For those interested in discovering Aikido.

Ukemi and Kokyu Ryoku, simply explained -Part 4, Lift tests

Lift tests.

In the previous articles I talked about how Ukemi training allows us to take force in ways that at first seem impossible. Ukemi helps us significantly reduce the risk of falling. It can also help us resist forces that are trying to push us down or horizontally with very little muscular effort on our part. These demonstrations are not only impressive to others, but also teach useful, potentially life saving techniques. Ukemi techniques can also make it nearly impossible for someone to lift us. These kinds of demonstrations seem truely magical. How can a strong person be able to lift someone one moment, and then be unable to lift them in the next? It seems nothing short of magic. However there are several important principles that we can use in order to keep others from lifting us and in this article we are going to talk about a few of them.

One of the Common demonstrations of lift resistance is done with two people doing the lifting. This demonstration is very impressive because two people lifting represents a good amount of power. In this demonstration each of the lifters grabs an arm, and through the arms they push the Aikido practitioner up in the air. Once we see that the two people on the bottom have enough power to lift the Aikido practitioner, the Aikido practitioner “extends his Ki”, and the two lifters are no longer able to lift up the Aikidoka. One of the best ways to do this is through the use leverage, however we can also use the principle of “disconnected center” to aid us in this type of demonstration. We need to look at our structure model again to help us understand how this works.

Structure base


Earlier we talked about why we fall. If there is more weight outside of our base than inside of our base we will fall over. This is true for all structures. If two people try to pick you up and you allow your weight to move inside of their base, it will be relatively easy for them to lift you. However if they cannot get your weight inside of their base, lifting you will be VERY difficult, if not impossible. This is due partially to the rules of structure and also due to the principle of leverage. If someone is trying to lift you and you are outside of their base, lifting you will make them fall over. This is because when they try to lift you they are joining their structure to yours, if your weight (you) is outside of their base there is likely more weight outside of their base than inside of it. Even if there is not more weight outside of their base than inside of it (if they are much heavier than you are) the principle of leverage will still make lifting your nearly impossible. Let’s take a moment to get in touch with the principle of leverage.


A lever is a simple machine, it allows you to trade force for distance and visa versa. In it’s most simple form a lever is a rod and a fulcrum. The rod is often called the “lever arm” and the fulcrum is the point that the lever-arm moves around. In our basic lever model, the fulcrum is between the effort arm (the side where we put force in, and the load arm, where we are trying to move something. The lever trades power for distance. If the force arm is longer, you will have to put in less force over a longer distance, in return on the shorter load arm, you will get more force over a shorter distance. If you switch it up, and you have a force arm that is short, and a load arm that is long, you will have to put in a lot of force, but in return the effort arm will move much faster over a larger distance.


Lets do another experiment. We need a lever with a weight on the end. Something like a hammer- (especially if you have a large sledge hammer) will work nicely. Ignore the lever at first, and simply pick the weight up a few times. Give yourself time to get a good idea of how the weight feels, and how much effort it takes you to lift the weight. Now lay it down with the weighted side away from you and the lever side towards you (handle if you’re using a hammer). Grab the end of the lever with the weight extended away from you, and again pick it up. How much more effort does it take to move? Does it seem much heavier? It didn’t actually gain any weight at all, but because of the way your a using (holding) the lever, it seems much, much heavier. If you were using something like a 15 lbs sledge hammer with a long handle, it probably went from something you could lift with one hand pretty easily, to something you couldn’t lift at all. This is because in this configuration you are using the lever to trade force for distance (power for speed). This makes your weighed lever seem much heavier. This is also one of the factors that will make the person being lifted seem much heavier.

In this type of lift it is relativly easy for the person being lifted to keep themselves outside of the lifters base and by doing this they will also make the load side of the lever (the arm that the people are trying to lift with) much longer increasing the amount of force they need to lift. These two factors alone make the job of the lifters much harder than it might at first seem. We can make the job of the lifters even harder by using the principle of “disconnected center”. Let’s take a moment to look at the “disconnected center” principle.

Disconnected center principle

When force is applied to a structure that force tries to move in a straight line through the structure. If possible the force will move the structure along it’s path. If the line of force goes through the center of the structures mass and there is enough force it will move the whole structure (as in lifting the structure up). The further away from the structures center the force is, the less likely it will be able to move the whole structure. So if someone is trying to lift us up, they will have to exert force on our center, or we will not be lifted only moved a little. To use the principle of “disconnected center” we can keep them from lifting us and all we need to do is to feel the path that the force is taking to our center, then move our center away from the force. If the lifters cannot move your core, they cannot lift you. By doing this you can make it even harder for the lifters to lift you up.

Some of the ideas covered

By using these simple principles you can see how difficult you can make it for two people to lift you. This is a great demonstration, because when working together it should be easy for two people to lift a third. By using these simple ideas you can see how difficult it really is. There are other demonstrations however where the lifter is allowed to get right up next to the Aikido practitioner, and grab them right under their arms. This kind of lift test should totally eliminate the methods described above. There are however still more Ukemi techniques to be learned!

Ukemi ideas we’ve talked about so far:

  • Structure and the five important variables in its relation to force.
  • Base and center of mass. We discussed falling why it happens and how we can use it to our advantage.
  • Alignment was covered, this showed us how force can be aligned with support.
  • Leverage, which is a hugely important subject that we will revisit often. Leverage gives us the ability to trade distance and force which will come in handy very often.
  • Disconnected center principle”, and how this can make moving the whole structure impossible.

We will come back to the disconnected center principle when we talk about “path of least resistance”, which we will cover very soon! Already we’ve covered quite a few great ideas that will allow us to “take” forces. Next we are going to talk about a very powerful technique “joining force structure”.

Check out that article next week!

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