” Every moment is a new moment.”

Take this philosophy with you into training. As an uke, we have to deliver convincing attacking movements for our tori. To constantly do this, we have to treat the beginning of each technique as a new beginning, regardless if we have been repeating it hundreds of times!

What is necessary, is to commence each new practice as if it was the first time we had practised it. In this way, we are learning to clear our intent and understand how to enter the “now“. If we are thinking about the past or future, then we are not fully capable of entering the moment to ensure our training partner recieves the fullest conviction of our whole body. Training is not about just delivering effective movements, but more importantly, carrying with each change the spirit to give it real substance.  I hope you can understand what I’m saying here.

Soke often states that we should grasp the heart of a three year old child. This is one aspect of Sanshin.  In this way, we learn to play and be moved by each new moment without grasping onto the past or future. In this way, we can “play” in and with every moment. Imagination is also extremely important here.


To be able to understand why we train the way we do, is extremely important. There are many that feel that the Bujinkan manner of keiko is unrealistic. If people were actually mature and open in their mind, they wouldn’t be saying these things. Safety is crucial. We learn to move in order to protect ourselves. If we do not, then we will be injured and our training life will be reduced. Is this not common sense? Those that wish the person to “really do” the technique on them have something wrong with them.

I once had a person ask me to put a wrist lock as hard as I could on them. I tried to reason with them, but they insisted that they wanted to feel if they could actually avoid it. It is very important to understand the words you speak and to take full responsibility for everything. Soke often warns everyone that you may get injured or killed in the dojo, and that if they can’t accept that, they should leave! Anyway, the persons wrist was lucky to not have serious injury as they dropped to the floor in pain.

” In a real fight, you will be hit and you must not be shocked by contact. Being hit lets you know you did something wrong and need to work on it until you get it right. Simply practise properly.”  Nagato Sensei.

Being uke requires you to understand the body and your natural responces or reactions to particular situations,strikes,hits,etc. How can you understand these things? The only way is from strong training. This is reiterated by the Shihan and Soke. Those that just try and perform the seemingly effortless movements of the Shitenno and Soke without knowing this important point are in a state of delusion. You have to know how pain manipulates your body, mind and spirit. If you do not “feel” this over a length of time, you will not understand the true potential of the techniques you attempt to perform on your partners.


The most important aspect of this point is this: Through experiencing the pain, or actual contact from strikes etc, you come to understand how your body and mind/spirit naturally responds. Therefore, in future training scenarios, you are able to respond naturally in a less vigorous training setting to the same attacks. Ultimately to assist in realistic , but safe training.

” First know yourself, then your enemy.”  Sun Tsu.

Unfortunately, there are some uke that take being uke to the extreme. They fly around too easily, and land with a gasp. They treat it more like a show, rather than budo. Some uke already have made their mind up to take ukemi before tori has even committed to a waza/henka. They are training in a different space. This is dangerous in reality. This is also dangerous in training. This is not being a real uke. This is being a performer. Just like people who clap after a class has finished at the dojo, they have forgotten the concept and truth behind the budo in which they think they study.

” There are Shidoshi out there that have never been hit. Yet they are professing to be teaching Budo.” Nagato Sensei.

Unfortunately, people often jump to this type of training before the body knows how to move. This therefore breeds disbelievers, or people that try to “hold their ground” while a technique is being practised on them. This is a sickness from pure lack of training, and / or ignorance to the way of training. I’d like to also state here that Soke recently mentioned the cultural learning concept of Shu Ha Ri. This may have some significance to this current post aswell.

Nagato Sensei once said. ” If you are training correctly, then you are actually doing randori.”

Training is only going to be realistic if both the uke and tori have a working knowledge of the truth of training and the necessary mind set in order to produce the “feeling” of reality when practising. There is much responsibility for both the uke and tori. It’s about ” give and take or give and return.” It’s about training correctly right from the beginning!


Many people look at my training and say. ” that hurts.” Then when they train iwht me , they feel that it hurts and don’t want to come back. It is very important to get used to getting hit and learning to deal with it. Otherwise, how could you survive in a real fight.” Nagato Sensei

Being an uke is about learning the “feeling” of Bujinkan Budo. You will sense the good and the bad teachers. This is important. Soke asks us to learn to discern the good from the bad and train with the good. This is something we have to learn ourselves. Unfortunately, there are many students out there ( even in Japan ) that have not been able to see the truth of some teachers. They therefore are treading further from the true path without even realising it.

The “feeling” you recieve from your teacher depends entirely upon how open you are or, how empty your cup is. If your body understands the taijutsu, then your mind should ultimately be free from any thoughts. Therefore, being an uke is just like the godan test( thank you Lance ). If you enter the state of Mushin ( no mind ) , and your teacher is moving from the same inner peace, then the connection between you both has developed to a larger capacity. The projection of intent is more acutely felt and utlisied. Training moves into a different space. From a sense of bushin no wa, uke and tori trip into the kukan and recieve a greater chance to experience  the gokui of budo.


This capacity requires both uke and tori to develop their Sainou and Tamashii. They can increase their capacity to understand Budo through harmonising their efforts, rather than fighting against one another. Soke often states that fighting is not what we do. Can you gain a better appreciation of his words now? It is gaining the ability to harmonise with the opponent that enables us to defeat them him/them without fighting. This is only possible from obtaining shin gi tai ichi.

Soke wishes us to develop martial friends ( buyu ). This is the first step to  learning the secrets of budo. From becoming friends, we come together and train. We laugh, feel pain, but enjoy the training. Because we enjoy it, we relax and have fun. These pleasurable times in the dojo lead us away from our debilitating thoughts. We begin to connect with our buyu, and we therefore advance our lives further by opening our hearts.

Opening our heart also empties our cup. We become much more accepting of people, different values and cultures, etc. We develop a larger capacity to live more freely and happily. The art of giving is the important thing here. This is what the role of uke teaches. It is also the necessary trait required to progress along the correct path in budo.

Ninja 187

I have many more thoughts about being uke. But, I will leave it there. Being uke is personal. It’s up to you to try and understand what lessons are to be learned by being uke.

Good luck.

9 Responses to “Ukeship”

  1. Fantastic article, one of the best and most honest I’ve ever read!

    Thanks Duncan,

    Best wishes from Ireland,

    Marcus Dwyer

  2. Duncan, your thoughts on uke remains me of many lessons – most importantly character. You’re voice is that of many. Thanks!

  3. David Holt - Shihan Says:

    Good post, I have been saying this for years but people just said it was stupid and not Bujinkan. Many good people teach this. Posts like this hopefully will wake people up and stop this stupid bad mouthing. I know Shidoshis who NEVER felt the real fight, how can they teach it? I agree 150%
    Good job, keep it up – Be happy- we are

  4. Hi Duncan i really enjoyed your article i think that you say it as it is, too many buyu think they have the feeling but dont understand what its like to be hit, and as soke has said, we must train in all aspects of the Bujinkan.
    keep up the good work!

    Tony Crimmins.


  5. Will Rogers Says:

    Great post!! A lot of really insightful points, cheers for that. 🙂

  6. Marcelo Moya Says:

    I trully appreciate the posts!!! Thank you Duncan!!!!

  7. Hi,
    Very inspirating article.
    Could I place a translation on our dojo´s website? I would like to share these thoughts with those who do not read english. With your agree of course.

    Yours sincerely,


  8. Matthew Krause Says:

    Great post!! Along with some of the other comments from above, I have been teaching these ideas for many years now but people are just not listening! They think you have to fight your opponent for it to be a effective. If you harmonize with the opponent he has nothing to fight accept himself! The opponent usually gives up because of exhaustion while you are still energized! Great post!! Look forward to more!

    Matthew R. Krause

  9. Some vb drinker Says:

    A wise man ones said – the bujinkan is shit because of the way people think and the way they train – I have deffintly experinced bouth sides of this traning in Canada then traning in Australia for the last 9 years – so true rethink the way you train is it right? Or is it shit – to be a thug is one of the worst things that a “martial ART-est” can be ! … Huge respect to this wise man who tells it like it is – thank you and you deffintly live that path- from some guy who is in no rush , and just between you me and the rest of the world my jodon uke – is still shit after 15 years.

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