View Full Version : Forward Roll: tap the mat or not?

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06-27-2001, 08:08 AM
I hope 'tap' is the right word.

When you do a forward roll do you tap the mat?

I've been told to do it while I usually don't. I am wondering why should I tap the mat while doing a forward roll. Any idea?

Thx in advance


06-27-2001, 08:48 AM
You should do it, it'll help later on with more difficult falls. There's a question of developing your sense of timing in there somewhere.
Frequently you may be asked to do things slightly differently to how you normally do them or how you like to do them, or how they "naturally" work for you. It's all part of learning to control your body fully. You should tap the mat, but you should equally well be capable of not touching the ground when you decide it's a bad idea.
(At the same time, don't go hitting the ground with your arm, let it slap down naturally- but only when you decide it should.)

I frequently end up training with people at courses who're doing a rather different technique to that which was demonstrated because they know "their" way works for them. They don't appear to realise they're trapping themselves in that one version of that technique, and will happily dismiss the potential lessons of an experienced teacher. I don't understand their attitude. But I'm rambling...

06-27-2001, 11:25 AM
I was never told to tap the mat when I started. However I often do it now involutarily when it is a fast/high/energetic throw which is mid way between a break fall and a ukemi. In fact I get a weird 'two tap' feeling often. I think the first one is when my body is still unsure how hard the fall will be, and the second one helps me get spring up from my ukemi.

Getting to tap the mat will probably make you aware that sometimes a throw is too hard to ukemi out of and you must be able to adapt immediately. However, a proper slap on the mat with the ukemi could be jsut as useful.


06-27-2001, 04:12 PM
As opposed to 'tapping', when a throw is energetic, I have observed some yudansha taking the extra kinetic energy throught their leading ankle. Of course, nothing to do with this post...?

06-27-2001, 05:11 PM
Very interesting question…after two months at my first dojo I was still unable to 'slap' at the end of a roll---try as I might, they were silent rolls. One night my exasperated sensei sent me to roll in the corner for an entire class. I could slap if someone threw me hard, but at all other times it escaped me. Asking 'why' I needed to practice it was, I believe, one reason they encouraged me to leave. (Word of advice---some senseis believe 'because I just told you to' to be an outstanding reason).
Now, more than two years later, I am again thinking about it.
The slap does help to dissipate energy, but it seemed to come naturally enough when needed. Before I left my first dojo I could slap when rolling by myself, but only if I threw myself into the roll, which I did for hours, looking for the secret of slapping with less energy. One day it just happened, and I'm not sure why, but think it may be that my rolls themselves changed. I think the slap times out right with the roll when I am really round in my roll. When I was newer at rolls, they were I think more oval and so my 'back' arm never hit at the right time---maybe the diagonal across my back was not oblique enough, if that makes any sense. Or maybe my back arm was too tense, so it didn't come naturally around to slap.
But keep in mind, this comes from someone who had a lot of trouble with it, also, and so I might be totally wrong. But I do have a lot of empathy for you…good luck!

06-27-2001, 05:44 PM
There is a certain school of thought which advocates silent rolls. I believe Donovan Waite is a proponent of this. It's worth considering, if only as a change in mindset.

Personally, I often slap on the mat but whenever I've gone into a forward roll off the mat I've never slapped. This includes two forward rolls off my bike, plus numerous times on concrete and dirt/grass. I would suggest that it's not mandatory but it sure does help to dissipate the energy of a throw.

06-27-2001, 07:13 PM
I was taught from day one to slap the mat when doing any ukemi. But this is probably because my style is heavily influenced by jujitsu. My teacher told me that if you are doing ukemi on very hard surfaces its best to use hashi ukemi (bridge fall often used in Shorinji Kempo). We often trained without mats on carpeted concrete. Yes you get sore arms from the falling but I don't think you can hurt yourself seriously. After a while you get used to it. I think proper technique is important so as not to get hurt.

06-27-2001, 08:57 PM
I'm guessing that Stefano was actually referring to people who "tap" the mat rather than "slap" the mat, but I'll give my thoughts on both, just in case.

I think that tapping the mat gives the person a way to time their roll. Over time, we all develop our own ukemi "styles" and approaches, and it sometimes helps to have these kinds of timing cues.

As far as slapping during a roll goes, I'm one of those folks who tends to slap pretty loudly during back falls to take some of the impact off my body. However, I've been beginning to take the slap out of my forward rolls these days so that I can use the forward momentum to bring myself back up to a standing position.

Another reason why I've seen people slap loudly on the mat is to make the person training near them aware that there's someone on the ground there. I've deliberately slapped loudly on the mat when it wasn't "necessary" to let someone who wasn't looking very carefully know that I was thrown there...

As far as the silent/soft breakfalls go, I'm all for them. They're a great set of tools to learn, even if just to get a different set of movements in your body. I can't say I do them 100% of the time (as we really don't do that many high/breakfalls in our dojo), I do find myself doing them at times.

-- Jun

06-27-2001, 09:44 PM
I tend to gently tap the mat when I do forward ukemi. It will help later on when you are learning to take harder breakfalls. I also try to roll quietly as I find that this makes for a slightly more controlled ukemi. I works for me.
Good luck.


06-28-2001, 02:51 AM
Originally posted by andrew
You should do it, it'll help later on with more difficult falls.

Ehm... sure. But I already can do 'more difficult falls'. :D

Thx for you replies. :)


ze'ev erlich
06-28-2001, 03:33 AM
There are many ways to do ukemi.
Each sensei has his reasons for telling his students to do things.

Why don't you just ask your sensei or the one who told you to tap.

Please post his reply.


06-28-2001, 03:54 AM
Originally posted by ze'ev erlich
There are many ways to do ukemi.
Each sensei has his reasons for telling his students to do things.

My sensei does not teach to tap while doing a Mae Ukemi. I was corrected while attending a seminar.

I will ask... just wait some month :D


06-28-2001, 06:36 AM
We've done rolls in some classes with totally unnecessary slaps/taps for timing reasons. I recall doing backwards rolls with several taps and stamping the feet afterwards (one at a time) just to develop timing. (I believe the stamps were five and six in a count.)

I suppose it's much easier to slap with a relaxed arm too, and you could use it as a self indicator for tension in your body.

06-28-2001, 11:20 AM
I remember Donovan Waite from his time in England - silent rolls tend to be popular in the UK (and I've never been told specifically to slap/tap the mat unless it was absolutely necessary).

We practise silent rolls regularly as it is a good way of showing that the movement is round and no lumps (ankles, hips, shoulders) are making rapid contact with the ground.

However, this is totally different from slapping the mat to reduce the kinetic energy (which is used when you can't convert that effectively into a force which will make you ukemi smoothly out of it).

As with Colleen, I never had a problem using a slap when they are needed (I think if breakfalls are practised, the in-between bit of breakfalls and ukemi come naturally).

I think this illustrates the problem of passing on an exercise in aikido - if you don't know why you are doing them they can actually make your technique worse - therefore; as the 2nd post said; ask your sensei.

P.S. I don't think slapping the mat whilst doing reverse ukemi is obsolete as if you are thrown very hard backwards it can be very useful!