The Leader & Collaborator Relationship

Aikido form and extension

What is a great leader without collaborators?

A leader gets to set a plan. Executing a plan often requires the skill and knowledge of others.

Aikido provides a unique opportunity to experience critical aspects of the leadership experience. It offers a chance to develop and practice a leadership approach that is compassionate, aware, and attentive to those required to achieve a goal.

Leader and Collaborator: Nage and Uke in Aikido

Nage is the “defender” in Aikido — the receipient of an attack and the “leader” role. Uke is the person who attacks and in many ways the person that makes things happen. As Uke attacks Nage, Nage moves to lead the aggressive energy coming at her and transforms it into a martial technique.

Nage’s goal in a conflict outside the Dojo is to protect herself and diffuse the attack all while not destroying the attacker. Inside the Dojo, Nage strives to improve her technique and develop her abilities.

Nage learns to lead Uke both physically and mentally. She practices controlling Uke resulting in the execution of a solid technique. At the same time in the context of practicing at the Dojo, Nage learns to take care of Uke. Nage develops awareness of the level of skill of Uke to adjust the power of her throw or pin for the safety of Uke.

Uke follows Nage’s lead and when at the climax of a technique, takes a fall. Uke falls to receive a technique safely. The better an uke learns to fall the greater the opportunity for a nage to learn to throw more vigorously.

A Critical Partnership

The leader “Nage” and collaborator “Uke” are respected as equals.

Nage needs Uke to learn. The leader needs the the energy and skills of others.

Within the Dojo, our ability to improve our technique is completely and utterly dependent on our uke colleagues. There is no technique to practice without an attack from Uke. Similarly, you can only throw as powerfully as an uke can receive a technique. If you don’t develop as uke then both the development of your personal as well as your peers’ technique stagnates.

A Fascinating Dynamic

Learning to be a great leader can happen in many ways. Aikido offers a unique development opportunity. As Nage you practice and develop as a leader through a focused experience with your uke dozens of times each class. More so you develop into a certain type of leader. You learn to:

  • Respect your collaborators, supporters, followers as equals
  • Develop awareness of your collaborator’s energy and physical and mental condition
  • Be mindful of and an agent of your collaborator’s safety
  • Lead your collaborator with compassion
  • Guide your collaborator smoothly, decisively and with spirit
  • Be flexible with your collaborator and blend to deliver an infinite variety of positive outcomes

Aikido practitioners continually learn from and about each other. We are completely reliant on one another to better ourselves. The leader role must fully respect the collaborator and care for him and vice versa. We are nothing without each other. There would be no Aikido without each other.

What a wonderful leadership development experience.