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Uke (martial arts)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Uke, on the left, "receiving" a throw by executing a forward roll
Japanese name

Uke (受け) (IPA: [ɯke]) is in Japanese martial arts the person who "receives" a technique.[1] The exact role of uke varies between the different arts and often within the art itself depending on the situation.[2][3] For instance, in aikido, judo kata, and bujinkan ninjutsu, uke initiates an attack against their partner, who then defends, whereas in competition judo, there is no designated uke.[4]

An uke typically partners with a partner or nominal opponent.[5] The latter person may be referred to by any of several terms, again depending on the art or situation. They include nage (投げ, "thrower"), tori (取り, "grabber") and shite (仕手, "doer").


The action of uke is called "taking ukemi (受け身)." Literally translated as "receiving body", it is the art of knowing how to respond correctly to an attack and often incorporates skills to allow one to do so safely. These skills can include moves similar to tumbling and are often used as a valid exercise in itself. In aikido and judo training for instance, many classes begin with ukemi training as conditioning.


  • Zenpō kaiten ukemi (前方回転受身) / Mae mawari ukemi (前回り受身) – a forward roll from the leading foot's shoulder to the hip on the opposite side.[2][6]
  • Mae ukemi (前受け身) / Zenpō ukemi (前方受身) – a forward breakfall.[7] This can be in the form of a hard slapping breakfall or more of a forward roll like motion. There are subtleties in the different types of forward roll but the principle is that when being thrown forwards the uke (person being thrown) is able to roll out of danger in preference to sustaining an injury.[8]
  • Kōhō ukemi (後方受け身) / Ushiro ukemi (後ろ受身) – a backwards roll or fall.[9][10]
  • Yoko ukemi (横受け身) / Sokuhō ukemi (側方受身) – a sideways fall.[11][12]
  • Tobi ukemi (飛び受け身) / Zenpō hiyaku ukemi (前方飛躍受身) / Kūten ukemi (空転受身) – more of a forward flip than a roll, a cross between yoko (landing) and mae ukemi (initiation), often used in response to wrist throws. Tobu (跳ぶ or 飛ぶ) is the Japanese verb for "to jump" and "to fly".[13]

Correct ukemi will allow the uke to suffer the least amount of damage possible from a fall. If done correctly, the force of hitting the ground will be spread out along non-critical parts of the uke's body. By properly doing ukemi, the uke can roll out of danger and move into their next course of action without being damaged too much by hitting the ground.


  1. ^ "Black Belt". November 1992. p. 108. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  2. ^ a b Richard Murat (2005). Karate For Beginners And Advanced. p. 150. ISBN 9788126904600. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  3. ^ J. Alswang (2003). The South African Dictionary of Sport. p. 163. ISBN 9780864865359. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  4. ^ J. A. Mangan (2001). Europe, Sport, World: Shaping Global Societies. p. 211. ISBN 9780714681719. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  5. ^ Jamie Striesend (August 2013). Sports. p. 195. ISBN 9788189093617. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  6. ^ Takahiko Ishikawa; Donn Draeger (2011). Judo Training Methods: A Sourebook. ISBN 9781462902774. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  7. ^ John Crossingham; Bobbie Kalman; Marc Crabtree (2006). Judo in Action. p. 14. ISBN 9780778703426. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  8. ^ Masao Takahashi (2005). Mastering Judo. p. 70. ISBN 9780736050999. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  9. ^ Richard Murat (2005). KarateFor Beginners And Advanced. p. 146. ISBN 9788126904600. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  10. ^ Neil Saunders (2003). Aikido: The Tomiki Way. p. 36. ISBN 9781412006682. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  11. ^ James Moclair (2009). Ju-Jutsu: A Comprehensive Guide. p. 23. ISBN 9781467898126. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  12. ^ Adrien Breton (2016). The Homing Beacon of Martial Arts. p. 44. ISBN 9781329960893. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  13. ^ Nick Waites (2013). Essential Aikido: An Illustrated Handbook. p. 28. ISBN 9781291559248. Retrieved 2016-04-10.