In Aikido we call the two participants practicing together, Uke and Nage.
Uke is the initiator, the attacker. Nage is the receiver, the defender. The two roles are equally important, like the two parts of the Yin-Yang/Taijitsu symbol, in Japanese IN-YO. They compliment each other, one can not exist without the other, and both holds a little of the other.
The notion of the Yin and Yang is said to come from viewing a mountain. On one side the sun is shining, the other is in the shade. The bright side is the yang side, the dark side is yin.
According to the Tao 道 – The Way, all phenomena in this world, maybe even our thoughts, are defined by its opposite. It only exists in its defined form because the contrast exists. How could we know what was up if it was no down. If the two would become one, it would not exist anymore. It will all return to its shapeless origin, or be One.
In our daily lives we always think in terms of good or bad, up or down, now or later, history and future.
In Aikido we strive to keep an open mind. To keep our mind clear as a quiet lake, or a mirror. Simply reflecting what comes, harmonizing with what arises in the moment. With no expectations, no judgement.
The japanese word Ukemi 受身 really means to receive.
But it is often simply translated as falling techniques or more philosophically, The art of falling. I have decided to call it the art of giving and receiving. Since there is so much more than only the fall to the ukemi. It starts with the intention, then you decide what your attack should be. Then you carry out your attack, giving your partner a chance to practice blending and harmonizing with your attack. Now you have to find a natural and strong way to keep free and able to still hold the intention of the attack. You will have to move and become one with Nages movement, this is to protect yourself, and try to feel for openings in his form. If there is no opening, you will have to either roll or fall out of the technique when you can, creating space between you and Nage. If Nage does a joint-locking technique, you have to move to take away the pressure of the lock, still trying to keep your back straight, and body and mind free of fear. If you can relax and stay sensitive, in contact with Nage, the danger of getting hurt will be minimal.
It is not possible to practice Aiki without an Uke. In Aikido we practice how to harmonize with the force of the attacker. Without a clear and powerful, attack aimed at us, we can not really practise Aikido in its physical form.
To show gratitude and respect for your training partner is therefore of outmost importance. Without him or her, you would not be able to practice. We have to take care of each other, so we can continue this fruitful cooperation. If not, we would hurt each other very quickly and no longer be able to practice.
Of course, on a higher level of understanding, you and your partner will be able to really give it all you got, and let go of fear of getting hurt, or hurting your partner. This is when you can feel that you and your partner have a good connection, both of you have a firm understanding of the principles of Ukemi, both with your body and mind.
Ultimately, the roles of attacker and defender will cease to exist.
You will feel like one with your surroundings, and be able to move freely, with no thought of what will happen, no separation, no fear. It will be no difference if you are attacked by one or many, move as one and throw them all.
Kim Andre Tinderholt praktiserer og instruerer nå Aikido i Haugesund Aikido Klubb.
Bilder: Hadeland Folkehøgskole elever