Monday, April 3, 2017


I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "uke".  In karate, "uke" is receiving/being the one who receives.  "Tori" is attacking/completing/being the attacker.

Watch this clip, which starts at 22:58, for about a minute (until 23:55).  There's a good example about what it looks like to "lack uke" in karate.

When I spar, against someone with equal or greater skill, I find my uke diminished against someone who has an aggressive offense.  I've been practicing, I've gotten better, but this is definitely one area I need more improvement in.  Mind you, the solution isn't to just take getting hit so I can hit back, that's recklessness and counter to the tenets of any martial art.

In taiko, you're not competing with another person, but in a way you are, against a fear of failure.  This fear is the enemy in a performance, and when you are so worried about making a mistake, your technique often suffers.  Tension builds, focus suffers, even movements and striking are lessened.  Ironically, you're more likely to actually make the mistakes you're so worried about.

Now watch this clip, (until 44:45) about what good uke is about.

I see people in taiko focus so much on their solo, or a particular movement in their solo, but that lose the ability to deal when they make a mistake despite all the planning.  That's like what the sensei here talks about as "training to win".  And even as I type this I'm realizing that this is the beauty, the benefit of learning improvisation, so that you can truly receive whatever comes in that moment, whether it be a feeling, a musical phrase, or even the energy from people around you.

So when you train, are you training to "win"?  Or are you training to be able to receive?  Are you able to maintain what your instructors have been trying to instill in you when things don't go as planned, or do you give up easily?  Think about this, think about where your mind goes when you perform (and practice) and be honest with yourself about how you react to the stimulus around you, good, bad or otherwise.  How's your uke?

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