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Don
03-28-2006, 03:23 PM
What teaching techniques have you found that effectively teach new students how to negotiate forward rolls. The two criteria I have for "effectively teach" are (1) safely - i.e. they don't hurt their shoulders or necks or backs, and (2) quickly - i.e. they grasp a concept you have used and can translate it to a decent roll fairly soon after starting to use the concept. Here is my dilema: in our school we see a low retention rate (see another active thread for that discussion) and a major part of it is whether or not the student can master front rolls in a relatively short amount of time. They soon come to recognize that you have to front roll to really play, and if they aren't doing front rolls well, they are liable to be aching, and those two things discourage them. My personal experience in our dojo is that men, I think, primarlily because of their greater shoulder and arm musculature can tough their way through the first phase of learning front rolls and eventually will learn how to roll without having to "tough it out". The women we have had come through our school (and I am not saying this as a blanket statement - it is just the experience of our school so please don't jump on me) generally seem to grasp "something" that lets them get it quickly or they don't and they end up never learning how to roll.

So, as I already stated, this is NOT a woman bashing post. In fact I want to hear from women aikidoka about how you learned to roll, or their instructors. It frustrates me not having a teaching technique that will help more women in particular and everyone in general. So please your help is sincerely needed! (I will politely ignore anyone's post who really wants to think I have written a "let's-bash-women" post )

Ron Tisdale
03-28-2006, 03:57 PM
Try Ellis Amdur's Ukemi DVD. Review here:http://www.aikiweb.com/reviews/showproduct.php?product=363&sort=7&cat=all&page=8

Product here: http://www.ellisamdur.com/ukemidvd.htm

Best,
Ron

Amelia Smith
03-28-2006, 04:30 PM
I do not remember learning to roll. I know I was sore after the first few classes, but at the dojo where I started it was pretty much roll-or-die (not to mention breakfalls) from the start. I recognise that not everyone thrives in this environment.

Well, I don't remember much, anyway. One thing which helped, apart from basically showing where the hands and feet go, was when someone traced a line (with their hand, so I could feel it) diagonally across my back, so I could feel the correct angle and direction. Mostly there were a lot of mental tips, like "think forward, not down." I'm not sure how effective those were.

A gentler method I saw, later on, was starting from seiza, curling into a slightly diagonal fetal position (back of head on the mat, more or less) and "rolling" from there. It diminished the fear and physical impact, for a person's first few tries, and apparently works well to get timid people started. When I tried it, though (after several years of really rolling) I didn't get much of the feel of a regular roll.

Oh, and we often start with back falls and back rolls, then reverse it into a forward roll. Even though I think back rolls are more difficult to do well, they're aparently psychologically easier.

Yeah, and I'm a woman.
--Amelia

James Davis
03-28-2006, 05:22 PM
When a student has problems with forward rolls at our dojo, we get a couple of really thick and cushy mates and stack them on top of the normal mat we use. We'll then have the student just squat down with their feet apart and put their head and hands down on the cushy mat. We then explain that they can't push themselves over slowly; they have to kick hard. We don't look for rolls or breakfalls right away, we just have them pretty much "flop" over into a sitting position. Once they've done this a few times, they usually lose their fear of rolling in a pretty short period of time.

I suppose it just upside-down-aphobia that kept them from rolling in the first place. :)

We also do something we call "rocking chair rolls". We have the student sit down on the floor with one leg under the other (sort of like the rolling position). We'll then have them roll back onto their shoulders and tuck their chin to their chest, keeping their hands in front of them. This teaches them the importance of tucking their chin and of using their legs to propel themselves forward and back.

There's not really any one way to teach everyone. Vary your analogies and methods for each student.

In my opinion, the most important thing to convey to the student is patience. Set aside a corner of the mat to work one on one with them so that they don't feel they're holding up the rest of the class.

Something I like to say to new students is:

"If you figured out this stuff in a couple minutes, it would really piss me off. It took me a long time to get it right!" :D

Pauliina Lievonen
03-28-2006, 05:39 PM
At our dojo we usually roll down the mat in lines sometime during warmups. New students get a senior assigned to them to help, and they have the leftmost line to themselves so they don't feel like they slow down the line. The beginners class also typically does a lot of ikkyo and throws where you can fall/rock backwards, so people can play even if their forward rolls aren't confident yet.

One thing sensei loves to do and we all hate to take part in is a game where each person in turn gets to call out quickly "sit, stand, belly, back" in random order and you have to sit, stand, lie down on your belly or back. Since the tempo is quick, and we all do it together, people just flop down on the mat trying to keep up and never think of it as a scary fall. It's also a good way to get very warm very quickly, lol.

kvaak
Pauliina

Bronson
03-28-2006, 06:07 PM
usually let people show me a kneeling roll before I start throwing my two cents in. Sometimes they are pretty close to correct right off the bat (correct enough for first day anyway). If they need additional help I:


I have them show me a somersault. Even if it's been a long time since they've done one, most people are at least familiar with what a somersault looks like and when learning something new it's good to start from a place of familiarity if possible.
I have them do a few somersaults so they can get the feeling of having their butt higher than their head... something most adults don't have to deal with.
Then I have them do a few somersaults starting from a position of kneeling on one knee instead of squatting. They are still going straight over the head. The only change was the leg position... change one thing at a time and give them a few repetitions with each change on each side.
Next I'll position their hands on the floor with the arms/shoulder girdle where they should be. At this time I'll usually demonstrate the idea of supporting themselves with rounded arms.
Now with them in this new position I'll have them do a somersault. I tell them to make sure to keep going straight over like they have been. The things is, with one knee up and the hands/arms/shoulders in correct forward roll position they will end up rolling forward shoulder to opposite hip without thinking about it.


Somewhere in there you'll want to mention tucking the chin (probably sooner than later ;) ). Something else that helps is to have them pick something--anything--and roll towards it. This does not yield perfect forward rolls but it gets them close enough to not hurt themselves and the details can be ironed out as they get better.

Most people I've done this with are doing passable kneeling roles in 10-20 minutes.

Good luck,

Bronson

MaryKaye
03-28-2006, 06:16 PM
I was a problem roller for my dojo--it took me about five months of consistent effort (and bruises) to learn to forward roll adequately. My teachers tried every teaching trick they could come up with, to no apparent avail. I kept falling over sideways mid-roll. I agree that many people who find themselves in this situation quit, and it would be nice to avoid it.

The person who finally taught me to roll did so in ten minutes between classes. For years I was mystified by this--what did he do that no one else had done? I think I now know the answer, which was that he encouraged me to roll from standing, not kneeling, and fast, not slow. This seems very unsafe, but it worked for me where nothing else had. To this day I roll much better if thrown fast, and quite badly if kneeling and trying to move slowly.

But perhaps more important than the actual roll-teaching technique is that for those five months my teachers never gave up, never put me down, and always included plenty of techniques that I could do in each class. Otherwise I probably would have quit. It wasn't until years later that I heard what the dressing-room conversations had been: along the lines of "You remember that newbie woman who couldn't roll? Can you believe it, she's still here, and she *still* can't roll! It's so sad!" If they had said that to me at the time it would have been very discouraging, but I can laugh at it now.

What I always say to the beginners is "This is a bit painful but when you get it down it is *fun*." I think we sometimes forget to say that in our emphasis on "You have to take ukemi in order to learn technique." But in my opinion there are few better things in aikido than getting suddenly sprung across the room by an unexpected technique and coming up on your feet. (I am notorious for coming up on my feet grinning or laughing like a maniac. Whee!)

Mary Kaye

giriasis
03-28-2006, 10:29 PM
Patience really is the biggest factor. It took me a long time to learn to roll. I was really petrified of rolling and found it discouraging seeing new people walk into the dojo and roll right away and quickly pick up breakfalling. But I stuck with it and I finally look like one of those people where ukemi looks easy for. But it has taken me 6 years to get to this point -- two of those I focused on learning to roll confidently and without fear.

In my first dojo breakfalling was treated as the key to acheivement and it didn't matter that they didn't usually breakfall from techniques and it didn't matter how well you picked up on the waza. In my second and current dojo, no one is forced to acheive rolls or breakfalls within a certain time period and people are allowed to go at their own pace. It was in the second environment that I excelled.

And training technique wise -- seiza rolls really, really helped me grasp the feeling of a roll and to get over the fear of rolling. The key is not to expect them to be just like regular rolls because 80% of the time they won't be as you usually don't have enough momentum. Seiza rolls are just a shoulder stretch and you flop over. BUT, I did them so much I can now make them into very nice rolls.

Also for more details please read: My Ukemi Journey (http://p202.ezboard.com/fwomeninaikidofrm19.showMessage?topicID=1.topic)

Hope that helps.

MikeE
03-29-2006, 07:16 AM
I agree with Ron. Get Ellis' DVD.

I found that even though I was already rolling the way Ellis teaches it in his DVD, I was still teaching it the way I was taught, which was hard on the shoulders. His method works well and is pretty quickly picked up by students.

kaishaku
03-29-2006, 05:40 PM
I remember it took me about a week for my rolls to feel completely comfortable.

For what it's worth, we did breakfalls from what I think is called "ippon seoi nage" (in judo) on my first day in BJJ class and everyone did just fine. FAITO!

giriasis
03-29-2006, 06:19 PM
I remember it took me about a week for my rolls to feel completely comfortable.

For what it's worth, we did breakfalls from what I think is called "ippon seoi nage" (in judo) on my first day in BJJ class and everyone did just fine. FAITO!


That's pretty awesome Keith, but unfortunately, everyone doesn't take to rolls and breakfalls so quickly. And it's my opinion if you haven't had problems with rolling and breakfalls then it can be really hard to understand why other people do. In college I took two classes of Goju-ryu karate. Well, in the second class they were teaching breakfalls from some kind of judo throw. Needless to say, I didn't go back.

kaishaku
03-29-2006, 08:50 PM
That's pretty awesome Keith, but unfortunately, everyone doesn't take to rolls and breakfalls so quickly. And it's my opinion if you haven't had problems with rolling and breakfalls then it can be really hard to understand why other people do. In college I took two classes of Goju-ryu karate. Well, in the second class they were teaching breakfalls from some kind of judo throw. Needless to say, I didn't go back.

Fair enough. I'm very much not the rough and tumble variety and would have possibly been reluctant to leap into such things in the past. But now I figure if others can do it, why not me, and dive right in. :uch: :D

Michael O'Brien
03-29-2006, 09:02 PM
Try Ellis Amdur's Ukemi DVD. Review here:http://www.aikiweb.com/reviews/showproduct.php?product=363&sort=7&cat=all&page=8

Product here: http://www.ellisamdur.com/ukemidvd.htm

Best,
Ron
I tried to find it at the above link and couldn't. However, backtracking to the main page I did find it here:

http://www.ellisamdur.com/buy.html#ukemi

Ron Tisdale
03-30-2006, 08:02 AM
Ellis probably re-arranged the site. Thanks for posting the correct link...

Best,
Ron

Fred Little
03-30-2006, 10:08 AM
I had great difficulty with forward rolls at the outset, and have trained with a great many beginners who had similar difficulties.

Why? Fear of falling, which is somewhere on the border between an instinctual and psuedo-instinctual response.

One of the primary virtues of Ellis' approach is that it safely introduces students to falls from hip throws early on. Another is that it gives uke a rational choices about smaller forward and backward rolls.

What I've found in practice is that once the fear of a hip throw has dissipated, the fear of a forward roll seems to fall by the wayside quite naturally and it's possible to get beginners moving more vigorously early enough to maintain the impulse that brought them in the door.

The downside would be that this method differs distinctly from a great many conventions specific to particular schools, and sometimes practitioners who think their nage-waza merited a big booming breakfall can get a little grumpy when the result is something less spectacular. But I figure that's their problem.

JennyL
03-31-2006, 08:12 AM
Forward rolls - the bane of my aikido life. Glad to hear from Ann Marie that there is someone else out there like me.

I have had a lifelong fear of falling forward and started aikido in my mid forties. I began in Iwama Ryu style with the method of rolling from the shoulder to the hip. After four years I could barely do an adequate roll without hurting myself and was unable to roll out of technique at all. I tried everything and so did the many people who tried to help me. I spent a year on kneeling, I visualised and affirmed to no avail, I even tried some hypnosis (mainly visualising). I tried thinking about it, not thinking about it, being positive, pretending I didn't mind. I landed badly on just about every part it is possible to land on whilst attempting a forward roll and still I probably only improved about 7% from my beginner's days.

To say it was demoralising is an understatement. I spent many an evening crying in the car on the way home, totally frustrated. When people came in as beginners and just rolled in weeks, even months, I felt so envious and so despondent. What kept me on the mat was an understanding junior instructor who had had problems himself - although not as bad as mine. Also, working with people who did not consider it the end of the world if I could not roll out of their technique. They may not have fully understood but they did not make me feel like a second class citizen. Some of us just can't handle ukemi well no matter how hard we try. We may not become senseis but we can still train and that is the most important thing.

For various reasons I left that dojo after four years and changed to the Yoshinkan style. What possessed me in forward roll terms I don't know because this style does a lot of nage throws. Within six months I was rolling out of technique. I am not the greatest roller and I still have issues with momentum but I am rolling. What happened?...

A rolling mat for one, also softer mats. If you are hurting yourself every time you make a mistake then you just reinforce the fear. Also, the Yoshinkan style of roll is similar to judo rolls, it is more of a somersault rather than the diagonal shoulder/hip line. I did carry one problem through both though - collapsing my arm. Eventually one instructor fixed it in five minutes by showing me how to tuck my head into the crook of the arm. It tricks my body and I can't collapse my arm because my head is there.

So when anyone sees me roll they are watching a small miracle. And yes, women do tend to have more problems rolling. Most of us don't get the rough and tumble that boys have in their early days. And are bodies are different.

Yes, patience is key. Not just patience with yourself but patience from others.There are a few people who have not known what to do when you don't roll out of technique; just do the technique, throw carefully, and stop fussing about how you are being made to "look bad". Rather, you are learning about compassion and consideration for others.

Sorry about the length of this post but it's been a long five years.

Jenny

roosvelt
03-31-2006, 09:06 AM
After four years I could barely do an adequate roll without hurting myself and was unable to roll out of technique at all. I tried everything and so did the many people who tried to help me. I spent a year on kneeling, I visualised and affirmed to no avail, I even tried some hypnosis (mainly visualising). I tried thinking about it, not thinking about it, being positive, pretending I didn't mind. I landed badly on just about every part it is possible to land on whilst attempting a forward roll and still I probably only improved about 7% from my beginner's days.



After 4 years of this, you still stick around. I wish I had your will power.

I had no problem rolling. Actually I was pretty good very quickly. But I have a small problem: I can't roll straight by myself. It's not a big deal until I became good at breakfall and Sensei used me a lot as uke and new students came in to look up me as a "model" at warmup roll. I couldn't even do a simple roll straight.

I cleaned up an area in my basement and put extra cushion under the carpet, and started practice EVERY night. Without unwanted attention in dojo, I experiment every configuration. I could be as ridiculous as I liked and so one would know or care. OK, maybe except my wife who occasionally passed by and giggled. I was used to her "encouragment" anyway.

If you only try to improve your roll, but you only do it 5 munites during the warmup twice a week, you want a miracle. The good "rollers" do a lot more practice than you see.

giriasis
03-31-2006, 06:22 PM
Thing is, us "bad rollers" work at it at home, too. But you do bring a point that there is more than meets the eye. I'm sure these days when I tell beginners that I had a hard time learning to roll, and then after seeing me roll, they sarcastically think, "yeah, right." The other thing is that it's good to remind yourself that even though you can "get" rolling that there are other aspects you are "getting." And that those who do "get" rolling have comparable challenges. Maybe they're a black belt from another martial art and they need to adjust being an beginner all again, maybe they're naturally athletic and get discouraged that they don't get the throws as well as they did with baseball, etc. Keeping things in perspective is really important.

Jenn
04-11-2006, 12:47 PM
I actually came to this site originally about 6 months ago or so desperate for ukemi advice. I was in pain, pain, pain for weeks. I started into Aikido just having recovered from a c-section and 50 pounds over weight. (Still overweight, but less so!) But basically feeling about as frumpy as can be. Instructors and students gave me advice at the dojo, people at this web site gave me advice. I'm actually not sure any of it did a lick of good, or if it did, it wasn't concious. I'm *still* not entirely sure what I was doing wrong, but my body must have figured it out. I can roll now with no pain, no problem - I've even rolled painlessly on my hardwood floors here at home.

A few things that I think did help:

- We started slow. As one of our instructors called it 'the puppy dog roll", starting on our hands and knees, then moving up to the "prarie dog roll", and finally standing. We had a beginners class which was probably helpful, since almost everyone in the class was in the same boat.

- One of our instructors (there were three different senior students teaching the beginner class), used to regularly give us these "pep talks" about stick with it. Stick with it. The pain will go away eventually. Just keep coming. The only secret to becoming good at Aikido is to just keep coming to class. He was SO over the top with these pep talks, that you'd almost want to roll your eyes when he'd start with the "just stick with it" speech yet again, but at the end of the day when you're in agony and wondering if you are cut out for this, his pep talks did stick with you as a source of encouragement.

- All students in the open class are always welcome to go to the back of the mat and practice ukemi at their own pace if we are lining up for ukemi practice. The attitude of our dojo is such that I think most people feel comfortable doing so if they need to. Granted our dojo is fortunate lot of mat space, but I agree with what someone else set about putting aside a corner or something is good, especially if you do not have a beginner class. I can easily see getting very self-conscious and frusterated if I had been forced to learn rolls in an open class in front of everyone.

Also a technique I've observed but didn't try myself when I was struggling, is sometimes they will have students struggling with forward rolls hold on to a large fitness ball type thing, to keep their arms round and relaxed, and literally roll with the ball.

Saturn
04-11-2006, 01:12 PM
you could always push the newbies over. evileyes

Lucy Smith
04-22-2006, 02:15 AM
I had terrible problems with ukemi too, but I'm ok now (it took me a month and a half or so). We (the 4 newbies) started trying from the standing position but it was impossible, so our Sensei gave us all tantos (you know, the shortest stick), which we hold with both hands, kneeling with one leg up, and the hands touching the floor. It works damn great :D
Soon we started from a standing position and now we don't need the tanto.
Magic!
:D:D:D
Lucy.

Suwariwazaman
04-24-2006, 08:22 AM
When I started a couple years ago, I was overwhelmed by ukemi. I did however pick it up quickly, butthat not what I am trying to say. I am recent returning student so its like learning again for the first time again, since I haven't really taken any real ukemi in a couple of years. I applied the the same techniques my Sensei gave me, and he gave me positive reenforcement to ensure my rolling was good. Tucking my chin and focusing on what is front of me. At the dojo our Sensei, and sempai like to do ukemi urinshu? Constant rolling back and forth, and sometimes because our dojo has the floor space, we would do kotegaeshi around the floor one person to the next. Wheww!!! This was fun but a definite warmer. Then we will do Shihonage into a backroll. And KokyuDosa Wheww!!! Good luck, I know I sure need it.

Nick P.
04-24-2006, 09:13 AM
advice for (most) newbs;
-relax. RELAX!
-everyone starts like a ton of bricks falling over. You will improve with practice.
-get your but low to the ground; it's much scarier starting your roll from a full-standing position.
-both arms are used during the roll (Lucy, I'm going to steal your Sensei's tip).
-even though the roll is NOT like a somersault, some newbs need to simply start a few somersaults to get past the fear (and to see what it is NOT like).
-relax. pretend no-one is watching you.
-imagine your falling into your favorite sofa or bed; stay loose (ok, not too loose).

Nick P.
04-24-2006, 09:24 AM
Eventually one instructor fixed it in five minutes by showing me how to tuck my head into the crook of the arm. It tricks my body and I can't collapse my arm because my head is there.

Ooohh. I like it.
Just to clarify, we are talking about the crook of the elbow (as opposed to the crook of the shoulder, like tilting your head so your ear touchs the shoulder, as one my colleagues does when being thrown with shiho-nage) ?

Randathamane
05-21-2006, 08:42 AM
get the leaner to grab the bottom of their trouser. Right to left fassion. tuck the head or turn the head- whichever and roll. get them to look at the trouser part they gripped.

this advice was gievn to me by sensei Phill Smith 6th dan so hombu. it may work it may not- but worth a bsh i suppose.