View Full Version : Are you eyes open during rolling?

Please visit our sponsor:

Thomas Ambrose
04-07-2005, 03:46 PM
While this may be a naive beginners' observation as I have only been learrning Aikido for 9 months, give or take ;) , but I am curious about something...

During some ukemi practice at the beginning of class the other day, I realized something that surprised me. In the middle of a forward roll, I noticed everything moving...

To my surprise, I realized that I keep my eyes wide open when rolling. This surprised me, because I was was a serious competitive swimmer up until I went to college. While swimming, you often do a "somersault" flip at the end of each lap to turn around. Different in form than forward ukemi, but a rolling motion still. I would ALWAYS close my eyes right before going into a flip turn, and rely on timing and speed to land at the appropriate spot on the wall for a solid push-off. I am not sure if it was a fear of hitting the wall, or a desire not to get dizzy. At any rate, closing my eyes was how I used to do my "rolling" before I started Aikido.

Now, 8 years later, and on the mat rather than in the pool, I have noticed just now that my eyes are open when I roll, and I can sort of see the motion as I do it. This surprised me because it differs from all of my past experience, and is not done on purpose. I suppose it makes sense because when you come out of the roll, you will have a quicker awareness of what is in front of you than otherwise.

Anyway, I am curious about what others have noticed about themselves? Do you roll with your eyes open, and if so, when did you first notice? Just a curiosity from an inquisitive rookie :)

Mark Gibbons
04-07-2005, 03:52 PM
We're taught to keep our eyes open. Its made a difference in the smoothness of the rolls and helped me avoid a couple of collisions. Watching my back foot seems to help keep my head from hitting the ground.

Another beginner, still dizzy from last night,

04-07-2005, 04:26 PM
Keeping the eyes open is an important part of maintaining awareness of your surroundings. That person who just threw you might be following along, coming to get you. Other people on the mat may be getting thrown right into your path. I would avoid closing your eyes other than for strategically timed blinks, whenever you are on the mat.


04-07-2005, 05:08 PM
Spot on Chris !

04-07-2005, 05:30 PM
Think of Gandalf when he fell with the dragonbeast in the second of the rings.
He had his eyes as open as windows during the fall.. ;)

I agree to what Chris wrote. As uke I certainly want to have fokus on the person who threw me.
In some way that makes my "coming-ups" even quicker as well..

Im new to this forum ( again ) .. So hello to you all..


Janet Rosen
04-07-2005, 06:41 PM
As uke I certainly want to have fokus on the person who threw me.
In some way that makes my "coming-ups" even quicker as well..
Im new to this forum ( again ) .. So hello to you all.
Hi and welcome!
I also am in favor of, not only keeping eyes open for safety, but also as much as possible having the person throwing me in my sightline. It does seem to help with connection and with the roll being smoother (partly because of how the head rotates to keep seeing nage).
There are times during slow practice when I purposely close my eyes to feel things better, but only if there is a tacit agreement we are doing falls down, not rolls out, and I still open my eyes to check for an open "landing pad"

04-07-2005, 07:36 PM
Well, unless of course you're blind (see other thread re: blind person does aikido)... in which case, having your eyes open ain't gunna help squat. :)

04-07-2005, 11:19 PM
Just another 5th kyu speaking (mid-rank in my dojo). I like to keep my eyes open while rolling because I need to keep track of where I am. If I don't have my eyes open, there's a danger of ending up in the ballet academy next door. Besides that it's just sort of a reflex.

04-08-2005, 12:07 AM
... zanshin.


Ian Upstone
04-08-2005, 03:03 AM
Why would anyone shut their eyes anyway? Does anyone? Just curious...

04-08-2005, 03:27 AM
Why would anyone shut their eyes anyway?
Fear (of falling) ?


Ian Upstone
04-08-2005, 04:07 AM
Good point!

Although I would have thought keeping your eyes shut (to avoid it? :confused: ) would make the fear of falling worse?

When folks are learning ukemi for the first time, (step by step from a kneeling position if neccessary) we tend to ask that they look at the knot in their belt the whole time as they fall/roll.

04-08-2005, 08:34 AM
I tend to unconsciously close my eyes during forward rolls although I'm trying to stop doing it – consciously it's not a problem!

Anyway, I was always told to keep the eyes open, except in one situation: when we practiced at the beach!! Easy to see why :p


Jill N
04-08-2005, 11:16 PM
I always have my eyes open. gotta watch for flying bodies. I'm smaller than most of my dojo mates so I would end up the loser in a crash!

Anat Amitay
04-10-2005, 11:32 AM
I agree with Jill.
We are thaught to roll with our eyes open and usually our sensei will "tune" a beginners roll by asking him/ her to keep their eyes on a certain spot.
Anyway, our eyes feed our brain with faster information on where we are in space. If we close our eyes, we will need to relay only on our proprioception (the information our joints send our brain) and sense of touch, and that is slower. So, in "real life situations" when every split second does count, you want all the knowledge of what's around you, as fast as possible.
I wont lie saying that sometimes I find myself closing my eyes, but not on a regular basis. It usually happened when we did rolls from jumps over a few fellow students that were lined on the floor. Somehow it didn't work telling myself that not seeing wont make me miss them if I didn't take the jump well...!! :sorry:
Good rolling!

Jeanne Shepard
04-10-2005, 08:22 PM
I try to keep my eyes on nage. That helps the rotation of the forward roll.


04-10-2005, 10:10 PM
Honestly, it never occured to me that anyone would close their eyes while rolling :freaky:


04-10-2005, 10:48 PM
I was a serious competitive swimmer also, I never closed my eyes during a flip turn. That's what goggles are for. :D
Flip and be focused on the other end.

now on back flips I can't recall, have to go do a few to see what I do.

if you get dizzy during a roll, you can focus on one of your own body parts and use your peripheral vision to sense in potential close calls.

04-11-2005, 05:28 AM
Hi all,

difficult question. I don't close my eyes during backward rolls to avoid collision with other partners. I always close my eyes in an early stage of rolling for irimi nage because I wear rigid contact lenses.
I used to close my eyes for foreward rolls because I'm afraid of colliding with the floor. In fact, that's how I improved my ukemi (empty tatami, closed eyes and a partner to push me...). I still close them somewhere in the middle of the roll for a very short moment. At the end they are open again to avoid collisions. I recently had the same experience as Thomas. I actually could see the next couple, upside down and turning back.... quite a confusing experience.
I started breakfalling with closed eyes so I couldn't see the floor, too. I had the habit of starring directly down at the floor and resist everything. Closing the eyes got me rid of the fear and improved my posture so I could do proper breakfalls and foreward rolls.

I don't agree with Anat for I found for myself that my sense for gravity and orientation by it works usually much faster than my vision.

Just my opinion. Regards,


04-11-2005, 08:46 PM
I think closing your eyes would be counterproductive for alot of reasons. Mainly that you can't see where you are going and that you will have to open them again and figure out where you are...which takes time you may not have on a busy mat or when tumbling down a ski slope.

Besides...I *like* to see the world tumbling around me. :)

My few yen,


04-11-2005, 10:58 PM
Think of Gandalf when he fell with the dragonbeast in the second of the rings.

Just for the record...that was a balrog. Not at all related to a dragon.

Sorry, I'm a LotR geek :)

04-12-2005, 02:15 AM
It's already been mentioned above, but awareness (zanshin) of where you are and what's going on around you are paramount. Don't close your eyes if you can help it.



04-12-2005, 09:09 AM
Forget keeping your eyes open for awareness, it's just plain fun -- you see your feet, your partner ... your reflection in the mirror while mid-air in a breakfall. :)