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An Impressive Uke

In my last post, I mentioned an impressive Aikido demonstration. I also like to watch the interaction between the instructor and his uke (attacker or attackers). There is an almost universal sign language used to signal the uke where, how and when to attack. Sometimes the signals are very hard to see, but they are usually there.

During the several demonstrations, I noticed that one uke was particularly good. He attacked seemlessly -- there was very little delay between the instructor's signals and his attacks. Also, after each throw, the uke was very careful to return to his starting point (in this case, the left side of the mat from the audience's viewpoint) by passing behind the instructor. All of the other uke seemed to return to their starting place by taking the shortest past (sometimes passing in front of the sensei). Only one uke took care not to cross in front of his sensei.

It is best to avoid passing between the sensei and the audience. This is to show respect to both -- don't forget that there are probably very senior instructors in the audience.

Such an attention to detail and courtesy is the mark of a fine student -- and the fine sensei who taught him.

Watching the uke respond to the instructor's hand signals, I am reminded of Sensei Sadao Yoshioka. He used to say that at first the uke learns to respond to the sensei's hand signals, but that the sensei will make these signals smaller and smaller as the uke advances. Eventually, the uke learns to respond to the sensei's body language (body position, expression, eye movements). But at the advanced stage, the sensei should just be able to think and the uke will respond appropriately.

In life too, we must learn to respond to the needs of others before they can even signal their need. In fact, we must learn to respond to such need before the other person is even aware of the need himself.

Yoshioka Sensei said that this was the true test -- seemless response.


Charles C. Goodin