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Pronounced oo-kay. When two practitioners of Aikido spar, the Uke is the one who has a move performed on them by the Nage. Since most Aikido moves are reactive, the Uke is usually the one who moves first. If you can do your forward and back rolls right, it's fun to be the Uke.

Uke is also slang term among yaoi fans for the submissive partner in a male-male relationship. Both this and the martial arts usage are derived from the Japanese verb "ukeru" which means "to receive" (abstractly).

Although uke usually moves first, it's more accurate to say that uke initiates the interaction. At more advanced levels, nage may actually move first when he or she detects the intention to act on the part of uke.

In Karate the word Uke refers to a block. The two most common and elementary blocks are gedan barai (down block) and age uke (rising block).

The idea is not to stop the energy of the attack or absorb it, as this can weaken you, but to deflect it and redirect it. Thus neither the Japanese word Ukeru (receive) or the English word "block" accurately describe what is supposed to occur. When you perform one of these techniques, you send the energy of the attack slightly off-course so it misses you. The block is also an attack in itself since you forcefully hit the limb of your assailant. It can also become the prelude to an attack since you can take advantage of the redirection to initiate a move yourself while your opponent is off-balance.

None of the blocks in the collection of Uke are nearly as effective as what my instructors have described as the "black belt block." Which involves simply being somewhere else when someone attempts to hit you. It's tougher than it sounds, though, since you have to be quick to move out of the way and then manuever yourself so you're still close enough to respond.
Uke is also a slang term for the Hawaiian 4 stringed instrument known as the Ukulele.
I believe it is truly a term of endearment, much as Harmonica is shortened to harp by many players.
Although an extended monologue on nicknames might be appropriate here, I feel underqualified to take on that challenge.

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