Ukemi A Common Thread Joining Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Techniques and Aikido - Aikido Articles

Ukemi is the art of falling or being thrown and is an integral part Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques and those of Aikido.

This article examines the following concepts:

  • -Ukemi is an essential component in the training of these arts.
  • -Proper falling technique minimizes the potential for injury
  • -Taking Ukemi can also improve your ability to learn a throwing technique

Most individuals new to martial arts such as BJJ, Aikido, or Judo see spectacular throws or takedowns and, understandably, want to immediately perform these arts on others and, at the same time, may be reticent to be thrown. Throws are an important aspect of these arts so it may surprise many that taking ukemi (falls) is critical to learning the desired technique.

My training began in Judo as a teenager in the 1960's in a style I affectionately refer to as “old school". In this method the sensei (teacher) demonstrates a technique once or twice, says very little, and turns the students loose to practice “what they saw". In addition, new students learn the art by being paired up with and continually thrown by a series of more experienced students. So, before learning a single throw, I became proficient at being thrown. Experiences of this type may discourage some students who want to jump in and immediately start throwing others. The major benefit that is missed by these individuals is the lack of kinesthetic awareness that builds each time you are thrown. I learned early on that to be a good thrower (nage), you must first learn to be thrown (uke). I also learned quickly that those most skilled at being thrown typically are injured less. This is because they can relax through the fall and position the body so as to maximize the even dispersal of energy. The tension created when one is anxious or fearful of being thrown results in an uneven or focused release of energy causing uke pain and frequently injury. Among the more frequent injuries in Aikido, landing on the shoulder while learning to fall is near the top of the list.

So it is in Judo, BJJ and Aikido that one of the most effective ways to learn how to take one's balance is to have your own balance taken from you (learning from the “University of Hard Knocks"). One of the most popular hip throws in Judo and Jiu Jitsu is called Uchi Mata (Inner Thigh Throw) in which the balance is broken by positioning the hip below the opponent's center, floating him and following through with a reaping thigh motion between the legs. Learning this technique requires quickness, timing, precise body position and movement. Although one can learn the mechanics of the throw with verbal instruction and demonstration it is often the development of the kinesthetic sense that creates the effective throw.

In Aikido, ukemi is an essential part of the training since nearly all of the techniques (arm arts or momentum throws) involve throwing or being thrown. Koshi nage (hip throws) are similar to those of Judo and Jiu Jitsu and require a nearly identical break fall. Breath or timing throws (kokyu nage) require a more rolling fall due to the high level of momentum and that the projection is outward rather than downward. As previously described, one of the most effective ways to learn these throws is to permit yourself to be thrown repeatedly. Feeling the near-effortless transfer of energy of a well executed kokyu nage such as aiki otoshi is exciting as well as enlightening.

In conclusion, throwing and being thrown are two sides of the same coin of both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques and those of Aikido. The practice of falling is as important to good technique as learning to execute the throw.

Those that develop the skill of falling well tend to get injured less. Learning how a technique is done is as much kinesthetic as it is visual and intellectual so learning to fall well can help you learn to throw better.

Dan Kudo
He has been a practitioner of Aikido for thirty-seven years and teaches the art in Santa Ana, CA.

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Aikido is a modern Japanese Martial Art and is very different from disciplines such as Karate, Kick Boxing, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, MMA, BJJ, Kempo and Krav Maga where there is emphasis on kicking, punching or wrestling.

Aikido is an extremely efficient self defence (also as Self-Defence Women London) system utilising balance-taking and posture-breaking movements to achieve joint locks, pins and throws. It contains elements of Ju Jitsu, Kendo, Judo and other budo.

Aikido Classes are held every Tuesday and Wednesday evening at our Harrow dojo, and Thursday evening at our Pinner dojo in NW London. Pinner Aikido Club London is a part of the Kai Shin Kai International Traditional Aikido Association (KSK), which is a member of the British Aikido Board (BAB).

Aikido is essentially a non-violent Martial art system that encourages the avoidance of confrontation and harmony with an aggressor. The classes are well attended with Aikido students always on the mat and aimed at all levels, from beginner to advanced but everyone is welcome to come along regardless of fitness or experience.

Our Aikido students work at their own pace during the training sessions and no one is forced into doing anything they are not comfortable with.
Pinner Aikido Club in London can help you achieve self-defense skills, self-esteem, confidence, and fitness. Most of all though, our classes are fun.

You do not have to be competitive or naturally athletic to take part in the Aikido class. Learning Aikido is about self-improvement and self-confidence.

Regardless of your size, body type and current level of physical ability or disability. If you are looking for a healthier, more confident way of life, then the modern art of Aikido may well be for you.

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