Last evening, I share in class that the Uke and the Nage has to develop a relationship in the waza, and not just be the Uke and the Nage.
One issue I think that is very common in Aikido, is that everything looks so ‘blended’ and ‘harmonious’. It has that effect on people and at very high level, the waza if very irresistible to both the nage and uke. Aikido waza, when skilfully applied, can look very much like a collaboration between 2 very willing parties. So to a layperson, they will usually as ‘where is the attack?’
Like Goldilocks’ soup, not too hot, not too cold.
The uke, strictly speaking, do not attack in a traditional martial arts sense. I recently sees it has having a conversation with the nage. And the nage having a conversation with the Uke, both are at odds when they come together on a specific topic, and both walked out of that conversation, learned and respected each other for their opposing opinions.
It is a physical conversation without opening the mouth.
No it is not body language, it is more than that. when the uke holds the nage’s hand, it creates a situation, which the nage needs to resolve with the uke, amicable, peacefully, without harming anyone in the process. The Uke, might come and say ‘I’m pro life, anti-abortion.’ The nage says, ‘Abortion is necessary.’ Someone’s got to give, and if both go at each other with their own view point, eventually, both will end up bitter, defensive and not getting any good opinion about each other. Life is much, much bigger and larger than our own petty narrow viewpoints and argument.
I see Aikido as that lubricant, you are independent enough to make a stand for your view, yet, supple in mindset to yield, and agree to disagree. Instead of making your stand and make your partner look bad, creating ill will.
A waza is not just a waza, it is a way out, finding reconciliation in a very difficult situation. Hence, the Uke’s job is to have a physical debate with the nage. The nage has to skilfully manoeuvre through the mental ‘mindfield’ and thought train so that the debate can be robust and everyone learn something from each other walking away. Then peace can be sustainable.
So I made it ‘Uke night’ for Friday’s class, and focused on the Uke, precisely because if the uke does not hold a robust enough conversation, the whole waza becomes a shallow physical exercise. I wanted the uke to present a reasonable amount of resistance in the technique. There are different levels of everything and same goes for Aikido resistance. At one spectrum, you have very easy, fast flowing, uke, who will fall irrespective what the nage does, or the other end of the spectrum, you get a uke who resist till a level where you almost want to rearrange that fella’s face! Between that 2 spectrum, we need to find Aikido in there. Like Goldilocks’ soup, not too hot, not too cold.
This is the challenge, because, people think and the uke have this conversation with himself, or herself, about how a uke ‘should’ be. And the nage, on the other hand, will have a self talk about how nage ‘should’ be. and both also have an opinion about their nage, and their uke, respectively. when we go into a waza with such self talk, we are not contributing to the waza, and simply go there to do what we go there to do. Then a 5 second waza, remains at that 5 seconds. But if both parties open themselves up, the uke resist necessarily, so that the nage can learn, and when the nage realised that it is not so easy to make a uke fall, the nage will also develop a certain finesse and not take the waza and uke for granted. When both goes at each other with such an attitude, a 5 second waza can develop a deep, meaningful bond. both will learn from each other, in a constructive and positive environment.
Too much resistance!
During class, there will be people who resist too much, so much so that the nage can’t do the technique properly, any decent Aikidoka, will tell you that happens all the time. So I have to tell the uke to adjust their strength and resistance, to suit the nage. It has to be intelligent, responsive, not a death grip uke. We are all there to learn Aikido, no bone crushing.
And just because I say it is ‘uke night’, some uke made things so tough for the nage, nothing moves. I share with the class, when everyone takes a stand, that is when things becomes belligerent. There is no need to take a stand and make it a monumental task for every nage to make you take a fall. The story goes like this, every uke will take the fall. Period. The issue to bring to mind is, what level of effort a nage needs to take to make the uke fall. Moving a mountain? Or lifting a feather? The magic is in between. Nobody is infallible.
So I hope the lessons is there, the Uke needs to come alive and not go through the motion. Aikido is not a dance, as I constantly says it. It is real hard work, where both parties put in their best, and everyone walks away from the waza, mutually rewarded and learned. It is not about who walks away the winner, and who loses. Which is why there are no medals, champion’s cup in Aikido. Both the nage and uke are trying to achieve a higher level of meaning than that, and in order for us to do so, we have to offer each other a sincere, open hand to have a courageous and tough but mutually agreeable conversation.
2 thoughts on “Having a conversation”
This is a great article! I am a white belt aikido who joined together with my 4 yr old to encourage her, but am really taking to it.
On Sunday’s class I was the uke for a much smaller nage, and I was being a dead weight when she tried to throw me. Which wasn’t being in a conversation at all. Taking this on to try to be a better uke
Hi Sherwin, thanks! The epiphany came when I realised that I am talking too much about me, and this really spoils the whole waza, and it didn’t help me focus on the equilibrium of the technique. the technique is about the uke, just as much as it is about the nage.