Here is another pedantic Malanoski rant on the misuse of Japanese terminology. This one is really not your fault, if Nihon Go is not your or your instructor’s first language. I blame the folks who write books dealing with the instruction of martial arts, and those who blindly use such books for the perpetuation of misinformation on the non suspecting student.
This micro treatise will deal with the Japanese word Uke.
In the striking arts uke is often incorrectly translated as block.
In the throwing / grappling arts, uke is often incorrectly translated as partner.
Then there is the compound word ukemi, which is most often incorrectly translated as break falls.
I have even been asked at a karate get together, by an instructor from another dojo, to get one of my ukes to make a run to the store for us……………….
The fact of the matter is that uke literally means to receive / accept.
Ukemi Waza = methods of acceptance.
When used in reference to a blocking technique, uke actually refers to a method of accepting an on coming strike or attack without being hit.
When used in reference to a person, uke actually refers to the person receiving a technique.
When used in reference to a break fall, ukemi actually refers to a method of receiving a throw or joint locking technique, allowing one to go with the flow of the technique while avoiding injury.
By observing the word uke in its proper context, we, in my opinion, can better understand the concepts of blocking and break falling.
For an interesting article, written by Dave Lowery, on the kanji for uke, go to: