Uke – the one who is led
Although only the defense techniques are aikido, still the
attacker’s role is not to be neglected. The kind of attack and
the skill of it are also of importance. Because aikido itself
contains no attack techniques, it is common that the students
train them insufficiently, and do them with little concentration.
But sloppy and weak attacks lead to sloppy and weak
aikido. Both roles are important, because aikido is about
guiding the attacking force.
The attacker in aikido is called uke, like in the term for
falling technique: ukemi. The kanji for uke is a sign that
means to receive and be susceptible. The symbols that compose
the sign show a hand giving something. So, the attacker
is the one who is led, who is receiving.
The defender, the one who leads, is called tori – or nage,
as in nagewaza, throwing techniques. Tori simply means to
take. Amusingly, it is written with the symbols of somebody
grabbing the ear of another – an action that seems to be comparable
to the western use of it, and therefore implies a correcting
purpose, like that of a teacher or parent.
Observe that the word pair tori and uke does not signify
give and take, but take and receive. So, the two have similar
roles in the aikido training. The difference is that tori has
the initiative, although uke is the one who starts it off with
the attack. In aikido, then, you should take over the initiative
– not to win, but for both to learn something. Since this
means so much more than just throwing somebody, I prefer
the word tori, not nage. Still, both words are used for the
defender in aikido.
Tori’s role is that of the placid one, who calmly awaits
the attack and then neutralizes it as pleasantly as possible.
Naturally, the attacker’s role is quite different. He or she is
supposed to charge with complete concentration and maximum
skill. Inferior attacks result in bad training and disharmony
in the aikido techniques.
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