View Full Version : Ukemi and Dizziness

Please visit our sponsor:

04-06-2010, 09:03 AM
Hello there! I'm new to martial arts, and interested in aikido. I've been visiting this site recently and found a lot of useful articles.

Well, I need some advice regarding training. I was in a serious depression a few months ago, and it caused some health issues. I went to the local dojo for training but i had some strange dizziness that started during ukemi practice. In the second part of our training i felt very sick, so i completely stopped training. I still have some problems with concentration and memory in addition to backpain and stomachache. Almost forgot: I'm 24 years old 189cm tall and currently 69kg.

I want to know if i should return to the dojo, or first visit a physiotherapyst?

04-06-2010, 09:38 AM
Hhhm.... you are going to get a lot of different answers, but I think it is hard for us to tell you what you need or should do. I personally don't see how depression could cause all of those symptoms in and of itself, but then again, I am not a doctor. I do know that depression causes different symptoms in different people. I can say that I still get dizzy from ukemi sometimes, especially if I do too many forward rolls at once. If in doubt, go see someone. At least it will put your mind at ease and will get you on the track to recovery. Best of luck to you. It seems like you are missing the mat. :)

04-06-2010, 10:05 AM
I have a student who gets VERY motion sick. Lots of rolls, and spinning type ukemi will make him literally turn green (I can see it), and he will start to perspire and get sick.

He takes Bonine a form of anti motion sickness medication. It seems to work well for him, at least he doesn't get sick anymore. He's been training now for over 6 years.

Marc Abrams
04-06-2010, 10:18 AM
It is not uncommon for many medications to cause a drop in blood pressure which would cause dizziness when doing ukemi. If you are on any medications, consult with your doctor and/or research the medications on the web for side-effects of dizziness and/or lowered blood pressure.

Marc Abrams

04-06-2010, 11:38 AM
Depression can cause a person to reduce physical activity sometimes to the point of staying in bed or on the couch for a long period of time. Your muscles atrophy quickly.

"According to Michael O'Leary, a doctoral student in York's School of Kinesiology and Health Science, a week of total muscular inactivity can cause 24 percent muscle loss.".

"We are seeing more and more evidence of how easy it is to lose muscle, compared to how difficult it is to regain it," said O'Leary.

It may be you are not ready to take on a physical activity such as Aikido's ukemi.

I would go see a doctor that specializes in sports medicine about the problem.


Adam Huss
04-06-2010, 12:37 PM
It could be many things:

Simply not used to rolling. I've been doing aikido for about 10 years and if I have an extended break in training I get dizzy doing ukemi for a few classes until my body adjusts.

Could be something you are doing wrong in your ukemi: one hint many people seem to suggest is the pick a point on the opposite wall and concentrate on it before and after your roll...I believe the thought behind that is to have a common frame of reference helps your body orientate itself.

Physiological: maybe your body just isn't cut out for that kind of movement/change in elevation etc. Do you get carsick while a passenger or while reading in a moving vehicle? Maybe meds like Dramamine will help.

I hope this problem gets sorted out for you...its definitely no fun. Like David and others mentioned...go see a sports medicine doctor or a kinesiologist. Maybe even hit up a local university's student medical college to do it 'on the cheap.'

good luck!

Larry Feldman
04-06-2010, 01:29 PM
Make sure you are exhaling when you roll.

Don't hold your breath.

Walter Martindale
04-06-2010, 02:13 PM
189 tall and 69 kg suggests you are quite thin, like a lightweight rowing athlete (must average less than 70 kg in a crew and are frequently around 189 tall). When they're "down" in weight, they get dizzy standing up. I'm not advocating that as a healthy lifestyle, although rowing is one of the better general fitness sports.

If you're that tall and light, what is the body composition - are you athletic, well fed and getting a lot of sleep, or are you a "couch potato," poorly nourished, and sleeping less than 4 hours/night? There may or may not be links to your depression, sports background, nutrition, rest, etc., but it may be that ukemi is causing your balance organs to have new sensations, and you just need to work gradually into aikido - practice ukemi at home a little at a time, and see if you gradually overcome the dizziness you mention. Back pain and stomach pain - is this sore muscles that someone experiences when they start new exercise regime or (respectively) a back injury and gas/nausea or related?

Questions, questions - sorry, not much help..

04-06-2010, 04:07 PM
Thanks for your replies :)

I lost my weight mostly during a couple of weeks. I was very limited in movements, sometimes i was "frozen" for a while. Maybe my body was shocked by the rolls and caused that vomit feeling. I'm currently doing some exercises at home like gentle stretching and push-ups. I will start practicing ukemi at home with methods you mentioned and see how it goes now.

Gorgeous George
04-06-2010, 10:07 PM
I used to get a little dizzy when doing ukemi; i just threw myself into it (no pun intended), and now i'm fine.

(I'm not advocating you do that though: it's entirely up to you what you do - you know your body etc.)

Good luck.

Eva Antonia
04-07-2010, 05:31 AM
Hi Szilard,

my big son (big = 11 years) practices aikido since he was 8 years old, and last year he also had and still has sometimes the dizzines problem, especially when doing too many forward rolls and/ or tai sabakis during the warming-up. No problem during training, apparently the different movements between the rolls impede the dizziness. It comes from repeated rolls.

He went to a doctor who said that it might be some minor parts in his ears (where you have the sense of equilibrium) that might be unsettled, and if he had a break in ukemi during some two or three weeks, they might get into the right place again. But they didn't. Then he went to an ORL specialist, who also could not help him.

He still has it from time to time, and he just cannot make too many repetitive rolls. But for training it's fine.

Best regards,


05-11-2010, 02:48 PM
As far as dizziness or sickness, I think I have something that might work for you.....

Get yourself some crystallized ginger and eat a few pieces about 20 minutes before Ukemi. it is a natural and powerful motion sickness cure. As far as your back, you could try implementing yoga in your routine to improve your flexibility.

Hope it helps! :D

05-11-2010, 04:54 PM
I read an interview once of a respected proponent of a style that involved a lot of kicking, particularly spinning kicks. The interviewer asked him how he avoided becoming dizzy. The reply was, "You don't. You just learn not to mind it."

Dizziness doesn't have to result from some kind of disorder that can be cured, and it isn't a defect to be overcome. It's the body's natural response to external and internal cues telling you that you're not "properly" oriented. It's possible that the physiology changes over time -- that someone like an aviator or an astronaut eventually undergoes some kind of physiological change that makes the reaction less severe. What I think is more likely, though, or at least is a much larger factor, is a psychological one, where you don't expect to not feel the feeling, you just keep on doing what you're doing. You still feel the feeling of disorientation, and at first you also feel the psychological feeling of "oh no this is wrong!!!" feeling, but you don't stop your action. Over time, I think you can develop the ability to tell yourself, "Yup, I'm head over heels, and that's ok." The physiological reaction is still there...you just learn not to mind it.

05-11-2010, 06:11 PM
I want to be very clear.
Go to a doctor. Don't trust opinions off the internet, of people who don't know you.
Ask a doctor's opinion regarding your fitness to train. No one on here can make assumptions or diagnose, or begin to treat some one they have no personal connection to.

Rule of thumb: if you think "hmm, should I see a doctor?" The answer is most likely yes. Go with that gut feeling.

Adam Huss
05-11-2010, 10:58 PM
I want to be very clear.
Go to a doctor. Don't trust opinions off the internet, of people who don't know you.
Ask a doctor's opinion regarding your fitness to train. No one on here can make assumptions or diagnose, or begin to treat some one they have no personal connection to.

Rule of thumb: if you think "hmm, should I see a doctor?" The answer is most likely yes. Go with that gut feeling.

Agreed...this should come first, although finding a sports doctor (whatever that's called) would be a really good idea if your insurance company allows that kind of specialist.

Adam Huss
05-11-2010, 11:05 PM
Make sure you are exhaling when you roll.

Don't hold your breath.

As an aside, some schools teach to hold one's breath while doing ukemi.

Funny story...Friday night there was Yudansha Shinsa during a seminar and during the koto shitsumon portion one of the questions for a sandan candidate was about breathing during techniques. Breathing during ukemi was one of the questions that came up as well... There are two styles of aikido taught in our organization and one says to exhale as you ukemi and the other says to hold your breath. The testing board was grilling the candidate trying to get him to pick one over the other but he just explained the thought behind both concepts...its was pretty funny though, they really got him in between a rock and a hard place..but he managed it nicely.

I kind of equate this to the dichotomy between looking at someone in the eyes and, well, not. People argue fiercely for both.

05-12-2010, 03:54 PM
Szilard, I had similar problems at your age. However, I had initially practiced Aikido for awhile without incident. It wasn't until I moved (which forced a break until I found a place) and had been diagnosed with depression that I had issues. That said, I think my medication played a part, along with other variables.

It certainly wouldn't hurt to talk with a doctor about your concerns! Especially if this is a recent problem.

05-12-2010, 06:56 PM
HOLDING YOUR BREATH - that might work for some, but I won't recommend it. Its likely to create tension in your body and result in injury. Instead try exhaling softly (not deliberately, but naturally).

As a note, you can do solo ukemi holding your breath I suppose. Its the danger that you do the same when someone throws you and you're no longer in control that's the problem. Relaxing is foremost.

How holding your breath will help you in terms of dizziness, I wouldn't know.

05-12-2010, 09:22 PM
Holding your breath sounds like the worse idea ever to me. :/ Have you ever taken a break fall with a full lung of air? OUCH!

Janet Rosen
05-12-2010, 10:46 PM
Holding your breath sounds like the worse idea ever to me. :/ Have you ever taken a break fall with a full lung of air? OUCH!

Ouch indeed - did it once when the breakfall came at a different time than anticipated and pulled my abs so they hurt for days.

05-12-2010, 11:18 PM
As an aside, some schools teach to hold one's breath while doing ukemi.

Sounds like a great way to get the air knocked out of you. I'm afraid that I wouldn't be able to break my habit of exhaling even if I were in a dojo where that was common place. I have landed without fully exhaling before, and it was VERY uncomfortable.

05-13-2010, 07:57 AM
People have gotten tissue scarring, and burst blood vessels from not fully exhaling. If you taste a little blood after getting winded you shouldn't be overly alarmed, unless you are spitting blood. But tasting blood is a clear sign that you damaged the blood vessels lining the inside of the lungs. It heels quickly, but if you cause a major tear you will need surgery to stop the bleeding.
For this reason I have no idea why anyone would ever teach you to hold your breath while taking ukemi. :/

Adam Huss
05-13-2010, 09:30 PM
Well most people do pretty poor ukemi..especially jumping breakfalls. If someone can control their body through ukemi, holding breath is a safe way to go...if your comfortable with it. If you are one of those people who slam hard when smartly thrown during a jumping breakfall you will likely get the breath knocked out of you....so if you land hard when thrown, prob best not to hold breath.

We don't force anyone to do one or the other. Originally I was taught to always exhale when doing ukemi...but was taught the opposite when I went to be uchideshi at a different school (Yoshinkan). Since then I hold my breath through a breakfall and exhale as I come up from it. In 11 years I have never been injured or had the wind knocked out of me...to include taking ukemi from high level aikidoka...who enjoy doing 'robust' techniques... to a wide array of non aikido martial artists (Dan Severn and one of the Gracies).

BTW, I'm not saying to necessarily suck in a lung-full of breath before ukemi.

As I stated in my original comment...I'm not saying one is better than the other, and neither does our organization...its just that we have two theories behind it and they are opposite from each other and was mildly humorous during a sandan shinsa koto shitsumon as the aikidoka was explaining it.

Ahmad, I don't think there is any benefit to holding your breath as far as dizziness is concerned.

Adam Huss
05-13-2010, 09:48 PM
...sorry this has gotten off topic so much. I would be interested what students of Utada Sensei or Kushida Sensei have to say about this (breathing)...preferably someone who's attended kenshu.

I just did some Google research and noticed pretty much no one else ascribes to the pause breath philosophy. I'm not trying to argue for it, or change anyones ways...It just works for me and I'm not going to argue with a 7th dan. Anyways, on to the matter of dizziness...