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Many questions about aikido and judo refer to partners as Tori and Uke.

  1. The name of a throw where the tori starts from a headlock
  2. Etymology and meaning of ukemi
  3. Name this technique against Chudan tsuki ('knife' to the abdomen)
  4. Where to focus to develop a better sense of balance?
  5. What makes this seated Daito-ryu technique work?

What do these terms mean?

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Tori and Uke are roles defined relative to a technique. These terms quickly indicate who is doing what.

  • Tori is the performer of the technique.
  • Uke is the receiver of the technique.

Take the straight punch technique. Tori punches. Uke is punched.

Now take a headlock throw counter to a straight punch. In this case, Uke, who receives the headlock throw counter, performs the punch. Although Uke is performing the punch, we indicate the receiver of the throw, not the punch. Tori evades the punch by turning with it and performs the headlock throw counter.

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The literal translations...Tori = attacker/performer Uke= reciever are used completely differently across different martial arts.

In shorinji kempo Tori is always the 'attacker' and Uke is always the 'defender'. In aikido Tori is the performer of the technique and Uke is the receiver of the technique. So a SK kenshi and an Aikidoka will see the same technique and disagree about which is Tori and which is Uke.

So really we need a different definition for each style.

Judo/Aikido/AikiJujutsu:- Tori: performer of technique Uke: receiver of technique

Shorinji Kempo/Iaido:- Tori: attacker Uke: reciever of the attack

Edit. Kendo prefers Uchidachi and Shidachi as attack and defence are very similar movements in this style.

Eg this book

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Adding to mattm's answer, in addition to Tori ("taker") for the attacker, Aikido also uses Nage (thrower) or Shite ("performing hand"). Other styles, such as Karate and Kendo, may also refer to the attacker as the Seme ("Attacker"). Uke ("receiver") generally is always used as the term of the person receiving the technique, even if they are the one who initiates the attack.

Seme and Uke are also used in the context of yaoi, fictional material about male homosexual behavior, indicating "active" and "passive" roles in the act, as a parallel to the martial arts usage of one person performing the technique and the other receiving.

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