I’ve participated in his seminar before. This smallish wiry Japanese elderly man.
This time around, things somehow seem different. Even thought the Hong Kong mat was packed with people, there was a certain direct connection between him and me. He spoke in Japanese, with a very kind Japanese lady doing the translation for us. He looked at me in the eye and we connected, as if he was telling me directly what he was doing.
And when he asked ‘Do you understand?’ I felt he was asking me directly.
I understood from him the dynamics of the Nage and Uke, in a deeper level.
The tension between the two has been debated long before there was aikido. what happens between to belligerents, in a face off? In a simplistic sense, the ‘attacker’ is called the uke, in Aikido context and the ‘defender’ is the nage.
All this is a very fluid that swings back and forth for the uninitiated. One can say that attack and defense are opposite side of the same coin, and can swing from one to the other just like that. And nage can become an uke and and uke is becoming a nage, why bother to name them? and design the distinguished?
Plain and simple.
The Nage is the one initiating the action. not the Uke.
Stereo typically, it appears to that the uke is ‘attacking’, bearing in mind that ‘uke’ loosely means ‘ to receive’ in English, so what the hell are we supposed to receive when the uke is attacking? The uke is to receive the initiation from the nage.
So the magic in aikido lies in initiative. and the initiative lies in the nage. certainly as an uke to my teacher, i learned a lot from him. but he never loses his initiative, his superiority lies in the ability to initiate, to create. and not to anticipate, and wait. Aikido, or any other martial arts, cannot be practiced in retrospective.
Yamada sensei says as he looked at me in the eye, the Nage moves, once the ma-ai is established. The act of moving, will place the baton of initiative in the hands of the nage, and the nage, as long as the initiative is maintained, will always be a step ahead of the uke.
Sure, one might ask, the uke can seize the initiative and counter the nage, then that proves that the nage’s clarity, or the lack of it, needs sharpening, which is why a sincere uke is so important to the advancement of the nage.
However, irrespective of who the uke is, the nage must always maintain a creative mind, a mind and soul that takes initiative, make things happen. Living a life like this, all the receivers in our lives will stand to benefit from our initiatives.