Are You a Lousy Uke?

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Are You a Lousy Uke?

(Article by Phil Poma)

Uke: The exact role of uke, also known as a partner, varies between the different arts and often within the art itself depending on the situation.

During my first month of learning BJJ, I was paired with a much younger and extremely aggressive blue belt. Having future MMA aspirations, he treated all of his sparring sessions as if they were the championship rounds for a UFC title belt. During one session, he immediately put me in a can opener, cranking my head with so much force I could literally hear and feel the tearing of muscle fibers in my neck. For the next few days, I couldn’t move my neck or eat much because of the nauseating feeling in my stomach. In this brief 30-second encounter, there was a lot of damage done (aside from my neck):

1) it put a damper on my enthusiasm for going to class;

2) it made me want to avoid this guy at all cost; and

3) it moved me a step closer to finding another place to train.

All of this because of a bad uke.


In his groundbreaking BJJ Revolution instructional DVD’s, the great Saulo Riberio talks about the importance of being a good training partner and respecting the people you train with. After all, without good training partners, your overall progression as a BJJ practitioner will suffer. Plus, your academy is like your family…and (on most days anyways), you wouldn’t want to hurt members of your family, right?

So, are you a lousy uke? Take the test below and find out. For each question that you answer “True” or “Yes” to, give yourself a point. Tally your points at the end and check your score.

1) Brand new student in his second week of training. 100-pound woman. 80-pound child. Doesn’t matter. I don’t change my aggressiveness for anybody. No matter how young, how old, how weak, or how inexperienced, I GO HARD. Abu Dhabi HARD.

2) After each training session, I hang dry my gi for use in my next training session, which will probably be tomorrow. I wash my gi every two to three classes. After all, everyone sweats. And no one will be able to tell whose gi stinks.

3) The red, rashy bump on my leg has gotten bigger and, damn, it really itches. It’s probably nothing, though. Maybe a bug bite or something. I don’t want to miss any training so I’ll just slap some Neosporin on it and not tell anyone.

4) I’m constantly talking while my instructor is either teaching or talking. After all, I’m sure my teammates want to hear my Gracie-like breakdown of the recent UFC fight.

5) I know the instructor showed us the technique of the night a certain way. But by showing you the ten different variations I saw on YouTube and MG In Action, I know you’ll be impressed by my vast knowledge of BJJ techniques. Sorry, am I confusing you?

6) I had a 102-degree fever the other night and I still don’t feel that good. I’ve been coughing and sneezing all day (and I think I still have the chills) but I feel a little better now. Plus, I don’t want to miss class.

7) There’s no way he/she should have been promoted ahead of me. I’m way better than (insert name here). To prove my point, I’m going to go extra hard against (insert name here) every time we roll just so everyone can see that I deserve to be promoted, too.

8) I forgot to cut my finger and toenails again, to the point where I could probably climb a tree like a koala. I apologize for the scratch marks down your calves, ankles, and forearms.

9) How dare you try to offer suggestions on how to correct my technique or form? You have a lot of nerve telling me where to place my hips or legs or how my choke could be tighter. After all, I’ve been training a whole six months longer than you have! Plus you should see my BJJ book and DVD instructional collection.

10) You’re just coming back from an elbow, knee, wrist, ankle, shoulder, or neck injury? That’s good to know because now I can attack these weak spots with little or no resistance. I see a quick submission coming!

If you scored:

7 or higher:
You have angered Saulo. Leave the academy now and don’t come back until you’ve: 1) changed your attitude, and 2) matured.

4 to 6:
Saulo is extremely annoyed. Correct your mistakes now or Saulo will make you his personal uke.

0 to 3:
No one is perfect and everyone has a bad day now and then. You are an excellent student and a valuable part of the academy family. Saulo gives you a pat on the back. Now go back to training. Excelente!

What is your worst uke experience? Post your comments below…