Have you ever watched your Sensei choose one individual over and over again to be his Uke and thought, “Why not me!?”
In any seminar or class, you’ll find the head Sensei will consistently pick the same individuals to work with when demonstrating techniques. I think many of us would love to “volunteer as tribute” and feel the glory of being at the front of the dojo with your head Instructor!
But, there are many reasons why some people are chosen more than others.
From time to time, an individual is chosen because of their size. A Sensei may choose the largest person in the room—usually to prove a point about technique vs. strength/size.
Sometimes an individual is chosen because of flexibility, so that the Sensei can execute the full extent of an armbar or leg lock without the individual tapping.
But usually, one is chosen as a demonstration Uke because they’re amongst the best in the room.
You would think that letting the teacher hurt you would be easy, that any dummy can do it!
But, not just any dummy, a very skilled dummy. . .
To be a good Uke and especially an Uke for demonstrations, you literally have to know what you’re getting yourself into. By that I mean you have to be familiar with many, if not all, the possible positions the Sensei may put you in, sometimes without the Sensei even telling you what she/he will be applying. So, unless you have a crystal ball with you, you either have to have superb body awareness and biomechanical knowledge or completely memorized the curriculum.
The Sensei, like Goldilocks, is looking for someone that is not too hard or too soft.
They’re looking for an individual that will
- Comply and restrict at just the right moments and with just the right intensity
- Nothing (and I do mean NOTHING!) is more annoying to a head Sensei than a Uke who anticipates a technique and gives an unrealistic reaction, like moving before the technique was actually applied, OR actively resists when the Sensei is demonstrating. The key here is to respond, not anticipate, the Uke must have a complete understanding of the intent of every technique that they are subject to and respond accordingly with enough resistance for the demonstration to run smoothly and realistically.
- Set a good technical example when they return a technique
- The Uke must know how to receive, counter and execute techniques with the same speed, power and skill as the Sensei applying it. If the Uke does not adequately perform a technique, the lesson the Sensei is trying to teach could be lost and the entire group could end up doing the technique, counter or sequence completely wrong! (No pressure or anything!)
- Most importantly, make the head Sensei look good!
- As an Uke, it is your responsibility for the demonstration to look as good as your body will physically allow because when you are asked to present with the Sensei (especially at a seminar), you have become a representative of that Sensei, an extension of their name/style.
The Uke must do all of this while being submitted to various degrees of pain, being put in the most awkward of awkward positions and essentially getting the crap kicked out of them!
So, the next time you ask “Why not me!?” remember we often overlook the skill of the Uke. Instead, concentrate on the small details the Uke demonstrates because getting the crap kicked out of you isn’t as easy as you think.