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I practice 合気道. We do a lot of break falling that we call ukemi. I was led to believe that it meant safe escape from a technique. However, I started looking at the Japanese and found I only had part of the answer. I believe that ukemi can be translated as receiving body (受け身). It is what uke (受け, whoever receives the technique) does when nage (投げ thrower?) or tori (取り, grabber?) applies a technique.

Am I correct in my assumptions?

Are my kanji correct?


Note that this was a martial arts stackexchange question that got no where despite a bounty. It might be more suitable here...

  • Maybe it's better to think 身 as "stance". – broccoli forest Aug 22 '15 at 16:52
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Your kanji are correct. [受]{う}け[身]{み}. You can also write it [受]{うけ}[身]{み}.

The general meaning of 受け身, however, is not "receiving body" but "passive." Thus, the passive voice "it is written by him" (vs. active "he writes").

I am not familiar with your martial art, but I would guess that it means you take a passive rather than active role in the combat -- receiving the action of others and responding to it.


I could imagine this being understood as "safe escape" if there are Buddhist overtones that imported in seeing actively fighting as being interested. But it's definitely not a very natural translation.

  • @Sardathrion as written above "passive." Maybe, "defensive." Also shows up with the "art of falling safely" but that means as in the technique of being 受け身 (for list of English definitions see csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/cgi-bin/wwwjdic.cgi?1E ) – virmaior Jul 29 '14 at 9:29
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    Oops sorry about that with the link... should have known just from looking at it. Same data is here: jisho.org/words?jap=%E5%8F%97%E8%BA%AB&eng=&dict=edict – virmaior Jul 29 '14 at 10:07
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    @Tek: I shall but I do not accept answers within 24 hours of asking the question as it might discourage someone else to post an even better answer. – Sardathrion Jul 29 '14 at 13:27
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You might also translate it as "receptive" body, as in a body prepared to receive a blow, strike or onslaught. Judo techniques, as I remember in my distant past, are primarily defensive, or "receptive" techniques, using the opponents' force and action against them.

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