Uke: The Receiver

In most martial arts, the term "uke" is used and means, receiving. Uke is often a misconceived term. Martial art practitioners often believe that as uke, he or she is to stand ready for their partnered tori, or technique executor, to commence, and then take whatever comes at them, but there is so much more to being uke than that. The following is a basic look at what it is to be uke.


If uke is thinking only about whether or not he or she needs to stand still or move back to allow tori's technique to be fully executed, they are missing out on additional critical learning experiences. Many high-ranking martial artists have figured this out; two paired experienced martial artists will take full advantage of a technique coming at them; they receive the technique, but often, they block-and-counter as well and then go right back to uke, they will however, move with tori's technique if they are working with a lower ranking student and then provide feedback.

New practitioners should view the uke position as an opportunity. Uke should pay attention to how the technique requires his or her body to move, not just moving because he or she thinks it is part of the drill, but moving because that is what is first needed in learning to counter a technique. Feeling how a technique affects uke's balance should give uke pause to reflect on how to move next time if his or her response to tori's technique created instability.

Uke should assess tori. Does he or she have long arms and legs, or short arms and legs, are they built for speed, or are they stocky? How much distance is there between uke and tori? A good assessment is a step toward determining a good counter. Remember, in class you know what technique is coming at you, but on the street, you do not. A self-assessment and opponent assessment are necessary to a successful counter.


Another characteristic of uke is that he or she should never stand firm in resistance to tori; would it be easier to fight the river against the flow, or with it? A good uke receives and then goes back to uke position always with the mindset of working with tori, but also learning through each movement. Uke is not a wooden training dummy.


Being a good uke also means helping your partner by giving them feedback on their technique. Is their technique actually moving you as uke? An uke does their partner a great disservice by allowing tori to move him or her passively, almost as a courtesy just to get through the technique so uke can switch his or her position to tori.


The uke position is every bit as important as the tori position and so, it is critical that both sides be actively engaged, with intention.

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