“Ukemi: From The Ground Up” by Ellis
Review by Robert Carver, Administrator, BudoSeek! Martial Arts Community
In a market where it seems that just about every instructor puts out a video or DVD demonstrating or teaching their system of martial arts, or introducing innovative training methods, it is rare to find a product that is actually worth spending your money on! Most are of poor quality, filmed in a manner that may look good, but does not really help you learn, or worse, their “innovative” training methods are not really very “innovative”. The first DVD offering by Ellis Amdur, author of Old School: Essays on Japanese Martial Traditions and Dueling with O-Sensei: Grappling with the Myth of the Warrior Sage is such a rare find!
The DVD entitled Ukemi: From The Ground Up, is a detailed look at a topic that often takes a backseat to the other techniques taught in arts such as Aikido, Jujutsu and Judo. As a result, the importance of ukemi is neglected and the safety of practitioners compromised. This DVD emphasizes the importance of ukemi for not only safety reasons, but also with regard to the application of counters and escapes. Additionally, most instructors who teach ukemi have been doing so based on what they were taught by their instructors. Many of these methods do not prepare a student for the rigors of training in a time efficient manner, and worse, many of these time-honored methods are themselves dangerous and could result in injury in the time term. So Ellis Amdur’s video introduces truly innovative methods for teaching ukemi with the goal of not only getting the student “up to speed” as soon as possible, but promoting methods that help ensure the long term health and safety of practitioners.
The video itself was filmed during a seminar that Amdur Sensei conducted in California. Because it is in a dojo setting, you get not only his instruction to the students present, but also an opportunity to see how he interacts with them and answers the very same questions that most of us might have under such circumstances. He stops during the instruction to point out common errors and to troubleshoot problems as they occur. As a result, you have an experience that is as close to actually “being there” as you can get from a video. The downside is that because it was filmed in a dojo setting and not on a professional sound stage, you get some background noise on the video from outside the dojo.
A couple of the things I found most interesting was his discussion of the history of ukemi and the structural mechanics involved. For those that are analytical in nature, this will certainly help you better understand why certain things are taught and why some of the older methods might not be as good as we might think! One thing that will throw some instructors for a loop is that Amdur Sensei advocates teaching breakfalls before teaching rolls. While this may be backward from how most of us were taught, his reasoning for why it should be taught this way is sensible and the method he shows for teaching breakfalls is sound.
In conclusion, the verdict on Ukemi: From The Ground Up is a definite “must have” for instructors and students of arts that include throwing techniques. While it may not completely change the way you teach or practice ukemi, it will at least give you reason to reevaluate why you teach and do things the way you do and maybe even adapt some of the methods in this video to your own curriculum. I know it has in my case, and has given me some ways to help improve how I teach ukemi in my dojo. As an instructor, I know that incorporating some of these methods will benefit my students, and I am sure it will benefit your students as well.
For those interested in purchasing this excellent video, please visit http://www.ellisamdur.com/buy.html#ukemi* for more information and to order. I think you will find this an outstanding DVD to add to your collection and one of the few martial arts videos you will refer back to again and again.