Friday, February 18, 2011

Uke for formal demonstrations

In our club and many associated clubs, there is a mostly-unspoken rule that when someone does a rank demo, their uke should be about their same level or perhaps slightly lower in rank.  Whenever possible, we tend to do rank demos with pairs of people advancing to the same rank.  There are several potential benefits to this practice...
  • It provides a preview of what is to come for the lower-ranked uke.
  • It gives the students a sense of solidarity or comradere to have gone through a demonstration together.
  • It might provide a more realistic demonstration to not have a super-uke jumping for the testee.
But right now I have a shodan candidate preparing to demo in April, and I have no suitable ukes for that demo, so I am instituting a tradition that is actually much older than our similar-rank demo tradition.
Have you ever noticed - primarily in koryu (ancient) arts and especially in weapon arts - that the higher-ranked participant is typically the uke.  That seems to have been a normal mode of training and demonstrating in these ancient arts.  The master is uke so that the student can be successful at the role of tori.
This sort of arrangement is also seen in other arts.  Have you noticed that when several musicians (especially in bluegrass) are performing together, the less-skilled player takes the primary role in center stage first. Then the teacher or the more skilled player(s) join in.
There are several potential benefits to this sort of demo...
  • The master can give more precise attacks that better simulate the situations that the student is demonstrating
  • The master can help control the pace and form of the demonstration better than an adrenalized student uke.  This should make for better demonstrations.
  • Modern combatives theory suggests that you should never train your students to fail. No training encounter should end in a failure mode that in any way represents death to the student. So, obviously the losing/dying role has to fall to the teacher. (Please don't lecture me about ukemi not being equivalent to losing.  I know that.)
So, the gist of this is... I am going to be the uke for my student's shodan demo in April, and if this little experiment works out, we might do this sort of demo more often.
Patrick Parker
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