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.
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