Training – Falling and ukemi arts

Training notes: Katatedori sumi otoshi

Otoshi (or drop) techniques feature prominently in a variety of martial arts, including Aikido, Judo and Jujitsu. Otoshi techniques are typically thought of as “hand throws” and when applied correctly generate a surprising amount of power that literally has the effect of dropping (some might say “driving”) the uke straight into the mat.

Ueshiba 5Sumi otoshi (corner drop) is probably the most common drop technique practised in Aikido. The particularly appealing features of this technique include its directness in execution and the fact that it is able to be used to in response to a wide variety of traditional attack situations.

However, while sumi otoshi looks deceptively simple on its face, in reality it requires considerable skill to apply  with any degree of martial integrity.  For example skills in kuzushi (i.e. off-balancing), timing, moving off-line and centred movement are essential.

In the below video, Mike Jones Sensei from  New York Aikikai provides instruction for sumi otoshi from an attack in the form of a same side hand grab (Katate dori).



  • Alternate application

Donovan Waite Sensei (7th Dan Aikikai) in the following video demonstrates and provides training tips for an alternate application of  katatedori sumi otoshi, as well as the variation in the featured video.


  • Learning ukemi

In every technique ii is important to learn not only how to execute it, but also how to safely receive it (ukemi).  In the below video, Waite Sensei demonstrates how the nage can assist the uke in safely learning ukemi for the sumi otoshi.



  • Aikido Yuishinkai (Tasmania)

The demonstration is by Peter Kelly Sensei of Aikido Yuishinkai (Tasmania). The source material was kindly provided courtesy of Bill Hely.

Ian Grant
Dojo Cho
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Training Notes – Ukemi (Fundamental principles)

This video training note refers to the first in a new series of training videos prepared by Peter Kelly Sensei (7th Dan Aikido Yuishinkai) dealing with the topic of ukemi and uke arts in Aikido Yuishinkai practice.

Peter KellyThe Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai, Master Koretoshi Maruyama, has asked that the development and advancement of high level ukemi skills be given a priority  focus in our Aikido training in Australia this year. To this end Peter Kelly Sensei, Technical Director for Aikido Yuishinkai in Australia, has been travelling the country to give ukemi (and other Aikido) training to Aikido Yuishinkai members.

In support of this training, Peter Sensei has prepared a series of training videos to assist instructors and students in developing the requisite skills. The below video is Part 1 in the series.  Topics covered include:

  • What is ukemi?;
  • Responsibility of the uke to give a tangible attack so that the nage has something to work with;
  • The folly and danger of acrobatic/circus rolling in Aikido practice;
  • The importance of rolling “like a cat”
  • Exercises to develop good ukemi skills;
  • Responsibility of the uke to not anticipate attacks, stay connected and remain centred for as long as possible;
  • Remaining relaxed when taking ukemi, including when breakfalling.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Training Notes – A breakfall is just a roll

Snapshot 1 (14-08-2015 5-52 PM)The below video examines the structural similarities between a forward roll and a breakfall and includes a training exercise whereby students learn to appreciate that a breakfall in substance is nothing more than a roll.  The video is from a class given by Peter Kelly Sensei, Chief Instructor, Aikido Yuishinkai Australia, at our dojo on 17 May 2014.

At our dojo we have a tailored program for new students that allows them to learn to breakfall in a fear-free and safe environment.

The program has proved particularly successful.  For further information on the program and the types of exercises that are include see – Learning to breakfall: Its a lot easier than it looks.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Training Notes – Ukemi and maintaining connection

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis training note examines the importance of maintaining connection when receiving ukemi, from both a safety and self-defence perspective.  The video extract is from a class given by Peter Kelly Sensei (7th Dan Aikido Yuishinkai) at the Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane,  on 17 May 2014.

Ukemi practice and the development of high level ukemi skills are an important part of Aikido Yuishinkai. In this video, Peter Sensei highlights the self-defence folly of adopting a “runaway” ukemi approach where the uke ceases to look at the nage throughout the receiving of the technique and subsequent ukemi.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Aikido training – Drawing the line between cooperative and pointless practice

The need for a cooperative dynamic in Aikido practice is widely acknowledged by most of us who practice the Art.  Aside from the non-competitive philosophy that underpins Aikido, there is the practical reality that many techniques would be unsafe to practise without at least some element of compliance from our training partner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA question worthy of consideration, however, is where to draw the line between cooperative practice and pointless practice (i.e. practice that removes or substantially diminishes the opportunity for both parties to learn).

For example, having our training partner just “tank” at the first opportunity removes the learning opportunity for both the nage and the uke. The same could be said where an often well-meaning training partner just rolls out of a technique regardless of whether the person supposedly executing it has functionally done anything to cause such a reaction.

For training to have learning validity, I think a good starting point is an acknowledgement that Aikido practice is between two equals.  That is, it’s not between a human and a rag doll, or a human and some form of “uke-bag”.

Quite the contrary, Aikido practice involves an ongoing  2 way interaction between the attacking  and responding partners (i.e. the uke and nage) who are acting as equals with a view to enhancing their mutual knowledge and skills. This is so, whether it be in the form of kata or free-form practice (taninzugake).

That being said, where one draws the line between 2 equals engaging in productive cooperative practice, as opposed to pointless practice, is something that might cause reasonable minds to differ. Certainly, even the very notion of such a concept as “pointless  practice” imports an element of subjectivity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHowever, as a working model for uke’s trying to keep on on the right side of the cooperative line, I think a practice methodology whereby the uke acts as follows is not a bad start:

  • The uke does not give up their centre (this is something the nage learns to take, which is not possible if it is sacrificed by the uke);
  • The uke gives the nage their weight to work with (without this, the nage has no sense of the reality of what they are doing).
  • The uke gives an honest attack (e.g. if the attack is a strike to the head, they don’t aim to miss or predict the nage’s response).
  • The uke gives a committed attack  (i.e. the uke follows the attack through to the end and doesn’t stop half way);
  • The uke stays mentally connected with the nage from the beginning through to the completion of the attack (aside from importing an element of realism, this also enhances the safety of the practice);
  • The uke ensures that the intensity of the attack is commensurate with the abilities of the nage, the skills of the uke to safely respond and the purpose of the practice.

How far the uke can go beyond this line before degenerating into competitive and potentially dangerous practice is worthy of an article on its own.  Certainly, enthusiastic free form practice can inadvertently and quite quickly slip over into competitiveness and potential danger.  Fortunately, one of the roles of the class sensei is to intervene at this point and save us from ourselves!

Ian Grant

Aikido – I do all my own stunts!

I recently watched an interview with wrestler Hulk Hogan where he said that in professional wrestling the ending is predetermined but the “bumps are real”.

Ian Grant (a)It crossed my mind that this is the same situation in Aikido.  When we practise kata or tanininzugake the agreement is usually that at the end the nage will still be standing and the uke will one way or another be knocked to the ground.   As in professional wrestling, the pre-arranged understanding between the nage and uke does not change the fact that for the uke the final meeting with the mat is going to be very real.

The message we should probably all keep in mind is that at the end of the day we owe it to ourselves to stay safe.  Below are some personal views on ways to keep in one-piece.


Some people will be immediately appalled that I would suggest that tanking (i.e. just falling down) is ever an acceptable strategy.  However, in a modern Aikido world where newcomers can be on the receiving end of techniques within 20 minutes of starting their first lesson, tanking is probably the only safe option available for them.

Predictive ukemi

Predictive ukemi occurs where the uke essentially predicts to varying degrees what the nage is about to do and moves themselves into a position to best take ukemi from it with minimum possibility of injury.

I find this type of ukemi particularly useful where:

  • There is uncertainty as to the ability of the nage to execute their techniques without unnecessarily compromising their own safety or that of the uke’s (This may be linked to the type of technique or practise being explored, the experience levels of the nage or uke, or for other reasons);
  • atemi (strike) based or no touch techniques are being practised or employed (see video below);
  • the “shape of a technique” is being demonstrated to a person who has not previously seen or experienced it; or
  • the uke is seeking to experiment or simply develop their ukemi skills when receiving specific techniques.

The below short video is an example where predictive ukemi is used to protect the uke from getting a good belt to the face (and potential trip to the dentist) from an atemi based technique.

Non-predictive ukemi

I use the term non-predictive ukemi to refer to those situations where the uke strikes or attacks with no regard to the likely technique or action to be taken by the nage.  The form of ukemi ultimately employed by the uke at the conclusion of the technique is accordingly unknown until the last moment.   

While this is a highly worthwhile and quite exhilarating form of training, it requires a strong trust between the nage and uke, including an understanding that the nage will at all times have the highest regard for the uke’s safety when executing their techniques.  Particularly important is that the nage appreciates and adapts the intensity of their techniques to correlate with the uke’s experience level and falling skills.

Reactive ukemi     

This is my favourite form of ukemi.  While still non-resistant in nature, the essence of this ukemi is that when the uke feels their centre is being taken, the uke reacts by blending with nage’s actions and attempts to regain their balance.  A sensitive nage will immediately adjust the application of the technique to compensate.  The typical end result is Aikido being dynamically practised with power and grace.

Many of the Aikido demonstrations by Christian Tissier Sensei (7th Dan) are examples of this type of practice at its highest level – see for example Tissier Bercy 2005 HD (at o:59 to 1:39).

However, I would only recommend engaging in this method of uke arts (particularly in taninzugake) if your ukemi skills are well-developed and have become second nature.  My own experience is that the speed in which you come out of the technique seems to significantly increase with this type of training.  In addition, I sometimes find the gracefulness can be dangerously deceptive and the final powerful meeting with the mat can be quite a mental shock.

Aikido – I do my own stunts

At the end of the day, we in Aikido do our own stunts and no one stands in for us when we fall from an applied technique.  To stay safe, the most important thing for us is to use common sense and practise at a level commensurate with our ability to walk away safely in the most likely event that we meet the mat.

All the best

Ian Grant

Class Training Notes 19/1/2013

Another hot Saturday morning and another excellent turnout.  It’s always great to have guests drop in from other dojos.  This week we were fortunate to have Erwin Sensei (Nathan Dojo), Angela (Aikido Republic Dojo) and Neil (Aikido Republic Dojo) drop in for a visit.

Okay lets’ look at what we covered.

Third-third-third principle

The big emphasis this week was having regard to the third-third-third principle to maintain optimal balance. Under this principle, the distance between the feet is divided into thirds and the Aikido practitioner’s centre moves only within the middle third.  The principle applies regardless of whether you’re standing stationary (e.g. in hanmi) or moving.

The principle was explored in the Aiki Taiso (Exercises for Aikido arts) with particular reference to the Ikkyo, Sayu and Sayu choyaku exercises. It was also looked at in the context of applied techniques, including atemi (striking techniques).


Ukemi this week focussed on breakfalling.

I recently watched Erwin Sensei teach breakfalling by having the uke roll out multiples of times from a zenpo nage (projection technique), but each time rolling out smaller and smaller until they ultimately rolled out into a low breakfall.

I intended to cover this rather novel and natural approach to breakfalling in the class today.  It was an absolute bonus when Erwin Sensei decided to visit the dojo.  Big thanks to Erwin Sensei for agreeing to take this part of class and sharing his knowledge.

Yoko otoshi (side drop)

In terms of applied ukemi, the technique this week was yoko otoshi (side drop).  This technique really tests the uke’s ability to take ukemi from a strong projection.  The technique is also interesting as its one of the few sacrifice techniques in Aikido.

20100928081322(3)For those wishing to explore this some more, there are a few examples on You tube (e.g. see Aikido yoko otoshi).  You may also wish to search under uke waza which is the Judo equivalent to this technique.  Maruyama Sensei also covers the technique in one of his earlier instructional DVD’s (sorry no You Tube clips available).

Munetsuki techniques

At Susan’s request we covered menutsuki (punch to stomach or chest) techniques this week.  Techniques covered were as follows:

  • Menutsuki ushirodori (hold from behind)
  • Menutsuki koteagaeshi (outward wrist turn)
  • Menutsuki kirikaeshi (cut and return)
  • Menutsuki zenpo nage (forward projection) – using a single cut.

I particularly like menutsuki ushirodori – it’s simple, direct and effectiveIt’s one of those techniques that just seems to always work once you get the hang of the kuzushi (taking balance) part and the “wet blanket” feel when applying it.

Although slightly different from the munetsuki ushirodori we tend to do in our School, I found some interesting instruction on this technique in the following You Tube video.  What I like about this video is that it demonstrates the power that can be generated if the technique is done properly.

We also looked at responding to munetsuki strikes from the open side. To me, use of atemi (striking) is strongly advisable if the nage is going to avoid the possibility of a second strike from the uke’s other hand.  We looked at entering using Ikkyo atemi for this purpose (again employing third-third-third principle).


With gradings coming up in a week’s time, taninzugake (multiple attacks) was a big part of the class.  Taninzugake is  particularly emphasised in our school as it gives students the opportunity to develop their techniques in free form practice.

I found this short taninzugake demonstration by Master Koretoshi Maruyama (the founder of Aikido Yuishinkai).  Those who haven’t seen it before may find it quite interesting.

All the best