Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On February - 6 - 2015

jodan_soto_uke“Uke” is translated to mean block in karate schools World Wide but what does Uke really mean?

The true translation of Uke is to receive. When you are performing an uke waza (blocking technique) you are not truly blocking the blow but receiving it. You are attempting to receive the energy from the strike and redirect that energy into something positive. If you just deflect the attack then you are not truly understanding the meaning of karate.

The concept of uke comes from the history of the birthplace of karate, Okinawa. This chain of islands which lies between Japan, China and Taiwan has been the site of great conflict for centuries. The island has gone through occupation by the Chinese, the Japanese Satsuma and the United States. During the second World War, the island was the only part of Japan that actually saw combat between Japanese forces and the Allied Forces. The population of Okinawa was literally cut in half during these battles. After the war, Okinawa was under American control and a large part was transformed into a military base.

The people of Okinawa have had to deal with receiving negative attacks for a long time. They have developed a thick skin and have become accustomed to the notion of being under attack. This has been reflected in their traditional unarmed combat. The ability to receive an attack without fear or retreat has become the practice.

10704190_10154945585970492_8984831241595805227_nWhen practising your techniques, do not look at uke waza as a retreat or an act of protection but rather a method to your survival. Practice your uke waza in a mindset of acceptance. Receive the attack, accept the consequences of the blow and return the energy received through your counter. By not accepting the attack, you will become injured.

The people of Okinawa never gave up. They accepted the fate of their lives and persevered. You as a karate ka must do the same in your training. Accept the fate of the attack, will you get struck and be injured? Will you successfully receive the attack and redirect the energy into a powerful counter? This relies solely on how you approach your uke waza.

In early training, we teach students to move away from the attack, block and counter attack. This is to develop the understanding that one needs to understand distance and develop the ability to move away from an attack. This principle is teaching nature. By design a human wants to retreat when they are under attack. It is more beneficial to our survival to escape and live to fight another day. As we progress in our training we are told to move into the attack and perform uke waza at a closer range. This will help to secure our successful zuki waza (punching technique). It also helps with the uke waza and goes more with the concept of receiving. Thinking of the attack as a gift. You want to receive it and use it to your advantage. In a self defence situation, the attack can be the opponent’s greatest weakness. Once a person attacks, they become vulnerable for a split second. To make a powerful attack, the aggressor has to commit themselves to the attack. This, for a brief moment, puts them in a state of kyo (lose of balance or awareness). As the attacker commits to the strike, his entire body focuses its power on the point of impact. The uke waza receives part of that power and diverts it off target. This in turn forces the attackers body to be off balance at the moment of impact. This is the perfect time to attack and we teach to counter at this precise moment. A counter that comes too late will not be effective as the attacker will have time to recover and perform his own uke waza.

After re-reading this post, I realized I forgot to explain what I meant by accept the attack. You need to overcome the fear of being attacked. You need to accept that it is happening and get past that. Fear is the biggest barrier that will stand between you and your ability to receive the attack. When you overcome the fear of having to defend yourself, you will be able to focus on the attack.

To become successful at defending yourself, you must accept the attack and the consequences of being struck. You will not be successful in your defence unless you realize the danger of a true attack. Then receive the attack and redirect the energy back at your opponent. Only by doing this will you truly understand the meaning of karate.


Categories: Teaching/Training

One Response

  1. Norm Robitza says:

    After re-reading this post, I realized I forgot to explain what I meant by accept the attack. You need to overcome the fear of being attacked. You need to accept that it is happening and get past that.

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