View Full Version : Ukemi Techniques

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Matt Whyte
11-12-2002, 03:03 AM
Greetings to all fellow Aikidoka.
I have been training in Aikido for almost 2 years now, and still, my backward rolls leave alot to be desired. I was wondering if anyone here would have some training methods that might help me. Also, my front ukemi is a little bit off, so any help in this would be much appreciated.

Thank you in advance.

11-12-2002, 03:24 AM
I think if you have been training for 2 years then you will probably have the basics of ukemi correct, your problem is probably more subtle.

My advice is practice and try different things.

People assimilate information easier when they have worked it out for themselves. So I recommend doing alot of ukemi.

Try tucking your head more, try tucking it less, do forward ukemi on one leg with the other leg crossed behind you like a stalk. Try visualisation, imagine yourself like a ball.

After 2 years you will have the tools necissary to analyse your ukemi. So try different things, concentrate and see what works better and why and then add it to your roll.

Or... ask sensei what is going wrong with it, since he will be able to watch you do it :)

Let me know how you progress

11-12-2002, 03:50 AM

No worry after three years of aikido my backward rolls looked more like a rolling cube then a ball :(

I was really trying to figure what was going wrong. One day my Sensei said: "Don't roll with your head, roll with your center and relax." And voila! :p Suddenly I was a ball (with some little edges).

So stop thinking about backward rolls, breath out and relax. It worked for me.

11-12-2002, 01:41 PM
IMHO, ukemi is the biggest hurdle for the aikido student. Most people who I've seen starting out in aikido almost always complain that ukemi is the toughest to learn. My ukemi was really bad when I was just starting out and I can relate with the problem of learning it.

I agree with Kev Price. If you've been practicing for 2 years now, you probably only need a little tweaking on your ukemi. I suggest going back to the the basic, start the roll from a static position. Try to figure out exactly what the problem and then address it through experimentation.

Kevin Wilbanks
11-12-2002, 07:15 PM
Look around at the threads and check out the 'backward roll' thread. I don't think backward rolls are all that useful, and in fact, often represent an option with unnecessary hazards. If you aren't getting the kind of ukemi instruction you need where you are, consider traveling to visit some other dojos. Find people who fall well and ask them for help. The ability to do and the ability to teach are not the same, and communication is different between every combination of parties. Instruction that works for the guy next to you may not work for you, so get out and look around, if possible.

Matt Whyte
11-14-2002, 03:13 AM
Thanks guys for your replies. I have not had the chance to practice any of it yet as I am doing exams, and I have decided to take a couple of weeks off. But, as soon as I go back to training, I will puting your ideas to the test.

I also think that ushiro ukemi is pretty useless, but, it seems it is an important part of the style, so I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

Thank you again.

Ghost Fox
11-14-2002, 06:43 AM
Try rollilng on concreate or hard surfaces. My ukemi improved tremondously after I started doing this. Your mistakes are magnifiyed more on a hard surface and encourages you (ouch) not to make the same mistake twice.

Matt Whyte
11-15-2002, 12:32 AM
Yeh,. Some how I dont think that I'll be rolling around on concrete anytime soon. But I am rolling around on the ground with laughter at the thought.

11-15-2002, 01:37 AM
As long as you think about it, it won't become natural. You should be able to do it instinctively. IMHO, the best way is to do ukemi sessions before or after class. Something like 50 forward rolls and another 50 backward. I know it sounds like a lot, but only when you are too tired to concentrate that you start to benefit.

You will notice that the first 10 falls will feel awkward and then start to improve gradually.

Bruce Baker
11-15-2002, 06:20 AM
Instead of trying to do politically correct or rolls that appeal to others in form, start doing your rolls for the sake of protecting your life.

Imagine yourself in practice to see the martial situation, or at least the use of back rolls and front rolls to protect yourself in a fight situation, then they should improve.

Doing something for the sake of practice, and doing it to protect yourself or save your life, there is a different motivation for improvement.

11-15-2002, 01:43 PM
I had problems with my backrolls as well after about two and half years. Obviously, my problems may not be like yours, but maybe you can get an idea as to how you can figure out to improve your rolling.

I have both of Donovan Waite Sensei's ukemi vidoes and those really helped me figure out what I was doing wrong and helped me figure out what to do right. Bruce Bookman's ukemi videos are helpful as well.

To improve my rolling, I go back down to the basics. I was having problems with going over my backward rolls. I figured out I was going too straight back instead of over the shoulder. I modified that rocking exercise that you do balled up rolling back and forth on your back. Instead of going straight back, I started rocking from right hip to left shoulder then left hip to right shoulder. It is basically the beginning part of the back roll (and the end of the front roll). Then, once your comfortable go all the over instead of rocking back forward.

To work on my forward rolls, I would do my rolls from a seiza position. I would sit with one knee towards the front and the other off to the side. So if the right knee is forward and the left knee is to the side, I would then take my left hand and put it on the ground, then I would thread my other arm through. The right shoulder should be touching the ground as if I was just stretching my shoulder. Then I would push my feet up until my backside went over. I would then roll or flop over from right shoulder to left hip. Doing this avoides crashing my shoulder while trying to figure out how it feels. Then I would just roll forward and backwards, in a nice tight little ball. Donovan Waite demos this in his video. Once I do this a lot, I would proceed to kneeling then standing. In doing all of this, I'm feeling how the roll feels across my back.

Other factors I focused on was making sure I remained balled up until I came over. I had a tendency to kick out my legs which slowed my momentum and kept me from going over.

Now, my backrolls are really nice and comfortable, and I get compliments on them as well. Next step for me is to feel as comfortable with breakfalls as I do with my rolls.

Matt Whyte
11-22-2002, 11:03 AM
Thank you for all your replys. I will try all of them. Luckily, I have no problem with breakfalls, so I guess in that area I have a bit of an advantage.

Thank you all once again.

Magosha Moon
12-07-2002, 03:34 PM

I'm a beginner (5 years training) and I love taking ukemi ever since I started practising it as follows.

The main problem with most aikidoka is that they take ukemi from the shoulder. Instead, roll from your centre, moving the weight from your feet upwards and from your head downwards. Your centre goes into the mat in a straight line, the rest of your body is tucked tightly around this centre (make yourself SMALL - big huge roles are slow and useless. The ukemi may appear to be a circle but in fact is performed as a straight move.

Secondly, loosen your shoulders and arms (sounds easy but is hard) so that, whichever way nage throws you, you know which direction s/he is going. In the beginning this may appear to you as "floppy" but, if you manage to stay fully connected while relaxed, you will start to know at a very early stages where the ukemi is supposed to go.

Finally, don't take ukemi sideways over your shoulder. Your forward roll is identical to the "breakfall" or flip, and in both you should be going through your centre. The difference is that, in a flip, somebody simply holds on to you or vice versa, which makes the roll into a flip.

I don't like practising ukemi statically, but that's personal. Practise in movement and with a partner, even if is very slow at the beginning. It'll show you the rhythm of the technique.

Have fun!!


12-07-2002, 04:22 PM
One thing I have been told for backwards rolls is to tuck your head and tilt it to the side so you dont roll on your neck and head. You can still roll straight backwards along the center line, this just makes it a little more safe and smooth. My dojo rarely uses them though.

Doug Mathieu
12-10-2002, 01:55 PM
One more idea as you work on all the suggestions is to be as quiet as possible in the roll. Any noise you hear will translate into rough bumps. Having that thought in mind as you practice will result in your adjusting your body positions and relaxing yourself enough to become smooth. Also, for ukemi when being thrown I noticed it helps when thrown to bend towards the mat and not be stiff like a plank. Kotegaeshi is a good example of using this in ukemi. Its possible to roll from many Kotegaeshi throws.

12-10-2002, 02:05 PM
Maybe a good thing to think about is that rolling like a ball does not include bouncing like a ball.

To often when people are told to roll like a ball they try to bounce. I still havent figured out why, because bouncing hurts.

12-10-2002, 04:28 PM

Your centre goes into the mat in a straight line, the rest of your body is tucked tightly around this centre (make yourself SMALL - big huge roles are slow and useless. The ukemi may appear to be a circle but in fact is performed as a straight move.

Finally, don't take ukemi sideways over your shoulder. Your forward roll is identical to the "breakfall" or flip, and in both you should be going through your centre. The difference is that, in a flip, somebody simply holds on to you or vice versa, which makes the roll into a flip.

Our school practices quite a few different ukemi. I had a relevant discussion with some yoshinkan guys about this not to long ago and we discussed up to 11 different types of ukemi, most seem to practice about 8.

Two thing I'll respectively disagree with you on here: that big huge rolls are useless and taking ukemi sidways. We do tight rolls and "loose" rolls. We are taught depending on the technique and the force of it, tightness of the roll is relevent. The tighter the roll, the faster the roll will be, centripetal force at work. This works well with strong throws where you need to dissipate energy. But on throws where the energy is not there, why waste your own energy tightening up? Here a looser ukemi seems to work better in our style, maybe due to more linear surface contact (I have tried both and this is my conclusion). Tight rolls are however, much more quiet. Differentiating between when to do which comes with experience!?

As for sideways ukemi, this is one thing we practice also. Practical use? Randuri mainly. I don't know how randuri is done at your school, but ours is very much no holds barred. Sometimes you get pushed from the side and do not have time to straighten out to make it a forward roll. You need a good yoko ukemi to survive this without getting hurt.

Any way, that is what I have experienced and seen.



Kevin Wilbanks
12-11-2002, 12:23 AM
I recommend checking out the Donovan Waite videos put out by Aikido Today Magazine. I am in the process of learning his ukemi style now. The video is excellent, and his ukemi seems much safer and more friendly to the body than the traditional style. He rotates on a different axis in several techniques, uses a more relaxed body, and eliminates almost all precussive impact with the mat. It's soft enough that I can practice most of the techniques on my living room floor (carpet on concrete). He also has a safer, slightly more sideways backward roll that avoids all head contact with the ground. I have heard that his style is catching on all over. Good ideas are like viruses - I suspect it will eventually end up largely replacing traditional ukemi in the U.S..

Matt Whyte
12-23-2002, 10:27 AM
Thank you all for your incredibly helpful replies. I have essentially put into practice that "Roll with your centre". It has worked wonders. Thankyou so much.