Me, You, Us

Based on my own training over the years as well as observing the training of other students, it seems like there is sort of a three-step progression that occurs.

What I Am Doing?

When we first start out, our focus is mainly on our own bodies. We learn what our feet should be doing, what our hands need to do. We practice our positions, memorize certain choreography, learn terminology, get accustomed to a new culture. For the beginner, it's actually okay that they don't necessarily have kuzushi or off balance, that their timing is off. Build the plane first, then fly it.


It's also a time when we focus on what to do when we find ourselves in the midst of conflict, which is to say, defending ourselves, just staying alive.

What HE/SHE Is Doing?

Once we get the hang of all that, we can begin to think about the meaning behind it. When I do a given technique with all the appropriate footwork and hand positions, what is that supposed to do to uke? Sure, up until this point, we may have been told  or shown what's supposed to happen—uke falls down, or taps in submission—and the higher ranks working with us gave us that response as we practice.

But now we have to understand why it happens. Part of that understanding comes from a conscious realization, but the majority of it comes from a physical, kinesthetic viewpoint; we feel what's supposed to happen to uke. Having it done to us a great number of times by someone with experience is teaching us what to look for (or feel for) when we do it ourselves.


Now we can do more than just react, to survive the onslaught. We can now return what uke threw at us.

What Are WE Doing?

At last, we can now marry the two perspectives. I'm not only aware of my own body, but uke's body (and mind) as well. We're no longer two separate entities; my movements are connected to his.


We're no longer concerned just with survival, nor are we caught up in conquering uke. We join the energy, go with it, become the energy. We're dance partners, flowing together and whatever happens, happens.