should it be used and what is its real importance to
karate practice? Ever since I started training over 22
years ago, I have done ukemi. I was always fascinated by
breakfalls, but I did not until recently understand the
role that ukemi can and should play in our training.
Begin doing koho kaiten
In my practice,
I focus on applications of technique and how to escape
from them. Initially we learn ukemi and use it sparingly
in the practice of bunkai, or as a warm-up at the
beginning of class, or perhaps by accident while
sparring. These instances never allow us to fully
understand how to use the ukemi to our advantage.
say, for example, that you are initiating an attack
against an opponent. He blocks and throws you. You use
ukemi to break your fall. But you have waited until the
takedown is inescapable and the ukemi may be your last
act before the opponent applies the coup de grace. Is
this the correct use of ukemi? I donít think so.
Think of ukemi as another set of self-defence movements,
like uke, uchi, geri, tsuki and so on. Itís not just a
breakfall; itís an effective means to escape throwing
or locking techniques. Now imagine that you are
attacking an opponent, only to have your attack reversed
and you are being joint-locked or thrown. Rather than
letting your opponent complete his counterattack,
initiate ukemi to escape from the move at the beginning
of its application.
Mannerow doing an ukemi at Jean Lauzon's nidan exam
time you practise bunkai, use your ukemi as a means to
escape a throw or joint-lock, reverse the move, or trap
the opponent. Timing here is critical. If you move too
soon, your opponent will cut his throw short. It
youíre too late, you wonít be able to escape his
technique without damage to yourself. If you ever see an
you will notice that attackers being thrown are
flying all over. While this is due to some extent to the
defensive technique being applied, in large part is
because the person being thrown is actually throwing
themselves to escape damage.
So the concept is that we must throw ourselves to escape
at the crucial moment in a takedown or lock. You can
escape a simple wristlock, for example, by using
zenpo-kaiten, or mae-ukemi, or even yoko or ushiro-ukemi.
Wait until you feel the beginning of pressure of the
application to your joint, and then respond accordingly.
It will take a lot of practice to do this by second
nature. We should fight the impulse to use our strength
to resist a throw or lock. And we have to modify our
reactions learned through previous bunkai practice,
applying ukemi only after we have been fully thrown.
Jean Lauzon and Pierre-Yvon Begin
concept of how to use ukemi is a departure from what I
was taught and I believe that senior karateka should
strive to understand the importance of ukemi in their
defensive arsenal. I think it is an important step in
understanding the bunkai or applications of kata. We
also have to understand the role of an initiator of a
technique to appreciate how bunkai really works. However
I will leave that for another article.