Tonight was ukemi night at judo class. " But," you say. "Every night is ukemi night at Mokuren."
Well tonight we worked on ukemi emphasizing forward rolls then building into the proper ukemi for hip throws. The technique of the night was kubinage and we threw on a crash pad so the beginners could have the confidence to not flinch and resist and end up getting hurt. Devin, the smallest member of the class, was throwing beautiful hip throws that resembled a mix of koshiguruma and kubinage - effortless and effective against class members (literally) three times his size. Then we worked on the various floating throw elements that make up osotogari.
So, why do we do so much ukemi practice at Mokuren? First of all, it is the single most appropriate, applicable, effective self defence that exists in any martial art. Unless something is drastically wrong with your lifestyle then I promise that you will slip or trip many times more during your life than you will be attacked. Being able to fall reflexively and properly is much more likely to save you than the ultimate deadly ninja technique of the night. Ukemi is also about a lot more than self-defence, but let it suffice to say that it is ultra important and my students practice it until it is a reflex and then continue to refine and maintain that reflex.
This reminds me of another (perhaps) distinctive of judo at Mokuren. That is, we very rarely do uchikomi practice in which tori turns in repeatedly without throwing. Uke falls on virtually every technique practiced at Mokuren because ukemi is that important a skill. Of course, there are proponents of uchikomi practice that will correctly argue that they get many more repetitions of the kuzushi and tsukuri phases of various throws than we do at Mokuren. Also, uchikomi can be a very good cardiovascular exercise. But, in my opinion, ukemi is such a vital skill that we try to practice it as much as possible. Also, with uchikomi practice, uke is relegated to the role of motionless practice dummy and learns virtualy nothing. By minimizing uchikomi at Mokuren, both partners are actively learning for a greater portion of the time.