If You Want to Learn More Effectively, Focus on Being a Great Uke!

The Importance of Being a Great Uke

You may have heard many students of Karate say that they are struggling with certain techniques. They say that they practice them but they don't seem to be getting any better, and many of them may soon drop out of class in frustration.

This saddens me for two reasons. First, studying a martial art is a marathon, not a sprint. Perseverance WILL pay off, in school AND in life! Second, those students have yet to realize what I believe as a great secret to learning techniques. Which is....drum roll, please....if you want to REALLY learn a skill, focus on being a great UKE!

So what is an Uke?

Well, according to this Wikipedia article, an Uke "is in Japanese martial arts the person who "receives" a technique." To put it another way, an Uke is the person who takes on the role of an attacker so that someone else can practice a method.

You may be thinking, "If I'm the Uke, then the OTHER student is the one who is practicing the technique, so how does it help me learn it?" Well, when you are "receiving" a technique, your body tells you when students get it right AND when they get it wrong. That biofeedback then naturally informs your own technique in ways that practicing it alone will not!

So how can I be a great Uke?

I think the first--and arguably most important--step is to want it! Just make up your mind that you're going to give it 110%. Offer to be the Uke every chance you get, and when you are, make the attack as real as possible while maintaining safety and control. This means a couple of things:

  • Be deliberate with your attack, focusing on correct speed and force for each student. (Go slower with people who are beginning a skill, and more forceful with advance students.)

  • Do not turn to much once a technique has begun, but resist where an attacker would, so that the student gets appropriate bio-feedback as well, and can properly finish the technique.

  • ALWAYS listen to your Sensei, with the intent to fully understand what it is being asked of you, the Uke.

  • Whenever possible, be the Sensei's Uke as the technique is being demonstrated. (You will be amazed what you will learn by having your Sensei perform a technique on you, trust me!)

  • If you apply yourself to being a great Uke, you will get far more enjoyment out of the learning process. Techniques will make more sense to you more quickly, and your skill set will improve in ways you can only imagine. Also, other students will want to engage you as Uke, because they know you will help THEM learn faster!

It truly is a win/win scenario. And honestly, isn't that the highest form of the martial arts?

Thanks for reading, and Happy Training,

Shawn


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