View Full Version : The Larger Person

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07-19-2000, 02:01 AM
OK, here is something for y'all to ponder!!

As some of you may or may not know, I ma of the, shall we say, larger persuasion. (ie 350lbs ish fo all you across the pond!!)

I have been doing Aikido 3 and a bit months now and have yet to get into ukemi properly.

Rear ones I can do a little of, but feel my toes may well suffer a lot if I get into having them bear the weight as I drop, and forward rolling ukemis are stopped by the great spare tyre I carry around. (Even a basic forward roll like you used to do in play school/kintergarden is difficult!!)

At present my Sensei has told me I cannot do the rolling ukemis until he says I am ready and my confidence in falling backwards is such that those are few and far between!! My dojo mates are very understanding and very supportive which helps a lot, but I kinda feel I am 'cheating' or missin gout on what is a fundamental part of Aikido!!

Have any of you taught people like me these things and how did you go about it? Or have some of you come from the direction yourself and how did you overcome these things?


07-19-2000, 02:52 AM
Hello Pete!

The problem with foreward ukemi is that you, if you don't do it right (which is very likely as a beginner, I know this from myself), you can get much pressure on your collar bone. The more a persuative person you are, the more preassure you get and at a certain point, your collar bone may break.
So, I don't want to insult you, but did you think of getting less persuasive? I think this is what will help you most with your ukemi, also the backwards and will cause less injuries.
I'm sorry if I should have upset you with my suggestion.


07-19-2000, 03:06 AM
Not sure what you mean by less persuasive, however, I am in the process of losing weight!! In fact it is one of the reasons I started Aikido!! As a way of exercising and using my brain at the same time!!

07-19-2000, 03:10 AM
Oh, and people, please don't worry about upsetting me or offending me in your replies!!! there is absolutely nothing you can say about large folk that I haven't heard before!! And believe me, at 30 now, I have heard plenty!! Some rude, some funny, some ignorant and a couple quite inventive!!

So, again, I am very thick skinned when it comes to comments on my weight etc. so please don't hold back and say what you mean, cos sometimes I don't get subtle innuendo y comments!!

I thank you!!

07-19-2000, 07:47 AM

I'm a big guy too -- about 315 -- and I'm not having much trouble at all with ukemi rolls and falls. I've been studying Aikido for ten months, but it wasn't until I had been studying for six or so months that I really got forward rolls down. Actually, I used to train with a guy (until he moved) who was skinny and short, and he had trouble with forward rolls for almost a year. I've actually found breakfalls easier than forward rolls at times. It wasn't until two or three months ago that I performed a good backwards roll.

What I'm trying to say is that ukemi is a skill that takes a while to master. Don't let your weight be an impediment, even skinny people have trouble with it at first. Let it take as long as it needs to take for you to learn the skills. As long as you're giving it your best shot, you'll be fine.

In fact I don't really feel that I've mastered ukemi. I am just good enough that I probably won't get hurt when I'm thrown. I can now focus on the other part of ukemi -- being a dangerous, committed, and sensitive attacker.

Like I said before, just practice and it will come.

-Drew A.

P.S. I've lost 30 or so pounds since starting Aikido from a combination of the exercise and Weight Watchers.

07-19-2000, 08:20 AM
I agree with Drew. There is a student in our dojo who is pushing around 300 lbs. and has been practicing on and off for a few years now. This guy falls and like a feather - his ukmei is so soft and smooth that you can hardly hear him hit the mat! Just keep up the practice. Your ukemi will only get better, and that's where you'll also get the strong aerobic workout which can help you slim down.

07-19-2000, 10:14 AM

Please, take your time! Practice and time. I'm just over 200 lbs and have been at it for a little over four years. I was in great shape when I started and still had problems rolling from shoulder to hip and straight up. It's just not something the average person can automatically do (perhaps someone in gymnastics could). Let's not kid ourselves though, your weight will be a factor but it should NOT prevent you from learning to execute proper ukemi. I've seen many large people doing great ukemi. Just keep at it and your body will adjust!!

Best of Luck,


brian jones
07-19-2000, 01:52 PM
Hi Pete,

I'm 6'4 340lbs perhaps I can give you a few pointers.

1) Become comfortable with the ground which is really your friend. Start practicing your ukemi from a crawling position- yes, on all fours just like a baby. Once you comfortable taking ukemi from a crawling position do it from a sitting position, seiza (start practing your back rolls from seiza also). Now you ready for standing ukemi.

2) MAKE SURE that you are breathing OUT the air from your lower abdomen- use a short forceful breath (in the begining).

3) When doing standing fwrd roll/ukemi PUSH off with the rear leg (same with back roll too). Try to get as close to the ground as possible before you tuck and roll. I have seen many beginers "crash" because they tuck and roll from a position that is too high.

4) Pete, once you have made it this far start working on side rolls and ukemi with weapons. Some dojo practice jumping dives&rolls but I don't really see the need for a 300 pound person to do so- I used to do them in yudo and hapkido training though.

5) Get some help from the senior students/assistant instructors.

6) My sensei in Japan ALWAYS told us that ukemi should be quiet, there should be no sound from your body hitting the mats, and that ukemi is a weapon just like a shuto or a sword (treat it with respect).

7) Do 200 crunches per day to help protect the spine.

Good luck!!!

07-19-2000, 03:00 PM
I used to train with a guy who was probably 5'6" and 300 pds or more. I won't be much help because I have no remembrance of how he learned to roll. All I know is that he did and he was a damn fine training partner because he could make my life hard.

For what it's worth it took me 6 months to get comfortable rolling. Before that I got through them but it was with something other than flair and style.

07-19-2000, 03:10 PM
Umm around 230 pounds, 3 1/2 months and, well, I'm getting a grasp of rolls from a crouched position, just...
As they say, practice, practice, practice....
My biggest problem I think has been my height - 6'2". Way too high to be comfortable falling just yet.. :D


07-19-2000, 04:42 PM
Thanks all for your replies!!!

It is nice to know that i am not alone in this!!!

Once I move house (soon I hope!!) I will hae space to practice gently at home to build my confidence!!!

My teachers and Sempai are very understanding and all very supportive so I may ask for some time before or after a class to go through it more privatel!! I think one of my biggest fars is looking daft in front of everyone when I try it!! More so because I am the only beginner!! Everyone else has done ths for at least a year or more!!

Still, lots there for me to think about so thanks ver much!!

07-19-2000, 04:45 PM
you'll look daft? We all do at one point... heh I usually do on a weekly basis :).


07-19-2000, 04:59 PM
I think that what Pete just said about looking "daft" is, actually, one of the most important things to get over in one's practice. It sure was (and still very much is) for me...

-- Jun

07-19-2000, 05:25 PM
The other night we were doing, gasp, shiho-nage. Once a month we do technique whether we need to or not. Anyway, I was messing it up royally. I was working with a guy who was relatively short and I had to get way under his arm. It just wasn't working the way I wanted it to. I was frustrated, beating myself up and thinking all the usual crap.

So what happens? We're asked to demo the technique in front of everyone and everyone is to offer opinions or suggestions. I'm actually pretty direct in my assessments so I was going right down the line with everyone: leaning, not enough presence, more extension, etc. So my turn comes up and I do something that to my mind is barely passable. I felt awkward, slightly off balance, it seemed as if I didn't have uke's center and well just name whatever could go wrong. When I was done, I was actually shaking because I just knew I was going to get drilled (don't know why I felt this way but it was sure out in force that night) because I sucked.

Anyway, to make a long story short I got nothing but praise. Either they were being exceptionally supportive or just maybe it wasn't really that bad. Maybe it was pretty good actually. Because as I think back on it, uke was falling down and pretty much right where he should have.

A saying my instructor has is "you don't need self-defense from the other guy, you need self-defense from yourself."

07-19-2000, 05:41 PM
I know what you mean about shiho nage with a shorter person.. Just started to learn how to bring them up onto their tip-toes to reduce the amount I have to lower myself to get under...
(Normally a lot of lowering for me ;))


07-19-2000, 08:18 PM
Definitely keep with it, it'll come with time. Today was actually my first day back in the dojo after a 5 year absence. I'm a big guy too, about 330, down from 350+. I was very worried I would have to learn to roll all over again, but they came back extremely quickly. I guess it's like riding a bike. I did a few backwards rolls from a seated position, then from standing. They went pretty well. I was nervous about front rolls though. Sensei reminded me about using an unbendable arm and that helped a bit. Then I tried some forward rolls and soon I was with the rest of the class being thrown all over the mat. I had forgotten what fun it is to be tossed to the ground. :-)


07-19-2000, 11:37 PM
Welcome to the Forums, Bodly. Please send my regards to Ross sensei; it's been a while since I've talked to him.

I'm lucky to have one of those "built for aikido ukemi" bodies, I guess. I'm small (5'6"), light (~140 pounds), and flexible.

One thing that I think about rolls, at least, is that it may help that it's more a forward motion rather than a downard one. When I watch "big" people roll really well, they look like they're "skimming" the mat rather than diving into it...

-- Jun

07-20-2000, 08:39 AM
I agree with Jun. Seeing as how I'm not even 14 yet (in a month, yay!) I'm about 5'7 or 5'8, weigh about 145, and my ukemi is still horrible :). I have tried to *not* crash into the mat when I roll... it's not the rolling that's a problem, it's the getting up from a roll.


07-20-2000, 08:47 AM
DJM wrote:
I know what you mean about shiho nage with a shorter person.. Just started to learn how to bring them up onto their tip-toes to reduce the amount I have to lower myself to get under...
(Normally a lot of lowering for me ;))


I am one of the shortest (and smallest) people in my dojo, which gives me trouble on shihonage, because I don't havta duck so far down, it kills my lead, but if I do duck down, when I cut their weight seems to fall on me, and I drop to hantachi.

Any help with this (though it is kind of OT)?


07-20-2000, 05:08 PM
One of the people at my dojo is quite small (smaller than you ;)) and was advised to bring the 'tall guy' down to her level.. Breaks our balance more than you trying to reach up high!
From a more practical point of view, trying leaving uke bent over more from the initial irimi...
Hope this helps, even a little..


07-20-2000, 05:19 PM
Uke's balance should be already taken (no matter their size) at or before the point of first contact...

-- Jun

07-20-2000, 06:31 PM
Ack, something else I can't argue my way out of because it's true. Another good point, Jun-san.


07-20-2000, 10:08 PM
Just repeating something that my teacher and just about all of the rest of my teachers have said...

-- Jun

07-20-2000, 11:24 PM
While we're on that subject...

who were your instructors? Totally OT I know, but I'd kind of like to know...


Mike Collins
07-21-2000, 06:15 PM
Ukemi fer a fat b###tard is it???

I say that in jest, cause I am a 300 pounder meself. And I haven't got the excuse that I am just starting Aikido and I'll get smaller as I train. I've been doing it about 10 or 11 years, and I've only gotten bigger. I train less than I'd like, cause I'm busy making millions (or possibly less). I love taking falls. I also love to eat!!

I love taking falls from the really high powered guys who look at me and smile, like they've just seen fresh meat. Oddly, these usually are of the Japanese persuasion.

Take your sweet time learning the ukemi, but keep at it hard, that's the meat of the art, and if you get to love it, you start to make great leaps both literally and figuratively.

Being enormous has it's distinct advantages and its' distinct drawbacks. Just like being skinny, tall, short, or even, yes, athletic and slender (people expect a lot from them, and poor things, they're usually not too bright :;-))

Have fun, cause that's the point- and hang in there. And work at creating a wonderful crash, none of that silly silent falling nonsense, thats for those who need to be quiet.

Good Luck

07-23-2000, 10:43 PM
hey wow no offence I really want to know a healthy way to get more weight. why... I weigh about 120. I used to weigh 130 but then I went to a week of fasting (really it was a long story) and um lots ten pounds by not eating enough and walking alot and having a lot of water. anyhow I am teased all the time about that I weigh so little. ( I am 15 years and about 5feet 6 inches) I am not that strong I need more stregnth.

anyhow... to help with rolls my teachers said get on knees and put one hand on mat then try to go through arm... I know i am not clear but sorry...

I am serouse about gaining weigh though.

07-24-2000, 01:23 AM
HEY! This is my type of thread! And for Jun, who says little guys are made for ukemi? My svelte 6'4' 300 pound body falls as well as anybodys and it is even MORE impressive looking when someone throws me, they look like they have thrown a giant! As for learning ukemi. the best advice for a big guy on backfalls is to sit all the way down when you are taking the fall. Always try to sit and touch your butt to the mat. This rounds out your back and turns you into a giant weeble. I learned that trick in judo. For breakfalls, try to practice after class time with someone large or strong enough to support you somewhat. This helps with those trust issues. At first, it is hard to let a 5'8" 140 pound person throw you knowing there is no way they can rescue you. (you learn eventually learn that actually no one can rescue you anyway, you have to let go)Good luck and learn to trust your body.

George S. Ledyard
07-24-2000, 07:12 AM
Chocolateuke wrote:
hey wow no offence I really want to know a healthy way to get more weight. why... I weigh about 120. I used to weigh 130 but then I went to a week of fasting (really it was a long story) and um lots ten pounds by not eating enough and walking alot and having a lot of water. anyhow I am teased all the time about that I weigh so little. ( I am 15 years and about 5feet 6 inches) I am not that strong I need more stregnth.

The only healthy way I know to gain weight is to add muscle mass. Weight training is the way that most athletes do that. For someone without large structure such as yourself, there are probably added benefits in terms of injury prevention to undertaking some sort of strength conditioning program. Whatever you do it should be done with an emphasis on flexibility and endurance, not just bulking up for its own sake. That said, at fifteen you may not even be able to bulk up yet. Age-wise you are just on the border of when your body starts the changes that will allow you start adding that kind of muscle.

Mike Collins
07-24-2000, 11:54 AM
Don't bulk up. That comes in it's own time. Enjoy every stage of your size and health.

Skinny people wanna be big. Big guys wanna be little guys. Trim and athletic guys, don't even know what they want (poor little fella's, they're not too bright) -That is a joke, you trim and athletic guys.

Pete Nappier
07-26-2000, 06:28 AM
hey pete

if you want to lose weight and change your life forever i can help you...this is a program not a diet. diets are too easy to quit. in this program you have to do four things:
1. change your eating habits. every thing you put in your mouth today, you will wear on your hips tomarrow. low fat intake. keep your fat grams going in to about 10 to 15 grs per day. eat six meals a day 1 serving of protein and 1 serving of carbs. nothing else! one day a week eat want ever you want as your cheat day.
2. get on an aerobic program. aerobic kick boxing is the best to burn fat. aikido will but it takes a long time to get to that level of training.
3. supllement your diet with nutritional supplements like fat burnners. diet fuel is one, phen phree is another. gnc stores carry these product and you should get a book on supplmental training.
4. you have to lift weights! 4 times a week . more on that later.

hope this helps it chnged my life forever!

pete nappier

08-07-2000, 02:08 AM
Thanks every one of you who has posted both encouragment and advise!! There is lots to take on board and mull over!!

I have missed a few classes due to having my first major overseas holiday in Orlando, so I am kind of dreading taking my first class since returning!! It won't be until a week Friday as I am away again this weekend visiting the in-laws which will mean I have missed almost 3 and a half weeks!! I just know I am going to ache loads whne I get back to class!!

Pete N, if you want to cvontact me off list (peter.swann@btcellnet.net) I am interested in what you have to say!!

Once again, thanks all for the advice!!

08-08-2000, 08:34 PM
Well Pete...I (as so many other replies) am a larger man 5'9" and 260 and started Akido two months ago. My ukemi has been comming along quite well due to excess practice, but in order execute safe ukemi stretch very well.
I run through our stretching routine everyday and feel great.
Just remember to go slow...crawl before you run....and take your stretching very seriously. It will keep you healthy and safe on the mat.

08-08-2000, 08:52 PM
it is interesting to practice aikido against a larger person.....I first experienced this 2 weeks ago against a much larger person who's joints are also a little stiff. It can be quite frustrating as I either execute the movement properly or the big man doesn't budge so in that case it is also very rewarding both that you are forced to use proper technique and because I could see the effect aikido has on someone twice your own weight. I happen to be very tall and I think that is often challenging for many others taking nage against me.....as I am very new though more often than not I get the movements wrong and also being tall means I have a long way to fall to the ground. Anyways just a few little thoughts hehe


08-08-2000, 09:31 PM
I understand how some of you feel, yet I fear my ukemi is bad for another reason. Not only am I very tall (6'5 6'6) but I also lack upbody strength. I think my arms buckle under my own weight when i begin my roll. I only weigh like 211 lbs,which isn't much at my height. I figure the more time I spend at my aikikai the better I will become and the more strength I will build. Luckily I grew up a skateboarder, so I'm not to fragile due to falling so much from that, so I don't get hurt. I just look really bad and hear my Sensei tell me everytime I make it to class, (I work really odd hours) that I need to come to class more!

Bless everyone of you. Big and small =)

08-08-2000, 10:46 PM
smaller people have to remember though- on the street, small people usually don't attack big people- usually the other way around... so cherish the big people in your dojo and work with them (at their pace) as much as possible.


08-08-2000, 11:23 PM
aikido4life wrote:
Not only am I very tall (6'5 6'6) but I also lack upbody strength. I think my arms buckle under my own weight when i begin my roll. I only weigh like 211 lbs,which isn't much at my height.
Don't forget that during a roll, your arms aren't really holding up all 211 pounds of your body since there's forward momentum involved. At any point during the roll, there should only be a fraction of your own body weight "touching" the ground.

-- Jun

08-09-2000, 12:10 AM
Ahh yes. I understand what you mean. I think alot of my troubles come from not tucking my head properly.


08-09-2000, 07:42 AM
I've had a similar problem - still have with my left-handed ukemi.
What you need to remember is to use your tegatana - keep unbendable arm during the roll, and project yourself forwards, not downwards. When I say project I mean with intent, not just muscles..
Ubendable arm is only used as a guide - you can see experienced Aikidoka doing forward rolls without arms..


08-10-2000, 02:00 AM
The forward rolls without using the arms are included as part of the warm up in our dojo for those who know how to do them!!! Very interesting to watch!!

Max Factor
08-12-2000, 03:40 AM
i have been in aikido for 3 years now, and from reading is sound like a lot of first time jitters and thats normal....

All your life you have been told don't fall down you will look silly, now your in aikido and we are asking you to fall down.

so when you are rolling try not to think of rolling as falling.Try to think it as welcoming the mats there there to help you and protect you.

the mats are not place fall but to train.


08-12-2000, 01:44 PM
Techniques are not static. That is, they must change per opponent. If a person is larger, adapt your techniques to such mass. If your opponent
has stiff joints, adapt your technique to such rigidity. Look at obstacles as advantages and use them against an individual.

In forcing a technique to work right the same way all the time, you will
lose sight of the fact that not all people move and react the same. It is
you who must adapt to your opponent, not the other way around. You should never be the one instigating to begin with, so your movements
and reactions must be in accord with the individual and the situation.

Thus, the general concept of a technique must be sound, but the practice and execution of the technique may have a thousand variations.

I invite you to my discussion on points such as these at my website:

Any comments are appreciated.

-Oliver Pierce

08-12-2000, 02:11 PM
usuakari wrote:
Techniques are not static. That is, they must change per opponent. If a person is larger, adapt your techniques to such mass. If your opponent
has stiff joints, adapt your technique to such rigidity. Look at obstacles as advantages and use them against an individual.

Any comments are appreciated.

-Oliver Pierce

An interesting comment someone made last night was that "uke is always right." In regards to your comments it's dead on.

10-05-2000, 05:11 AM
Hey folks,

Thanks again to all those of you who posted both encouragement and advice!!

For the record I am now getting used to doing rear breakfalls from techniques such as kategaishi (sp?) and tenchinage and, although not particularly graceful, they do make me feel more like I am involved fully in the class rather than having to stop a technique 'at that point'!!

Rolling breakfalls are still unchartered territory for me, however, I know they will come with time!! I am gaininng confidence with hurling this body at the ground with each lesson so in time I know it will become easier!!

Thanks all once again

Mariahn Scarborough
10-09-2000, 05:37 PM
I am a very beginner, just like you. I am just over five feet tall and weigh in at 162 pounds.

I practice rolls a lot. Mostly I practice from a kneeling position at home and I AM getting better.

Do I look "daft". Yup. At 38 years old, I don't care. As my 6'5" husband and fellow aikidoka always says - "Remeber the point." (We really look daft training together, but it is a lot of fun.) The training is the point. So you just keep on.

I know LOTS of dojo's that would love to have just ONE beginner to work with.

Happy training.

10-10-2000, 08:59 AM
I know what you mean about the higher grades liking a beginner!! Seems in our dojo the dan grades are quite keen to 'play' with me!! And they are quite gentle too!!

I haven't room enough to practice rolling at home at present, but we are moving some time in the near future so I will be able to give it a try!!