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Leonard Mayer
06-15-2002, 04:22 PM
I am a beginning aikido student. I have been trying forward rolls and backward rolls. I find that forward rolls are very frustrating. I have injured my shoulder and elbow muscles. To recuperate, I swim and try some slow muscle curling exercises such as arm curls, front lifts, and lateral lifts to build up muscle strength. I have also purchased a video on the art of falling by Brookman. After my attempts to roll, my elbow muscle pain prevents me from lifting anything. Does anyone have any experience or suggestions to recuperate from such injuries and to learn more easily how to fall without injury.

Katie Jennings
06-15-2002, 04:52 PM
I'm a beginner too, but i found a good way to do it was just to concentrate on anything else (literally, even the colour of the mats:cool: ) and just let go. It helkped me, because i wasnt stiffening up so much, and although Sensei tells me i still roll on my shoulder, at least its less painful.

06-15-2002, 05:02 PM
Originally posted by Leonard Mayer
Does anyone have any experience or suggestions to recuperate from such injuries and to learn more easily how to fall without injury.

You have to trust in the fact that your arms won't collapse during the roll if you don't let them.

06-15-2002, 05:31 PM
I cannot think of how you could injure a muscle while rolling, with the exception of pulling a back or leg muscle (leaning wrong in a forward roll), or just bruising them in a wrong fall... but this should not be causing you pain if you try to lift something. Two suggestions:

1. At least talk to your sensei or a senior (and get a REAL senior, not just someone senior to you...I've seen relative beginners give those just a few months newer some terrible advice), tell them what is hurting and ask them to watch your rolls... they should be able to give you some help on the rolls, and an idea of what you've done to hurt yourself.

2. Consider seeing a doctor if the pain continues, or if there is any numbness or weakness, or limitation of movement. There are several joints you roll across that you could have damaged with a bad roll.

Good luck!

06-15-2002, 06:44 PM
Learning to fall is the most frustrating thing about starting Aikido. The good news is that once you start to feel good about your ukemi, you can start to feel frustrated by the techniques :D

We encourage some beginners to use VERY thick mats to start. We are fortunate in that we were able to acquire a "crash pad" gratis from the place we purchased our mats. It's 6 inches of very forgiving foam. If additional mat padding is not an option, then my best advice is speed. Slow down. Take your time. It's not a contest.

As for videos, my personal favorite are by Donovan Waite. He developed his style of ukemi following a back injury. It's worth checking out. Just be careful and be patient! Good luck!


06-15-2002, 08:11 PM
In my observation, the most common reason for a shoulder or elbow injury during a forward roll is that the person who is doing the roll has a "corner" at that joint. The ground should only contact one section of your body as you're rolling, and all transitions over joints (ie over the elbow, shoulder, and so on) should be smooth. In other words, your body should have a smooth curve along the path the body will be touching the ground as you're rolling; any joint that's bent at an acute angle (like collapsing the arm) will result in a "corner" that can get jammed into the mat.

One thing I emphasize when I teach someone new how to forward roll is that they should feel "inflated" like a soccer ball. A well inflated soccer ball rolls on the ground quite nicely; a half inflated one will bump-bump-bump across the ground.

An exercise which I've found to be helpful in teaching rolls in the "unbendable arm" exercise. It seems to give people one way to keep their arms supportive yet without tension.

Don't be afraid to ask one of the senior students at your dojo after class to help you in your ukemi. In my mind, ukemi is the most important part of aikido practice...

-- Jun

Peter Goldsbury
06-15-2002, 09:44 PM
Mr Mayer,

Do you do your forward rolls from a sitting, i.e., hanza, or a standing position? I have a class of 12 total beginners and teach ukemi classes, i.e., the entire class focusing on ukemi in some way or other. We started with ushiro ukemi (backward rolls) from a sitting position, followed by forward rolls from the same position, the forward roll being identical to the backwards roll except for direction. We then graduated to backward rolls from a standing position, and then forward rolls from a standing position, again identical except for the direction. All the members, aged from 15 to 60, can now do fairly respectable ukemi, but, of course, some are better than others. None of these students can graduate to the general aikido class unless they can do forward and backward ukemi to my satisfaction.

If you do not have special beginners classes, you should ask a senior (a real senior, as Colleen says) to watch you and give advice tailored to your own particular needs. I think it is difficult in a discussion forum to advise about such particular needs.

As Jun says, ukemi is absolutely fundamental to aikido, but you should be optimistic. You will certainly learn respectable ukemi, even if you do not manage to reach the heights (literally!) of Mr Waite. It took me about 2 years to iron out all the cracks and blow out all the cobwebs, and here I am still teaching ukemi 30 years later.

Best regards,

Matt Ashley
06-15-2002, 09:50 PM

One thing that you might try is to practice your rolls in a kneeling position. This has two advantages: you can practice the rolls slower and you are not falling "down" to the mat. Keep the idea of roundness in your mind. Once you're good at rolling backwards and forwards from the kneeling position, stand up and do the full roll. When you are falling or rolling it can feel like a long way down. Try getting down closer to the ground before you contact the mat (bend your knees and at the waist) so you don't have so far to fall. Hope this helps!


06-15-2002, 10:59 PM
Sorry to hear about the injuries. The physical therapy sites are the best source for rahb exercises. Most happen, I think, because we jam the joints trying to absorb the rolls.

Relax and exhale as you roll. Think "ball". The body should roll like a ball off the finger tips, up the rounded outside of the arm, over th shoulder, accross the back, off the opposite hip, and off the side of the leg.

Breakfalls begin similiar, but let you legs lay out so you land flat. Slap and let you hand/arm absorb some impact.

Relax and exhale is so important. I held my breath when I first learn and separated some ribs.

It just takes practice. Keep at it. You'll get the hang of it.

Until again,


Jermaine Alley
06-16-2002, 10:30 PM
Mr. Mayer,
When it comes to ukemi, remember the circle and how it is important in our techniques. For example, when taking a right forward roll, i try to "bo-out" or round out the arm that I am placing on the ground first which puts my elbow and shoulder in alignment to take the fall. While you are falling concentrate on rolling from your shoulder to the left hip.
Staying relaxed and rounded out will help you to make a smoother, quiet roll.
Don't forget to fold your legs while you are in the middle ofthe roll also.
When I first started rolling, i hit the mat hard a few times. After you get hurt a couple of times rolling wrong, you don't have any choice but to do it right...good luck..pull some of your yudansha aside and ask them to give you a hand.
Good luck...