An important lesson for a new student is how to be a good uke. An uke is one who executes the attack. This is important for several reasons but the main reason is safety. It is vital that students have the opportunity to learn techniques in a safe environment.
When I was a brown belt, I took Danzan-ryu jujitsu for a few months along with Okinawa Kenpo. I had to stop due to the time and preparation needed for my black belt testing in Okinawa Kenpo. I remember the instructor telling us that a technique must be performed over 5000 times before you really know it. Now, I am not sure of the number…but it is necessary to repeat techniques enough until it becomes a natural reaction. These classes made me appreciate training with a good uke.
The first time a student performs any type of partner work, we discuss what it means to be a good uke. I will use a basic wrist grab as an example.
- Grab with a firm grip. This does not mean that you should grab until the wrist turns blue. The grip should be strong enough so that the tori (the one who executes the technique) needs to execute the technique properly for a release. The tori should know what it feels like to be grabbed and escape the hold. A weak grip does not allow the tori to learn the technique properly. - The process of “tapping out” is explained. - Students need to pay attention to the instructor. They need to know the details of the technique. - Kids often want to grab each other with an iron grip. They tend to put full force and power in all their techniques. We discuss what control means when working with a partner. - There is no ego, arrogance or anger.
The meaning of a good uke changes as one achieves more rank and experience. You want your training partner to increase intensity as your skill improves. Attacks should become faster and become increasing realistic. Safety is still of utmost importance. If a student is injured, they cannot train.
A bad uke has no regard for their partner. They have no control and take no responsibility.