On a practical level (goshinjutsu) ukemi is covers the skill set of rolling on the ground, taking break-falls, and ways of landing and falling on the ground without getting hurt.
Forward, side, and back rolls.
Forward and side drops.
Flowing and dropping.
Ukemi is a very practical skill and part of the kihon (foundation martial arts skills) that we practice. Just having a response to taking a slip and being able to land safely is useful.
Add a level of martial arts, and being able to land and roll safely, getting back up in proper posture (kamae) with balance and distance under your control from being thrown or taken down has many self defense applications.
But there is a third and even fourth level of ukemi taihenjutsu that we want to be not only mindful of, but also cultivate in our day to day training.
Ukemi helps you learn the martial arts- knowing that when you pair up with a training partner to practice techniques, knowing that both of you can go back and forth as uke and tori, allows you to have stuff done to you and still be able to train.
And then there is a more mysterious fourth level…
With each martial arts technique there is a feeling created, a manipulation of the mind, senses and perception- something that can not be seen by watching techniques or videos- the mystery of what it feels like to have a technique applied, and how that application cuts down your capacity for violence.
When done by a teacher or master, one experiences this essence of the martial arts, and in turn by “feeling” it, can begin to cultivate it in your own movement.
In this way having techniques and waza demonstrated on you by a teacher is actually a gift in the martial arts.
IF your ukemi is good enough, and you are not afraid of landing on the ground and getting hurt as a result of a technique, you can have a waza done to you, and free your mind from through- feeling, sensing, and experiencing the martial arts.