One of the primary distinguishing features of Aikido as contrasted to other martial arts, and to other sports activities in general, is the concept and role of Uke, or training partner. This introduces into Aikido training a principle of true teamwork between Shitei and Uke which involves learning and mastering not just the physical aspects of timing, correct distance, blending between the two, and of course technique, but also the mental and emotional dimensions of commitment, facing fear, trusting in another, and learning through feeling rather than thinking.
Uke as a Metaphor for Life
It is generally recognised that Aikido is not simply a martial art, but a way of life – a way of life which seeks to use the principles of Aikido in daily living as well as on the dojo mat.
What message then does Uke provide for daily living?
When I first took up Aikido, at age 37, my previous sporting experiences were limited to mostly very ‘individual’ and non-contact sports such as squash, tennis, golf and volleyball.
While I had trained for two years in my teens in Tae-Kwon-Do, still my experience with physically being thrown or tackled was very limited, and I had deliberately avoided sports like football because of my perception of their danger. Hence when I began Aikido, I was almost constantly in a state of fear of being hurt – particularly given most of the others training were many years younger and stronger than me, and seemed oblivious to such fears!
That fear for my safety still arises from time to time, and I don’t think I ever banish it entirely, however what training as Uke has taught me is to feel the fear and do it anyway. This is such a great metaphor for life! How many times do we not take action because we fear rejection, failure or disappointment? How many times have you not spoken to someone you were attracted to, simply because you were afraid of rejection, or feeling foolish? How many times have you not gone for a job, not asked for a raise, or not asked for something that you really wanted because you were fearful of them saying no? How many times have you not taken up learning something because you feared you would fail?
It’s been wisely said that in old age most people regret not what they had done in their life, but rather, what they had not done. I believe that the truly successful people still feel fear of rejection, failure, and so on – but they act anyway. Uke teaches us to act in spite of our fears.
Uke also teaches the life lesson of commitment – of being fully involved in what you’re doing. It is only through a fully committed Uke that Shitei can do a technique properly, and of course only by being fully committed can Uke feel the technique applied, and so learn themselves.
Again this is an important lesson in success life skills, for who ever succeeds if they are merely ‘interested’ in something? The people who make a difference are those individuals with a passion and true commitment for what they want to achieve – a commitment that doesn’t give up when the first obstacle rises to block their path; a commitment that persists until the goal is attained.
– 2 –
Having participated in mostly ‘individual’ styles of sport, I have developed a great self reliance and independence which has stood me in good stead, and enabled me to make significant personal achievements in my education and career. However, I have come to realise that truly outstanding achievement cannot be attained alone – one needs to involve others, and work with others in a spirit of trust in their ability. Truly it is said that if you get to the top of success mountain alone, you’ll probably jump off! Uke teaches us that we can progress faster with the assistance of, and partnership with, others.
Finally, Uke offers an opportunity to learn by doing, rather than by thinking. Both Shitei and Uke learn without words as you offer Shitei your committed body and energy to apply the technique to. This teaches us the importance of feeling and of developing an awareness of our body. What more important lesson in a society in which a majority of the population is experiencing either physical debilitation (obesity and poor physical condition) or emotional stress, primarily because of an overemphasis on thinking rather than feeling?
Hence it could be said that one of the greatest achievements in one’s Aikido training is to become a ‘good’ Uke. Certainly in my training, I believe that my greatest leaps forward came more as a result of my concentrating upon and developing my Uke skills, than upon Shitei technique.
About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed “Sportsmind – An Athlete’s Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training” and “Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings”; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.
He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.
Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph’s College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.
For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
website : www.sportsmind.com.au