Monday, October 21, 2013

The Qualities of a Good Uke

            In the dojo it is important to have good sensei (teachers) guiding you on your physical, mental and spiritual journey in the martial arts.

There is; however, an equally important role in the dojo: the uke.

Uke is Japanese for partner for working out in class. They are used in basic drills, self-defense exercises, kata and sparring.
In most situations, an uke will be a fellow student; however, it is not unusual for a sensei to step into the pivotal role.

A good uke will possess the following qualities:

Control: Deliver a strike or kick, so that it is felt, but does not injure.

Focus: an uke’s chu (mind, body & spirit) is present and centered on helping her partner’s progress and well-being.

Knowledge: Understanding of the role of uke, the skills being developed, and her partner (strengths, weaknesses, perceptions of both, personality & learning style).

Insight: Recognition of one's own limitations and willingness to embrace the opportunities to learn and improve. Recognition of your uke’s vulnerabilities and willingness to help your uke recognize them, as well (without causing injury – see control)

Hindsight & Foresight: These go hand-in-hand. A good uke is cognizant of her partner’s past journey and has an understanding of her partner’s future goals. This knowledge gives an uke the foresight to devise the best plan to assist her partner in achieving his/her goal by holding/setting challenging, yet attainable targets. Once a goal is reached, a good uke adjusts the targets, so that her partner does not plateau or become complacent, but continues forth on her journey.

Quiet Humility: a good uke does not shame, embarrass or injure her partner. She understands her role is to help her partner improve, even if her partner’s success means the uke’s defeat. Success is not defined by leaving the sparring ring with the most points, but by leaving the ring with the most knowledge and growth.

Passion: a love for the skills, concepts, philosophies, & process, as well as a desire to pass that knowledge & experience on to others.

Patience: an understanding that everyone learns, processes, works, & succeeds at his/her own pace. It is not an uke’s role to push or drag her partner along, but to walk beside her and encourage each step.

Selflessness: a generous heart to give of one’s time, knowledge & passion. A selfless heart to celebrate the achievements and success of others.

Flexibility: the ability and willingness to alter your perspective, position and approach to best meet your uke’s needs.

Strength: the fortitude to challenge your partner to reach beyond what she sees as her limitations, and the courage to acknowledge the potential, to which your partner is blind.
Trust: the honor of your partner’s faith in your abilities, knowledge, control, & intention, as well as your own belief in the process & your instincts.

And Respect:
Respect your uke.
Respect yourself.
Respect the truth that what works for you, may not work for others.

Respect the process of discovery and growth.
Respect the fact that we are all Works-in-Progress. Help the progress of others. Don’t hinder it, or you hinder your own.

The admirable qualities found in a good uke in the dojo are the same qualities writers should seek in a critique partner, agent, or editor.
They are the same qualities one should embrace in any partnership, whether it be in karate, writing or life.
If someone does not possess these qualities, do not step into the ring with them. A bad uke can do more harm than no uke. In the end, we should strive to seek out these good uke qualities in others and, more importantly, in ourselves.  
In closing, because I love this song so much and it shows both the harm of bad ukes and benefit of good ukes, I leave you with this:


  1. I think this is a wonderful post, Keely. One I'm going to share on Twitter so that more people might learn the qualities you should truly look for in a good critique partner. I'm glad there are writers, like you, who uphold these beliefs!

    1. Thank you, Fiona! I am grateful to have found a writing "uke," who exemplifies these qualities as you do. I should have my revised chapter to you later today. See you in the sparring ring. ;)

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  3. I'd love to add something here, but you've covered it beautifully. I'm so happy Fiona took the time to form our critique group, and I look forward to many revisions together. :)

    1. Thank you, Eboni! I look forward to reading more of your wonderful writing and working together!

  4. I love this post! Finding a good CP is so essential in the writing process. (And that song totally makes me cry every single time I hear it.)

    1. Thank you, Veronica! I couldn't agree more. The right CP can make all the difference.