Having watched many aikido demonstrations on YouTube, I have noticed that many high-rank aikidoka perform the demo with a lower rank uke.

I have never seen, for example, a pair of Susumu Chino sensei (8th dan) and Tsuneo Ando sensei (8th dan) do a demo with one of them as uke.

Possibly it is because the higher the rank the aikidoka has, the older the aikidoka is, which may make it more dangerous to be uke. Is there a rule in which uke must be lower rank?


Why do high-rank aikidokas perform demos with lower ranks as uke?


2 Answers 2


There are several reasons for this:

  1. Old people are less good at break falling than young people; it is more impressive to have young people break fall.
  2. Tori/Uke are sometimes extensions of a Sempai/Kohai relationship; it would be odd to have two people of the same standing do demos together.
  3. Ego. Aikido has some of the most egotistical, self-centered people in it; having an 8th dan use another 8th dan as uke would mean that the first has more standing than the second.
  4. 守破離 (shu-ha-ri): the latter part (leave/transcend) is about moving away from what one knows. Thus, it would make no sense whatsoever for two "masters" to use each other as demonstration dummies; they do different things. One master wants to show what they have done, thus uses one of their students who knows what is coming (or at least can cope with whatever their senior throws at them).
  5. There would be a loss of face in hurting a foreign (to one's school) instructor while using them as uke. Or worse, if uke were to hurt tori…

However, there are plenty of videos of Shodokan Aikido honbu instructors throwing each other: Sakai-sensei and Adams-sensei and Omori-sensei, Sakai-sensei and Abe-sensei, for example.


A lot depends on what is the focus of the demonstration. I know that Christian Tissier and Bruno Gonzolez do many demonstrations together, and Mr Gonzolez himself is a high-ranking Aikido-ka, while Mr Tissier is higher in rank.

In Aikido, there is as much emphasis on nage-waza as there is in ukemi, because, one gives while the other simultaneously receives. But an instructor can only play one role at a time. Often, the execution of ukemi is easier than nage-waza, which requires more in-depth demonstration (or instruction), and not surprisingly, that should come from the higher ranking instructor.

On occasion that the focus of instruction/demonstration is ukemi, the instructor will usually switch to the role of uke. I've never seen it done any other way.

In a demonstration, the focus of the performance is usually the nage-waza, even though a crappy uke can ruin the entire demonstration. People don't "ooooh" and "aaaah" over uke's deft stunt work, only the manner in which he got wrapped up in the technique.

Think about it: what role should the instructor play if the focus of instruction is the reversal? He should be playing the role of initial uke, yes?

So if you are careful and observant, it is definitely worth your while to pay attention to both nage and uke, especially if they are high-ranking Aikido-ka.

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