Get Shouty

Visible and invisible arts
March 3, 2010, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Experience, passion

I am having a look at motion right now.

How people move, in relation to all other things.

In a lot of martial arts there is a notion called “ukemi”

A common take is that ukemi, (which Aikido calls “the art of falling”), is thought of as the passive, difficult, or the less desirable aspect of practice. The “fun” part is throwing people. The boring part is getting thrown.

The action of uke is called “taking ukemi (受け身).” Literally translated as “receiving body”, it is the art of knowing how to respond correctly to an attack and often incorporates skills to allow one to do so safely. These skills can include moves similar to tumbling and are often used as a valid exercise in itself. In aikido and judo training for instance, many classes begin with ukemi training as conditioning.

But there is a different way to approach ukemi that is not only more interesting, but much more effective. It means shifting your mindset from passive to active around the practice:

(At its simplest) Instead of being pulled around and thrown to the ground, you realize a tremendous advantage if you actively following an aggressor’s (nage) lead, moving under your own power and direction. At some point, nage may do something to take your balance beyond recovery. Once you notice that your balance is going, you actively disengage your interaction with nage and lower yourself to the ground! Notice who’s doing what in this description. Uke should always feel in control, even when being thrown.

The meaning I learned describes a practice that brings awareness and facilitates control in relationship to physical things in your environment. Most people who know me would say that my relationship with stairs would belie any knowledge of ukemi- but that’s where the practice bit comes in- you need to be mindful in order to get the benefits.

I’m thinking a way to describe it is perhaps ‘the art of response’. One of key benefits is that it prevents fear in the moment- most people are terrified of being hurt in a physical confrontation and that overwhelms them.  Quite a bit of the practice for a female is evasion- not only how to get out of a physical situation but how to get some degree of control over it: how to manage it, to prevent it happening or defuse escalation. It’s an invisible art.

I like the tension between visible art (flashy, shouty, look at me stuff that happens in the moment)- and invisible art (tone, consistency, awareness/thoughtfulness that happens over time). I like that the everyday practice of ukemi changes experience and enjoyment of a moment- it also should positively impact the moment of all those around the practitioner.

I think we all focus quite a bit on form and attack- on the aggressive ‘nage’ expressions of advertising. And of course we need to have these skills, but when we combine these with the invisible arts of ‘uke’ we can create something a bit different. What can be achieved when these two skills are applied in concert is a duet where people can feel the harmony and wander off thinking that they are singing their own tune.


7 Comments so far
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I like your description of ukemi, are you an aikidoist? If so how long?

Comment by The Accidental Aikidoist

no not aikido….but I do like the term aikidoist

Comment by katiechatfield

In aikido you can control how you fall, or when you fall. If you control how you fall, you can survive. If you control when you fall, you can tell when you’re going to crack your skull.

Comment by Scott Zrubek


I think you’ve missed the metaphor here- I’m talking about marketing…

Have a look at Forrester’s “Adaptive Brand Marketing”

It outlines:
A flexible approach in which marketers respond quickly to align consumer and brand goals and maximise return on brand equity.

Comment by katiechatfield

Great post. Almost philosophically off the richter scale in terms of it’s scope so bravo on that. I’ll need to reread it to fully think it through.

Two thoughts. One is that in terms of attack there’s a piece of advice a favourite uncle gave me once. When a dog bites your hand you don’t pull your hand away. You force it down its throat.

Brutal thought but it does tie in with the above. It’s also very effective when seen as a metaphor.

I think the second thought is still forming. But in principle I wonder if it is all a sort of yin and yang rather than some harmonious output. That the struggle needs to be there to make it above the ordinary.

Great post. I mean that.

Comment by Charles Frith

Charles- that really means a lot, coming from you.

I’m with you on the yin and yang thing. I think most people practice advertising with too much yang- and in so many ways…

The harmony I’m talking about is not to balance ukemi and nage- or yin and yang.

I think it more that we need to stop punching the people we’re trying to effect in the face.

Comment by katiechatfield

What a great resource!

Comment by cna training

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