Uke has the Hardest (and Most Important) Job

Whenever you are executing a technique, there is a tori (the do-er) and the uke (the one being done unto).
One of the things that I am constantly telling my folks is that in a practice situation, uke has the hardest job - and not just because he is the one getting the beating. 

1)  Because most judo techniques are fairly situation-specific, uke's job is to create the right situation for the throw, combination, transition, etc. E.g., step forward and go for a high grip to allow tori to practice his drop seoi.

Something like this:

Okay... maybe not quite like that.

2)  Given that most judo techniques use uke's actions and reactions, it is really uke's job to dictate the intensity and level of resistance.  If you are working with a brand new student, low intensity and no resistance may be the order of the day as they learn where to put their feet, how to lower their body, etc.  But when you are working with someone who has the hang of all that, start adding a bit of resistance to make them "earn it" - while still providing the right opportunity to execute the technique.  As an uke that can give just the right amount of intensity, you will speed your tori's progress and make class more interesting for both of you.  The intensity, and especially the commitment, can be hard to maintain as the reps increase - it is easy enough just to throw yourself sometimes, and you have to resist that temptation.

3)  Uke has to have the right level of commitment and awareness - and obliviousness. Deashi barai is much more difficult to get cleanly in practice than in randori for many folks, and for just this reason. If I know that my partner is only trying to deashi me, I can easily and subtly (and subconsciously) adjust my step to screw up his timing, or I can avoid committing any weight to that foot and render the sweep impossible. So I have to somewhat blindly take a purposeful step into my own doom in order for my tori to learn the right timing and mechanics for the throw. Same thing with combinations - if your tori is working on a combination based on a specific reaction, it is on you to give that reaction every time, unless Tori is screwing things up and making that reaction unfeasible or unlikely.  And that brings us to...

4)  Uke is the best teacher.  Your instructor can't watch everyone all the time, so it is on you to improve your judo, and your partner's judo.  As uke, you are best positioned to help your tori - "You lost your kuzushi when you turned," "Try bumping instead of pushing," or the classic "It will be easier if you bend your knees more."
All of this, to my mind, is a part of ukemi.  If you and your partners focus more on your uke responsibilities, you will be amazed at how much more quickly you are all improving, and how much more fun class can be.



kodokanjudo said...

Great post.
The roles of uke and tori need to be explained as they are used in judo:

Uke: The attacker.
Judo is a defensive art and uke initiates the attack with a push or a pull (or ateki-waza in some kata techniques).

Tori: The judo "practitioner" or judoka (I hate to use the word "player" because it implies that judo is some sort of game).
In the judo context, tori is used like in sumotori (sumo participant)
Tori takes uke's attack and turns it back at him in the form of a judo principle, using Kano's "Maximum efficiency with minimum effort".

Chad Morrison said...

Thanks for the comment. That's a great clarification.