Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Uchidachi and Shidachi

A few weeks ago I was writing about how we have adopted for our classes the old practice of having uke (especially for rank tests) be considerably higher-ranked than tori (whenever possible and practical).  Well, today I was studying more about this partner relationship in Pascal Krieger's excellent text, Jodô - la voie du bâton.  It was mostly stuff that I already knew, but revisiting basic concepts like this is like visiting old friends.
I also came across the following in Wikipedia...
Uchidachi (打太刀) means "striking/attacking sword" and is one of the two roles in kata of budō and bujutsu, the other being shidachi (受太刀).  The senior party is normally uchidachi. In kata, the uchidachi takes the role of instructor and initiates the action and governing the tempo, although allowing the shidachi to strike the winning blow. This role is like a nurturing parent (or teacher) who intentionally loses its skillful and true attack in order for its child (or disciple) to be able to develop. In no way is this of any competitive nature nor a way to test one's abilities. This role requires one to be humble and responsible because it embodies self-sacrifice of uchidachi in order to teach shidachi by offering guidance and education. Any corrections in the distance between the two roles are made by uchidachi. Usually this role is fulfilled by the senior practitioner, hence this role is in the more difficult position of facing the sun when practising outside. 
Shidachi (受太刀) means "doing/receiving sword" and is one of the two roles in kata of budō and bujutsu, the other being uchidachi (打太刀)...  This role which does a technique and is best described as an adolescent child (or disciple) whose goal is to eagerly acquire the skills presented by uchidachi's technique. Shidachi is led by uchidachi who provides a true attack; this allows shidachi to learn correct body displacement, combative distancing, proper spirit, and the perception of opportunity. Unfortunately, students often act as though they want to test their skills against those of the higher-ranked uchidachi. They consider this competition to be their practice. In fact, this leads to neither better technique, nor greater spiritual development, because the correct relationship between uchidachi and shidachi has been obscured...
...which I considered to be quite a good concise explanation of the concepts.  What I mainly took from Krieger and from Wikipedia included...
  • The senior partner should be uke because he is more capable of controlling the encounter to present the junior with an optimal learning experience.
  • The senior controls the tempo and the distance (ma-ai).  I found this a bit surprising, because I'd always thought that control of ma-ai was a mutually-shared responsibility - sort of a give-and-take game of trying to play the boundary to your advantage.
[photo courtesy of Nikopol_TO]

Patrick Parker 
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