journey.


The fine art of Ukemi

"Ukemi takes three years to master." Chang Shihan, my Sensei, would say this to remind us about the importance of being able to take ukemi well. "Ukemi" is the ability "to receive" or to "absorb"; it is the art of being Uke - the person who receives the Aikido techniques.

While this article is on "The fine art of Ukemi", it is impossible to improve Ukemi by discussing it. The only way to experience and improve Ukemi is through practice. The attitude to taking Ukemi, however, is important in Aikido practice as it affects the experience of any Aikido technique for both Nage and Uke. It colours a student's perspective and judgement from the moment he or she steps into the Dojo. Eventually, what harbours in one's mind will manifest itself in one's actions and behaviour. And so, this article discusses the importance of having the right attitude to being Uke and performing Ukemi.

Improving Ukemi and the ability "to receive" is just as important as learning to apply Aikido techniques. For one thing, the student learns to protect against getting hurt or injured; falling safely and gracefully. The benefit of partnering during Aikido practice also provides a multi-dimensional perspective to each technique. When experiencing the technique, Uke has the added benefit of knowing how it feels to have a technique applied to him/her and how effective it is. For both Nage and Uke, the benefit of receiving the force of the attack and its response provides an invaluable experience that improves the student's ability to sense an approaching force (or attack). In class, both students will have the opportunity to alternate between being Nage and Uke.

In agreeing to take Uke, the student agrees to "attack sincerely"; punching, chopping, grabbing or kicking Nage accurately; without "missing" the "target". The difficulty in repetitive practice is anticipation. Uke knows the technique being practiced but has to behave and respond as though each attack is fresh. After awhile, Uke may go into "automatic mode", anticipating the technique and turning or falling even before the technique is applied. At this point, the connection between Nage and Uke is lost. Practising in this way has no benefit for both Nage and Uke as both attack and response become false.

The other extreme is Uke attacking in full force, and deliberately resisting all techniques being applied to him/her. When Uke does this, he/she may not have an understanding of being Uke: testing
the technique, testing his/her partner, testing Aikido, being distracted, being angry, being unhappy with his/her partner... and many other personal reasons. When Uke attacks in full force, especially when training at higher grades, Nage will match the speed in which Uke attacks. So Uke would have to be mentally and physically prepared to be taken down as fast as he/she had attacked. This pre-supposes that Uke is proficient in taking Ukemi - forward rolls, backward rolls, taking otoshis (sudden drops), breakfalls, high falls, blending with the numerous joint locks, and being fast and able enough to follow Nage's leading. The student's mind should be one of learning, of being conscious of one's surroundings, of being open, flexible and free of second-guessing Nage's intent. Developing this attitude in taking Ukemi would develop the student's ability to practise and perform each technique safely and without getting hurt - especially during full speed Randori practice when truly, Uke has no time to think or second-guess Nage's intent.

One mistake some students make when taking Ukemi during regular, slow-motion practice of a technique is that they make every effort to resist the lock, the movement or the throw. Then they feel satisfaction when Nage finds difficulty in applying the technique on them. Competing with one's partner with the intent to belittle or prove one's strength runs contrary to the non-competitive, harmonising nature of Aikido. The attitude being developed in this instance will impede the student's growth and understanding of Aikido.

The purpose of practise is to mould and temper oneself in the ways of Aikido. And practising at a slower pace serves to programme the movement and technique into the student's mind and body. Once these are internalised, the technique belongs to the vast database of techniques within the student - ready to be applied at a moment's notice. In truth, when a technique is applied at full speed during an actual attack, it takes only 1/100th of a second for its execution - that is the speed of a blink of an eye. There is no way an Uke would be able to resist at that speed. This is what a novice does not understand.

The Uke creates the conditions for Nage to practice and study each technique. It has to be a sincere, mutual understanding/agreement between partners. Take the opportunity during practice to study each movement and each technique, to make it a part of you. It is not an opportunity to compete to see who is better or if a technique works. As Chang Shihan always said to us, there is no theory in Aikido - all the techniques are natural, practical and have the potential to be lethal. The paradox in learning how to take good Ukemi is in the speed one eventually learns about each technique just by being a good Uke. Learning how to take good Ukemi strengthens the mind and body while making both flexible. It also improves one's balance and courage. It makes Aikido practice safe, enriching, dynamic and enjoyable. (Copyright June 2004: Rafael Oei)
[Pictures- Nage: Chang Shihan; Uke: Rafael Sensei]


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©™ 2003 - 2004: OWH International - Ueshiba Aikido : All Rights Reserved